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Kai Wilmot NXN champion - 2013 - DyeStat

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DyeStat.com   Dec 9th 2013, 9:33am

Five Things Kai Wilmot Did Right At NXN


By Doug Binder, DyeStat Editor

Kai Wilmot's victory at NXN on Saturday caught some people by surprise.

Why wouldn't it? Was he even the best guy on his own team?

Yet even before the North Central (Spokane) senior crossed the finish line, you got the sense that he had been plotting this all along.

There was a trail of evidence. As a sophomore, Wilmot ran 8:57.66 at the Shoreline Invitational in Washington. That was the third-best sophomore time in the nation in 2012, behind Blake Haney and fellow Washingtonian Joe Hardy. Clearly the talent was there.

There have been a slew of injuries the past couple of years, punctuated by successes like the cross country win at Richland in 2012 (14:44 for three miles).

Would you believe that in the 2013 cross country season Wilmot won two of his 12 races prior to NXN? One was a dual meet against Shadle Park. The other was the Bob Firman Invitational. Look back on that race now and see that four Foot Locker finalists were in that race, plus Gig Harbor. SEPTEMBER FEATURE ON WILMOT

Wilmot packed his lower legs in ice after that win at Bob Firman to fight off the pain in his shins. And there were times when he had to go and receive physical therapy sessions for his hip.

But at his fourth NXN appearance, Wilmot was the cagey veteran. His experience and his understanding of the event were huge advantages.

Five Lessons Kai Wilmot Taught To All Future NXNers:

1. If it's really cold outside, stay inside. On Saturday morning, in the couple of hours prior to the race, anxious athletes fanned out all over the course. They were jogging, preparing. Not North Central. Those guys were on the bottom floor of Portland Meadows grandstand, seated at a table, relaxing.

"There's no reason to be out there getting cold," Wilmot said. "You just want to be staying warm and getting ready for the race you've got coming up."

North Central knows what cold is. Wilmot didn't expose himself to it any longer than necessary. If you do go outside to warm up, have a purpose to what you are doing.

2. Don't lose sight of where you are going. If you watch the webcast, you'll see Wilmot buzzing around the lead group like a bumblebee. Sometimes he's running wide of everyone. Sometimes he's ducked behind someone for wind protection. He's never boxed. He's always free. He's choosing his line.

"It was mostly just wanting to see where my foot steps were going," Wilmot said. "I didn't want to step on a divot, or not be able to see something that was coming up ahead."

Think of all those guys – maybe 60 – that got caught in an accordion-style pileup before the first pass of the whoop-de-doos. In a meet like this, it's hard to avoid trafic, but it's important to try.

3. Share the energy with a teammate. Having Tanner Anderson up front was a huge advantage for Wilmot. Together, they were part of something bigger than themselves. Other guys were counting on them. (Wilmot was the first member of a team to win the race since Connor Reed of The Woodlands in 2008). POST-RACE INTERVIEW WITH WILMOT AND ANDERSON

"We've been running workouts together for quite a while," Wilmot said. "I just knew that if I'm up here, he can be up here. If Tanner's up here, I can be there, too. Having a teammate there is like a shoulder to lean on."

That's a fairly unique situation at the front of a national race like NXN, but that point carries a lot of meaning for runners further back.

4. Motivation is a great tool to stay positive. The night before the championship meet, every member of the North Central team opened a letter written specifically for them. Wilmot's letter was written by Isaac Kitzan, a former teammate and friend who graduated last spring.

"(The letter) told me that now was the time to race, now was the time to do it. I can run with those (top) guys. He told me to run the way I had at Tracy Walters and Richland (wins from 2012)," Wilmot said. "I was focusing on being confident."

Whether it was the encouraging words in black ink on Alexa Efraimson's calf or the words of someone respected in a letter, one last shot of something profound and simple is good to think about.

5. Have a plan. Wilmot didn't go to the starting line merely to race. He came to win. One of the last big workouts he had done was a set of 1,000-meter repeats. On the NXN course, Wilmot figured out where the thousand-meters-to-go spot was. From that spot forward, he knew the speed and duration would be like one of those workout intervals.

"I remember going by that point and figuring I could go at that (interval) effort," Wilmot said. "At that point I was thinking 'Well you've got this far. It would be a shame to fade now.'"

Wilmot didn't win his state meet and didn't win his NXN regional meet. He didn't win at BorderClash. And he only won once in four Greater Spokane League meets.

But he also knew that the meet on Dec. 7 in Portland Meadows was unlike any of those other things. And he knew how to make it his day.

Of course, there were never any guarantees. Wilmot's last five weeks of training were his best, and healthiest, of the entire season – perhaps of the entire year.

On the ground again in Spokane on Sunday, Wilmot said he was still getting used to the idea of being national champion.

"It hasn't sunk in yet," he said.

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8 comment(s)
I heard recently that Kai wasn't able to do any speed work until after the state meet because of his hip acting up. If this is true, that would mean that he ran pretty much his whole season in base training. Also, keep in mind that he was in a boot in July, and maybe part of August. So what he did, he did off of four months of training and four weeks of speed workouts.

He will be an incredible pick for whatever college gets him (Wisconsin or Stanford).

Also, unless Templeton (or someone other than Joe or Dressel) run away with the FL title, then I would crown Kai as the final US #1.
Kai Wilmot smiles because he loves the run... and he has a whole deck of cards up his sleeve.
Scott Bush
Wilmot obviously has some major talent (sub-9 as a soph) and shows he can grind out big-time wins with smart tactics. He reminds me a bit of Mike Fout. A guy who is terrific over the long distances, has tons of talent, is injury prone, and if he can stay healthy can be one of the very best. I really hope he stays healthy this winter and spring and busts out some tremendous times.
All I know about Kai is what I read here...that said, I suspect that come spring, if he remains fit, Kai will be among the track elite. If at Arcadia, he may be the guy to beat. This based on a suspicion....I was not there, am not privy to the runners thoughts and plan, that the course favored track runners?......it was hard and the course is generally so bland that runners rarely had to alter their stride or carriage like they would at Arcadia or VCP. Indeed, I would rate a steeplechase on track as much more challenging. Runners could maintain the same form except for a couple of obstacles that were really hazards.
Look at the other top finishers...Efraimson, Cranny and Haney are all world class middle distance runners on track at the junior level. Indeed, Haney back on a solid flat course was again the standout runner he was last summer. Down the road, do not forget how he and Wilmot ran at NXN...love to see them go at it at Arcadia or Penn or NBON...
Of all things, both winners reminded me of how Abby D. Crushes college fields fall and spring.
Joe Lanzalotto
I can tell you from up close experience that a number of teams of both genders stayed inside until right before introductions. I was one of the people who had to chase teams down to get them to the introductions.

When I think back on which teams did what I don't see a correlation between what they did pre race and where they finished. I think its more about what each runner needs to be able to prepare for the race. For some the cold is not a factor, for others it is. As long as you take care of doing what you need, you'll be fine (able to perform up to your capabilities). I can tell you this - as much as a day or more before the race we could see those who were freaked out by the cold and focused on it too much to the detriment of their performances.

What Wilmot did worked for him and that's all that matters. Anyone would have been impressed by that performance but I think even more, his nerve in going that far out in front of a field of that quality. You have to have a ton of confidence in yourself and your training to do that. Congrats to him. Both races had sme of the best performances I've ever witnessed on an XC course.

Scott Bush, on , said:

The North Central plan of staying inside paid off. I wonder how many other teams (if any) stayed inside that long?

I wondered about that aspect on Fri when teams were running the course (and/or posing) shirtless... I'm not sure which teams they were, though, so I don't know how it corresponds to their performances.

Scott Bush
The North Central plan of staying inside paid off. I wonder how many other teams (if any) stayed inside that long?
And now we know for sure why "Kai Wilmot was smiling".
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