By Danielle Katz

The 2017 Matt Yeo Aggie XC Open was my third race as a HOKA ONE ONE Aggie, and in typical newbie fashion, I got lost driving to the meet. I circled downtown Martinez a few times and was beginning to worry, but suddenly I saw the familiar blue tent, heard the classic rock blasting, and knew I was home.
 
Joining me in the women’s race were veterans Aeron Genet and Samo Michel along with fellow newcomers Allie Sulaitis and Sara Jonathan. Though many of us shook hands for the first time that day, we all chanted the Aggie mantra on the starting line like we’d been rehearsing all our lives. Since the course was new to me, I had planned to start out conservatively and follow the leaders. But the calm composure of my teammates during warm-up gave me confidence, and the sound of Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train immediately after the starting gun gave me an extra adrenaline rush.

I almost never go out in the lead, but I succumbed to that magical “home meet” feeling and let it buoy me forward. The first half of the race was a blur of sunshine and familiar faces on the sidelines. By the time I had a mile and a half left, I was alone but for the lead cyclist (I didn’t have the chance to meet him officially, but I seem to recall him turning around at one point and saying, “Come on, Danielle!”) 

Never before have I received such hearty encouragement throughout the entirety of a cross country race. Nor have I ever seen such a large, diverse group unite over a shared love for the sport of running. And never have I received such a resounding welcome into a new family. Though I’m a remote member, you could say I’m used to things long-distance, and my heart beats faster whenever I think about lining up alongside my fellow Aggie women again.

WINNING SHOES: HOKA ONE ONE Carbon Rocket (Prototype)

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