Boys cross country: Despite the lack of superstar runners, team anticipates solid results at CCS

October 30, 2018 — by Mathew Luo

Having just finished their final league race at Crystal Springs on Oct. 30, 11 members of the boys’ cross country team are continuing their speed training in preparation to run CCS at Toro Park at Salinas on Nov. 10.

Seven runners — freshman Harry Dance; juniors Kole Tippetts, Shivam Verma and Jonathan Zhao; and seniors Nirav Adunuthula, Hugo Huang and David Berkowitz-Sklar — are in the starting lineup. Three to four reserve runners are training alongside them.

With a strong season behind them, the runners think they have a good chance of placing high at CCS.

This year, the varsity team improved on its performance from last year, placing third or better at all league meets and setting up for a top middle finish at CCS. Last year’s strong sophomore class along with tougher conditioning led to a dominant performance this year by the juniors on varsity.

“The season’s been going well,” Tippetts said. “With the conditioning we got a lot more work ethic than last year, which translated to better races and better times. Almost every varsity boy PR-ed by at least 20-30 seconds per race.”

Throughout the season, there was tough competition among the other runners such as junior Alex Pan and senior Eric Pors, who had similar times to the top seven and were challenging them for spots on the varsity lineup. Over 11 runners were vying for the seven varsity spots.

Strong performances are expected from star runners Tippetts, Verma and Dance at CCS. Each has consistently improved throughout the season, and they have consistently been top three to four for all the league races.

The other runners are not far behind. All ran strong seasons themselves, with Zhao improving the most of them and PR-ing all of his previous records by at least a minute or more. With a good race, Zhao can hope to perhaps place fourth or fifth in the Saratoga squad.

With this close speed spread, the team can expect a fairly consistent result by finishing closely together.

“One of the strengths of our team is that run close to the same speed and we come in all at the same time,” Tippetts said.

As team scores are calculated by adding each runner’s place and ranking teams from lowest score to highest, a consistently fast spread can beat a team with only one star runner and more weaker ones. With their similar speeds, the Falcons could be able to teams despite not having superstar runners of their own. The team’s cohesive speed could benefit the team in ways that a single great runner cannot.

Certainly the team did come in at the same time at the Mt. SAC race at Arcadia, Calif., on Oct. 19. Seven boys ran the invitational, one of the largest cross country meets in the nation, placing sixth of 23 in their Division III heat.

Berkowitz-Sklar had the most unexpected performance, running a 17:07 and edging out both Dance and Tippetts. Dance followed Berkowitz-Sklar in second with a time of 17:12, followed by Tippetts in third with 17:25.

“David stepped up quite a lot this race,” Adunuthula said. “He came out of nowhere after having a pretty rocky season to beat Harry, our fastest runner at our previous invitational.”

With a strong team that runs together as a cohesive unit and a string of strong performances, all that remains for the team to do is to stay uninjured, taper down practices and work on speed and hill drills before CCS.

Even so, the runners this year are not nearly fast enough to match 2018 grad Amit Nag’s time of 15:55 at Crystal Springs in his league finals race, and Tippetts does not expect any runners to make the state finals.

Nevertheless, Tippetts said the team as a whole has made steady progress.

“One of the strengths of our team is that we come in all at the same time,” he said. “Even if we don’t have any superstars, we can still place highly if the other teams only rely on theirs.”

Due to printing deadlines, The Falcon was unable to cover league finals at Crystal Springs on Oct. 30 in this print edition.

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