By Will Geiken
The Matt Yeo Aggie XC Open was a banner day for the HOKA ONE ONE Aggies Open Men. For me, the highlight of the day was warming up with 20 familiar faces. I’m still a little amazed that we fielded the equivalent of three varsity teams for our home meet, and I would like to extend my thanks to my fellow teammates and the club as a whole for creating such an incredible environment.
Niceties aside, a race is a race, and another great part about our club is the fact that we know how to throw down when the gun goes off. Because I’ve been caught mid-pack in some important races, I’ve been making a point of getting off the line hard this season. On Saturday that left me at the front of the race with my teammate and counterpart from Chico, Will Reyes. We had just met each other before the race started, but I’d learned a little about him from race results and from others who know him a little better. What was important at that point in time was the fact that he has been on a tear lately. Based on what I’d heard, I was expecting either a hard effort from the gun and/or a massive surge during the second half of the race. Would it be the former, the latter, or both? After about a half mile, he moved commandingly into the lead and began pushing ahead, so that partially answered my question. Unsure about how soon to move, I decided to stay within striking distance without overdoing the first mile. That lasted for about 100 meters though, as Scott moved by me and bridged up to Will’s shoulder all in the span of a few seconds. At that point I knew that I needed to be right with that crew, or I was going to be left behind. A quick surge put me at the tail end of the pack, and that’s how we ran through the remainder of the first two mile loop.
Now, I’ve also known Scott to put the hammer down during the third mile on this course, so I was expecting something big to happen as we started the second loop. I think I was a little too ready for it though because I ended up being the one to jump to the lead and put in a hard surge that strung us out again. As a result of that move the race was left as a battle of the Will's (sorry, it’s too easy) and the two of us ran together into the start of the fourth mile. The other Will took the lead back before we went over the bridge that serves as the course’s only hill, and I proceeded to take it back as we headed into the single track section of the course. At that point I committed to staying awake and keeping the pace hard. As it turned out, this was a winning strategy on Saturday. I’m sure it’ll be a different story when we all race again at PA's, but, at least this time around, I heard the footsteps behind me begin to fade as I put the pedal down. From there I doubled down on keeping my turnover fast and efficient. Working through the remainder of the race, I was never sure exactly how much room I had, so when I turned onto the final stretch and heard the melodious voice of Pete Sweeney announce my name, my high school, my high school's mascot, and my entire family tree, I was finally free to breath a little easier.
After finishing I turned and quickly saw four Aggies round out the remaining spots needed for a sweep. (Last year I ended up placing 6th at this meet and blew the sweep, so it was nice to take part in a redemptive race this time around). Even more exciting, though, was the short amount of time it took to see each of the remaining Aggies cross the line. You know it’s a good day when you can remove your top five runners and still have a winning team. (Team results are here.)
My thanks to all of the Aggies who helped make the meet possible. It was quite the day. And to all of the Aggies who raced on Saturday, congrats! We’re on our way to some exciting possibilities in the coming months…
WINNING SHOES: HOKA ONE ONE Carbon Rocket (Prototype)