Postcards from Portland: Summit girls

The Summit OR girls pose with some of their new spikes at Nike. Dave Clark/ESPNHS

The girls cross country team from Summit High School in Bend didn't have far to come for Nike Cross Nationals, but figuratively they took a huge step this season toward become an elite national program. Here is an inside look at their trip to NXN, where they finished 15th.

Race day (Kira Kelly):

When I woke up on Saturday morning my stomach sank to the ground as I realized it was race day. I moved around under the nice warm comforter and caught a few more minutes of zzz's before going down to breakfast. Looking around at the delicious array of breakfast items I was tempted to chow down on a personalized omelette, but I prefer not to barf after a race so I snagged a banana and my typical bowl of oatmeal.

With about an hour to go before departure, I had on my lovely grey and yellow 'Northwest' jersey with 'Central Oregon" printed on the front. This really got my nerves bouncing! Once my colorful ribbons and bows were tied into my hair and my sparkles were splashed across my face, I was ready to race!

The ride over to Portland Meadows race track was pretty quiet. I think some teams were more serious than others. One of my teamates brought along her Ipod speakers, so we were jammin' out to Katy Perry on the way over. Despite how that sounds, we really were serious about this race, and it showed when everyone gathered upstairs in the stands. On a day like Saturday it was definitely best to huddle inside -- and out of the freezing fog. Being Oregonians, the weather was no surprise, but any temperature over 50 and sunshine would have been welcomed.

We watched the open race and then the boys race as all of us were trying to calm our nerves. Some people turn into silent recluses on race day and others can't quit talking. I've found that handstands and cartwheels help to calm the nerves! The bathroom lines were as long as the Nile but thankfully they had Porta Potties on the start line. Thank you Honey Bucket!

About 45 minutes before the race, we ran around the course and played in the mud a bit, just breaking in the shoes. Then we returned to our personalized team tent and donned our tasteful Nike gear. We looked like superhero ninjas as we crossed the line after introductions through smoke and then got our pictures taken by the meet papparazzi. OK, maybe we aren't that awesome but it sure looked cool!

On the starting line things got serious. We all were secretly sizing up the competition, although at this level everyone looks fast. After the gun went off it was sheer panic. Everyone raced by me like we were running from rabid wolves. Mud splashed me in every place possible. Thank goodness for duct tape on my shoes!!! (Shout out to coach Nat for that). The first hay bales we hit I felt like I was flying but by the last few it was a struggle lifting my legs. I think my spike caught on one of the bales because I remember grabbing a girl beside me so I wouldn't fall. Thank you random girl! The whoopdy-dos as we like to call them were actually really fun. The first one is hard to get up but after that you just kind of use your momentum to propel yourself over the others. At the finish the crowd was roaring and I felt really special when volunteers helped me untie my chips from my shoelaces.

Yummy Gatorade recovery drinks were handed to us afterwards and a different girl brought my team cake pops, mmm! Awards were given and we were taken back to the hotel, a little dissappointed about our performance but just excited to be at Nationals. Lunch was an amazing buffet with enchiladas, baked potato bar, chicken strips, and an ice cream buffet. I think I way over ate! We had closing ceremonies after that and it was a blast getting to see all the runners who placed top five as a team or top 10 individual. Congrats to all!

The winners of the boys and girls race were both really cute and sweet people. I really admire them. It was also fun listening to the annoucer who had a stellar British accent. That night at the hotel we had the famed NXN dance. I could tell you all about it but I think what happens at NXN, stays at NXN. If you want to find out then qualify next year and have the time of your life!

Day before the race (By Keelin Moehl)

Once arriving in Portland, we loaded onto a charter bus, still not over the initial excitement that Nike had actually flown us from Bend to Portland (roughly a 45 minute flight). Then we went to the hotel. In hindsight, the fact that Nike had rented out the nine-story Embassy Suites for NXN should have clued us in to the experience the next couple days would bring, but at that point it hadn’t yet sunk in. After lunch we were loaded onto charter buses and taken to Nike Headquarters.

Our team, the Central Oregon XC Club, went to an area where there were four different Nike running shoes on display. Helpful staff and informative electronic “brochures” led all nine of us (coaches included) to pick our running shoe. Less then five minutes later we were escorted to the “Gear Up” Room. I expected to extract uniforms, spikes and other gear from huge piles on the table and I am ashamed to say I strategically placed myself towards the front of the group so I wasn’t stuck with oddly-sized articles of clothing. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about.

Nike had personalized cubbies for each one of us, grandly displaying the uniform, jacket, and other goodies, including the shoes we had just picked out. It was so thoughtful, so incredibly personal. Looking back, the gear was awesome, but the presentation really took it to the next level. Perhaps the best part was four hours later, walking by the same room we saw girls with the same looks of awe-stricken glee as they clutched their gear as well. The fact that Nike had presented the gear to every single person in this fashion is truly admirable.

After a run around campus and lounging in a huge room filled with all the food, noise, excitement, Guitar Hero and couches one could possibly desire, it was time for dinner. Despite the cafeteria vibe and buffet style, the food was delicious —the pot stickers and stir fry a welcome change from the traditional Spaghetti-athon us runners are usually subject to. Every once in a while, we’d spot an elite athlete, eating or talking with other runners. It was like Disneyland, only instead of Snow White or other Disney characters, our eyes were glued to legends like Galen Rupp and Amy Begley.

The ensuing Opening Ceremonies were as chocked with fun and excitement as the rest of the day had been. Indeed, upon arriving back at our hotel around 9:30, we were all in a slight daze. Seriously? Who does this for a bunch of high school runners? The question we were all asking ourselves was how could it get any better then this?