Cross Country places first in all divisions of League Finals

Cross Country placed first in all divisions for its final Hacienda League meet of the season at Bonelli Park Tuesday, Nov. 5. The victory marked the first time in 50 years that Cross Country has won in all races for the respective divisions: frosh boys, junior varsity girls, varsity girls and varsity boys. 

For each division, runners placed consistently in the top ten, accumulating enough points to take first place in their respective races and earning the overall highest score out of six schools, including Charter Oak, Diamond Ranch, Los Altos, South Hills and West Covina.

“[League finals is] different just because it’s a time when everyone’s got their eyes on Walnut. [The race is] of course tiring and stressful, but throughout the race, despite how I felt physically, I felt prepared mentally,” varsity junior Karla Galvan said. “We made history because of league. I’m excited for what’s to come and proud of what we have done.”

Varsity captain senior Jesse Alvarado placed first in his race, with a three-mile time of 16:11, and was followed by juniors Robert Arriaga, Abrahim Asmaiel and Chris Razo, who all placed fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively. In the varsity girls race, senior captain Amanda Ghibaudo placed first with a time of 20:06, pacing closely with sophomore Abbie Laurel and senior Milo Santiago, who placed 2nd and 3rd, respectively. 

“My goal was qualifying for CIF [California Interscholastic Federation] and preliminaries because that’s the ultimate goal of the season — to get into the championship,” Ghibaudo said. “This meet in particular, I wasn’t trying to lead in the beginning. I have the endurance to run the race, but if I go fast in the beginning, then I use all my energy. Mentally, I have to remember that we’ve done the training, and I am more than capable of running a fast time and proving myself.”

Varsity runners all advanced to CIF preliminaries, which is determined by the overall team score of runners compared to the other schools in the league. The top seven runners participate in the preliminaries, with two more runners going as alternates. 

“Everyone is hyped up because [league finals] qualifies us for CIF. It makes you feel proud of our team because we’ve always qualified,” Galvan said. “I’m excited because [CIF is] something to look forward to and because it’s one of the biggest events I would compete in.”

Runners prepared for this meet by practicing long runs to work on conditioning and doing track interval workouts to emphasize speed. Over the summer, coaches Jerry Knox and Josh Bandy integrated increased mileage into the training to build a strong aerobic base for the three-mile races. In the weeks leading up to the league meet, the coaches designed specialized workouts to focus on hills, which is the aspect that distinguishes the course at Bonelli Park from other courses. 

“I’ve been working hard and just being around my teammates and helping them as much as I can. We rested quite a bit [before the meet], and we just did what we would do for any other race. We stuck together and worked hard for each other,” varsity senior Jude Hallet said. “Even though the course wasn’t the best, everybody was just set on doing their best and trying their hardest to win league.”

Parents and team members commemorated the seniors in this meet, which marks the last time that they will run in this course. Seniors were given personalized sashes made by parent volunteers, and teammates designed a poster for each senior. 

“It’s the last year and then off to college next year to race, which will certainly be different. I hope I can still compete as hard as I do, and I hope to see the same people that I’m racing against in the future,” Alvarado said. “We knew coming into it as a team that we were going to win because we know that we’re a team that’s going to work hard no matter what, no matter what happens to us.”

By Raymond Dunn, Opinion editor
Photo courtesy of Jason Laurel