Promising freshman runners join girls’ cross country, season starts with high hopes

September 24, 2019 — by Nicole Lu and Cici Xu

Every day, after most students have gone home, members of the girls’ cross country team can be found heading out for their daily runs with the sun unforgivingly beating down on their backs. Despite losing accomplished runners such as Elizabeth Kardach, Isabella Tan and Siena Parsons to graduation last spring, new additions and a rise in sophomore participation have brought hope to the team.

Last year, there were 45 girls on the team. This year, a total of 53 girls have joined with a return rate of 78.9 percent of last year’s runners coming back for another season. Among the new runners is an increase in promising freshmen runners, as well as a significantly higher sophomore attendance.

“It’s a good mix, and like I say anybody can be varsity; it doesn’t have to be a senior necessarily, so it’s really exciting,” coach Danny Moon said. “We’ve got some freshmen looking real good and sophomores looking good.” 

The girls’ first meet was 2.1 miles at Lynbrook High School on Sept. 10. Four out of the eight freshmen on the team are in the top seven ranks, which is the benchmark for varsity. 

Among the varsity ranks after the first meet are freshman Elsa Blom, Allison Tan, Isha Goswami and Elizabeth Stoiber; sophomore Amoli Vanavadiya, junior Jessie Zhou, and senior Sanjana Reddy. Blom placed first in the team overall with a time of 13:52.5, with Zhou and Stoiber following close behind (14:04.3 and 14:41.3 respectively).

The race also yielded many PRs, with specific individuals chopping off even four or five minutes from their times the previous year. 

These promising results have boosted team morale and determination among the runners this year.

“I think this year we have a great team who really puts in the effort not only for themselves but as a team,” said Zhou, a team captain. “We have a lot of new members who really stand out, and I think they definitely improved our team.”

Zhou also noted an increase in team spirit, which may be partly due to the higher number of attendances this year. 

“Everyone gets along well and motivates one another so that they can improve not only themselves but their teammates as well,” Zhou said. “This makes me really excited for the season because we have a lot of really fast additions to the team and also a very positive mindset, and I know this will make our team do even better than in previous years.”

In order to build up stamina for lengthier courses, Moon tries to increase the girls’ mileage each day during practice so new runners can grow accustomed to the idea of running hillier, longer meets. For now, the girls run between two to three miles in practice, but the mileage will be increased to four to five miles by midseason. 

“Each workout will vary depending on our cross country meet dates, track workout, hill workouts, and long runs,” Moon said. 

The rearranging of this year’s cross country courses make the meets more challenging. This year, the team is scheduled to run three Crystal Springs courses and two Baylands courses — which are the harder trails to run — compared to only two Crystal Springs and one Baylands last year.

According to Moon, these are especially difficult for runners because of the variety of hills presented throughout the courses. While Lynbrook is a relatively flat run, Crystal Springs is known for its hilly, rough terrain. Baylands, on the other hand, has four 12 feet “dragon hills” which are known for their slopes.

“I think both courses have their own challenges, but from what I have been seeing on Norton and hill repeats, the hills are going to be really tough on people,” senior captain Tricia Jain said. “I think that doing each course at least once will help athletes get an understanding of how to pace themselves and get through the race. Both meets are also of an ‘I hate it’ or ‘I love it’ dichotomy, so I am hoping the courses have good first impressions on the new members.”

In addition, there is no Early Bird Invitational in Toro Park for the varsity runners like there was last year, presumably because of the tough hill the athletes had to face. The Central Coast State Championships (CCS) will be held this year in Crystal Springs instead of Toro Park.

Despite the fact that the warm weather and harder trails pose potential problems, Moon has positive predictions for the remainder of the season. Above all, he prioritizes personal records and growth for the girls rather than their ranks in meets.

“Every meet is a new challenge for the athlete, and it’s a new record for the athlete,” Moon said. “If they’ve run it before they have a chance for a personal record and, through the year they’ll get personal records. That’s what we really scope for, is to see that at the end of the year we have a personal record for everybody.”

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