By: Karli Stichter
Tustin High Cross Country ran in their first league meet on September 30. Over ninety students loaded charter busses at one o’clock on Wednesday afternoon and made their way to Craig Park in Fullerton. At Craig Park, they met their opponents in the Empire League: Pacifica, Western, Valencia, Cypress, and Kennedy High Schools. The Empire League is a very tough league in regards to running, but the cross country runners have been preparing for the past month. Besides the freshman, most students have run this course at Craig Park several times before. This race is considered one of the hardest of the season, but some of the runners get their best times on this course.
As 2:30 P.M. approached, the first race took off. The Junior Varsity girls were first. Every half hour, a group stepped up to the starting line and waited for the gunshot. Runners spent their time before their race enjoying each other’s company, while also trying to calm the butterflies in their stomachs. As the races took off, parents, family members, friends, coaches, and teammates lined up around the course and cheered on their runners as they ran through the tall, grassy hills, and the dusty, dirt switchbacks.
Despite the individual aspect of Cross Country, it is very much a team sport. A team bond is created through the intense workouts, waking up at five in the morning for meets, and enduring the pain running brings. This shared pain gives the team a reason to cheer each other on because they know how hard it is to finish a race alone. They all know the agony each and every runner goes through when they reach the last mile and all they want to do is give up.
League races are special because the top seven girl and boy runners are chosen to run in the Varsity race. For some of the Freshman and Sophomores that are chosen to run for varsity, this race is a big deal, and often times it causes an uneasy stomach and state of mind. Hunter Alegre was one of the Sophomores pulled up to Varsity for this first league race. Before and after the race I asked him some questions.
What was going through your mind before your first Varsity race?
“Let’s see… I was nervous and I thought I wasn’t gonna do as well as I knew I could.”
How did you feel after the race?
Hunter said with a smile, “Satisfied that I didn’t come in last.”
But the experienced runners constantly push the the new varsity members to try their best and make a solid effort to make sure each runner feels encouraged before, during, and after the race.
As the last race ended at 5:30 P.M., Tustin’s team gathered around their camp set up in the middle of the park and congratulated each other on their times and all they accomplished that afternoon. The team spent time taking pictures and bonding with each other.
There were several runners who improved their times on Wednesday and the rest plan to take this race and use it as motivation to continue to improve.
The top runners for the Empire League Preliminaries were Jose Pedroza, Varsity Senior with a time of 16:45 and Karli Stichter (me), also a Varsity Senior, with a time of 20:15.
Jose Pedroza is the top runner of the whole cross country team and being so, I decided to ask him this question:
What is your motivation to keep pushing to stay the top runner on the Cross Country Team?
He laughed and said, “Being the top runner—that’s about it.” Then continued to say, “I love the thrill of being first and everyone trying to catch up to me.”
With only a month left of the cross country season, the team plans to continue to work hard to be able to get their best times by league finals, which will take place at Craig Park on October 28th.
Congratulations to all the runners who improved their times last week, and best of luck to the team in the rest of their challenging season.