While school has only been in session for a few days, cross country runners hit the hills early and are already months into training. The running raiders build their base mileage over summer in order to achieve their ultimate goal of qualifying for state and setting lots of personal records.
The team will toe up to the starting line this season under head coach Anton Escay and two new coaches, Stacy Worthen and Reesey Byers.
“Our teams are looking real strong,” said Escay. “We came off a great altitude camp where everyone ran strong and did a lot of hills.”
The athletes endure a variety of training, as cross country courses range from rocky dirt roads, intense hills and fast golf courses. Their first meet is the Oakmont invitational in Roseville consisting of a dirt course with rolling hills.
Coach Worthen has experience coaching a local running club Oak Hill which some Rio athletes participated in as younger athletes.
“I have the opportunity to be a part of a high school team and I’m hoping to be able to put the expertise that I have towards coaching to help students be successful in their running,” said Worthen. “I’m excited to see the team come together as a whole and to see them succeed.”
Hopefully the team will grow from last season, despite some hurdles being placed in front of them.
In the girl’s competition, Vista del Lago will entering Division II after winning the state championships in Division III last year. St. Francis and Whitney both pose threats to the top three slots that make it to the CIF State Championships, but Coach Anton feels confident in the girl’s ability and effort in training, not to mention the fire the girls have to make it back to state.
After losing some strong seniors, the boys are putting in the hard work to make it to state as well. Their training is aided by the new assistant coach and sponsored athlete Reesey Byers.
“I coached for the Santa Rosa Junior College last year and I really loved it and I really wanted to do that again on a high school level,” said Byers. “It’s been a great experience so far.”
Byers runs for the popular running company Hoka as a part of a team based in San Luis Obispo. He is able to push the boys to their limits during workouts and hopefully help them earn a trip to Fresno for state.
The high school setting is also refreshing for Byers himself.
“I love it because sometimes you can get so caught up in the seriousness of your goals and the demands of training,” said Byers. “I think being in a position now to where I can hopefully inspire and help others makes me be the best version of myself.”
Running as raider is a unique experience from the expertise of the coaches to amazing environment and comradery. The American River Parkway that backs up to the school aids the runners in their training by providing miles of trail, whereas most schools have to run loops around the surrounding neighborhood.
Runners also are brought together by the difficult training they endure. Between the Sacramento heat and need to train on hills push your body to new extremes, the athletes all have a lot of respect for one another.
“No matter what is going on, whether it’s a long practice or difficult race, you can always expect to have support from the team,” said junior Lucy Prieto. “We truly all want each other to succeed and we do everything we can to make sure it happens.”
As the preseason wraps up and races begin, the running raiders and their coaches head towards a fun and challenging season.
“High schoolers have an amazing energy and make it a lot more fun,” said Byers. “It brings me back to why I love to run.”