PHOTOS: Cross Country overcomes newly redesigned course to dominate league

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By Ciana Adams and Samantha Sicairos

Senior Luis Aragon sprints to the finish line during the last regular season meet against Lincoln and Washington on Nov. 4. Photo by Ciara Kosai

A mass of runners wearing colorful jerseys crowd around the beginning post. Their hearts pound while awaiting the start signal. Then, the signal fires and a loud “BOOM!” fills the air. Instincts kick in as a swarm of athletes charge ahead, prepared to endure steep hills, rocky territory and slippery slopes. This season, the cross country team has had to overcome new terrain. The season has led up the All-City Final, happening tomorrow at the Polo Fields at 1 p.m.

At the beginning of the year, the Academic Athletic Association committee and a group of coaches made major alterations to the cross country team’s home course in Golden Gate Park.

The course now excludes two large hills that were damaged because of concerts and other public activities, according to head coach Michael Prutz. The AAA had previously filled the hills with straw in an attempt to fix the damage, but this caused the hills to be slippery for runners.

Junior Miko Krajewski racing around the Polo Fields. Photo by Kelley Grade

By removing the hills, cross country opens up to a diverse level of runners and makes the team’s 5K race times more comparable to the rest of the state, according to senior captain Kristen Leung. The former San Francisco course had more hills than other courses in the state, which made for slower times.

Some Cardinals reflect positively on the remodeling. “With the old course, our times would sometimes make us underestimate ourselves in other easier 5Ks,” senior captain Abhay Negi said. “But now, all of us can set higher standards for ourselves outside of the AAA course.”

Freshman Charlotte Greenhill competes. Photo by Ciara Kosai.

Regardless of the promising aspects, other runners have mixed feelings new course. “Personally, I dislike that the course is completely flat,” Leung said. “I’d appreciate it if they took out one or two of the hills and understand the benefits of doing so, but a cross country race with no hills is almost the same as having a race on a dirt track. Cross country is all about the challenging yourself, but this course fails to offer any challenge.”

Sophomore Liam Lange sprints during his race. Photo by Ciara Kosai

Despite the course’s revamp, the team’s training remains the same. The team continues to do all types of training, such as intervals, tempos and hills, according to senior Luis Aragon. “No major changes were made to practice because in cross country we run many different courses,” he said.

Despite the course change, the team continues to top the ranks in and out of the league. At the Mount Sac Invitational on Oct. 24, the team sent the top seven male runners and the top five female runners to compete. Leung ranked first in girls’ Division I and Aragon also came in first in boys’ Division I. The team is training for the upcoming All-City Finals and state championship. Runners set times for one another and help each other out at races, according to sophomore runner Maximilian Tiao. In the San Francisco section, the Cardinals continue to dominate. The team currently has seven runners in the boys’ top ten and eight runners in the girls’ top ten.

Sophomore Colin Li, sophomore Justin Luc and freshman Henry Lei run as a pack. Photo by Ciara Kosai

In terms of goals, the team intends to snatch gold across all divisions and to have good performances at the state championship. Returning runners hope to improve their times, whether it’s shedding 30 or 10 seconds from last year’s race. “There’s a lot of competition there, so we expect to run our best races there, so many of our top runners have their eyes on the State Meet Race,” Negi said.

Senior Annie Zhou sprints to the finish. Photo by Tobi Kawanami

Show your support for the Cardinals at All-City on Nov. 18 at Polo Fields at 1 p.m. The top team and top runners in the varsity division will move on to the State meet on Nov. 28 in Fresno.

Originally published on November 17, 2015