Dance places first in prestigious Mt. Sac competition

October 30, 2019 — by Nicole Lu and Cici Xu

Sophomore Harrison Dance sprinted through the finish line, leaving dust behind, running a personal record of 15:50.9 at the Mt. SAC invitational in Walnut, Calif., last Friday. This was almost a 1 minute and 22 seconds faster his time last year, 17:12.3, where he had claimed 26th.

This year, Dance placed first in the Boys’ D3 Varsity division, while senior team captain Shivam Verma followed in 10th place with a time of 16:34.0. Senior captain Kole Tippetts came in 31st with a 17:27.9 time. There were 177 runners in his heat.

According to its website, Mt. Sac is the world's largest" cross country competition, hosting over 20,000 runners to run its 3-mile course located at Mt. San Antonio College. The repetitive ups and downs of the course are what makes the Mt. Sac run so challenging. 

“[Mt. Sac is] probably the hilliest course that the cross country team runs,”  Tippetts said. 

To compare, he emphasized that the hill is probably three times the elevation runners experience at Crystal Springs, which is the hilliest course athletes run during the regular season.

Among the other Saratoga competitors were senior Jonathan Zhao, juniors Niyanth Rao and Bryan Young and sophomore Sina Salehi. 

Dance said he was confident going into the meet.

“I think I knew I would have a chance at winning, so I came confident and prepared to win,” Dance said. “I didn’t go out too fast, and competitors behind me were pushing me pretty well, but I still managed to get out a good time.”

Compared to last year’s invitational, Dance noted that the track season last spring and the ensuing summer training played a role in his success this fall at Mt. Sac.

Verma had a similar experience. Despite the challenging course and weather, he saw a huge improvement in his times from last year, where he placed 55th. 

“I believe there was good competition in our heat,” Verma said. “The heat was kind of difficult, but we managed to still perform well under the circumstances.” 

Besides the good results, almost everyone who went to Mt. Sac, suffered from injuries. Verma has been dealing with an Achilles injury, an overuse injury of the tendon between the calf and heel bone, for several weeks and is currently recovering. Salehi dealt with a calf injury, which put him out for most of the season. Meanwhile, Tippetts is aiming to bounce back from a broken tibia bone he dealt with in the off season. 

However, the runners all strove to fight back their injuries, turning them into a type of motivation rather than a burden.

For Tippetts, the race at Mt. Sac was especially promising because of the tibia injury that kept him from training to his full potential during the summer.

“I'm actually really happy that I'm closing in to where I was last season, especially since we're not even in leagues yet. Hopefully I'll be around a little faster than what I was last year,” Tippetts said. “I'm happy with it.”

Tippetts found a change in mindset beneficial in shaving off seconds from his time.

“Most of my success came from my dad,” said said Tippetts, whose father is coach Ian Tippetts. “Hill training and running a lot does help, but what helped me a lot, especially on the hills, was focusing on stride length and stride speed rather than the hill or the race. Doing that cleared my mind of the pain.”

Looking forward to CCS and states, Coach Tippetts stressed first doing well at league finals. 

“Every, every race we've done this year, is for the next two races, for leagues and CCS,” said Coach Tippetts. “None of these [other] meets matter. You can win every single meet, but if you lose at league finals, you’re in second place. But if you can lose at every meet and then finish first at league finals, you’re the champions.”

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