|Some of the members of Aftershock pose for a picture during a car wash fundraiser. The club was washing cars on June 22 to help raise money to go to a distance-running summer camp in Flagstaff, hosted by Bo Reed, and to help fund trips to El Paso for the Junior Olympics cross country regionals and nationals. VVN/Travis Guy|
The runners that make up the Aftershock Distance Club are in the middle of a well-deserved break after competing in the Arizona Junior Olympics over Father's Day weekend.
While at Mess Community College, the club earned a slew of top-finishes and PR's all around.
A slower pace in the 1,500-meter race that Allyson Arellano claimed gold in helped out two of her teammates, Jalen Ebert and Swayze Smith, hit new PR's. Swayze improved her 1,500 time to 5:25.66, after setting her previous best at the meet prior to the Junior Olympics, and Jalen hit 5:31.82, improving her previous best by 13 seconds. Aftershock head coach Micah Swenson compared how the 1,500 was ran to a "late season college championship race," where the slower pace let Allyson take it easy until the final half-lap.
In her next race, Allyson had the opportunity to race against the boys in her division because the officials decided to group everyone together for the 13-14 3,000-meter race. This race gave Allyson a chance to see how bigger, stronger runners ran and it gave Chris D'Angelo a chance to run against a higher level of competition.
"During the school season, I never had competition so I was always racing the clock rather than racing a person," Chris said. "I started racing a person, which made all the difference. I stayed locked in with him."
Allyson, who usually is in control of her races, had to deal with the boys cutting her off and fighting for the top position. This afforded Chris the opportunity to push himself more than he has in the past and it worked. Chris PRed by nearly 22 seconds.
"Running with the boys did help me because I was in a situation where a boy would intentionally block me from passing him," Allyson said. "If it ever happens again, I will know what to do."
For Megan Goettl, Penny Fenn and Karen Arellano, the break will be a nice change of pace for them. The girls joined the Mingus Union track and field team midway through the season and have been racing almost every week since. Yes, there have been a few breaks here and there, but overall, the girls have been running a lot. The Junior Olympics was their final race for a while and while none of the girls were able to grab a gold, Megan and Penny each claimed silvers.
One thing the club did in Mesa that it has not done before was run relay teams.
"It was probably the highlight of the weekend for us," Swenson said. "It was a great team building opportunity and the girls loved competing with and against each other."
Because there were not many teams across the board, the race officials grouped the teams together like they did with Allyson and Chris' 3,000-meter race. The younger girls were coached by Swenson, and Megan's mom, Tiffany Goettl, took the older girls. Karen impressed everyone with the fastest split of all the Aftershock runners, going in the second leg of the relay.
"I guess the motivation and pressure of running with my teammates gives me adrenaline to run faster [during my split]," Karen said.
The relays also gave Brianna Epperson and Rachel Valentine a chance to see what they can accomplish and get exposed to a new race.
"I know now that if I work hard enough, I can achieve what they have achieved and that I have to keep in mind that pain shouldn't make me fail," Brianna said. "It was pretty fun running against the younger girls, a little friendly competition can do you good once in a while."
Capping off the weekend was Penny tossing her hat into a new race. The sophomore attempted her first steeplechase at the Junior Olympics, and despite having some reservation in the beginning of the race; she was able to get comfortable and run to a second place finish. To help Penny with her nerves, Swenson worked with her mentally during the lead up to the race because they did not have access to a water jump in Cottonwood. Swenson also took his runner to the track the day before the race so she could get a feel for the actual race by doing a few practice runs with the dry water jump.
"Racing the steeplechase for the first time was really scary at first, but as the race went on it got better," Penny said. "I do see myself continuing racing this event because, it was a lot of fun and was very physically demanding, which I loved. Moving forward in this event I would expect myself to have better speed and efficiency over the steeples, resulting in a faster overall time."
While the majority of the club will be taking some time off, Chris, who is officially not part of the club, will be preparing for the Junior Olympics Regional Meet the first weekend in July.
"I feel I can win both of those races. If I stick to my race plan, stick to the workouts leading up to that, I can be successful," Chris said.