Beginning their training in July, cross country finally finished their long season at the California State Championships the weekend after Thanksgiving.
The varsity girls qualified as a team after placing second the Sac-Joaquin Division II Section Championships. Senior Nicolas Gorman, also qualified as an individual, finishing seventh at sections.
The girls placed 22nd out of the 117 teams that qualified for state, with the top four runners all completing the 5 kilometer course in less than 20 minutes. Nic Gorman placed in the top 100 individually, running a personal best of 16:21.
While the girls are led by senior and Yale-commit Sophia Karperos, the team is fairly young, showing much promise for years to come. Only three of the seven runners making up the varsity team are seniors, meaning the majority of the top seven will return next year.
“It was really fun to get to race with this amazing team one last time,” said Karperos. “I’m so proud of everyone’s hard work and commitment throughout the season.”
The girls, placing 11th in their division at state, are united over a tight team bond and motivational coaches.
Head coach Anton Escay inspires both the girls and boys team to work hard and compete against tough competition through his extreme dedication to the team.
“Coaching in the state meet is always a privilege because it doesn’t come by easily,” said Escay. “Whenever I do coach at the state meet, I’m super excited and happy for the team.”
Earlier in the season, Escay made a deal with the varsity girls that he would let them shave his head if they won the Capital Athletic League Championship. The girls beat the defending Division III State Champions, Vista del Lago, by one point and gave their coach a new haircut the following week at practice.
“Anton helps gives us the confidence we need before all of our races,” said junior Lucy Prieto, who was fifth on the team of varsity girls at state. “He is so committed to the team and will even take the time out of his day to do the workouts with us if we can’t make it to a practice.”
This determination to compete carried into sections, where the girls defeated Vista del Lago for a second time and secured a spot at state.
Assistant coach Stacey Worthen, professional runner Reesey Beyers, and economics teacher Curt Casazza also help the team significantly. The cross country coaches work together to create personalized workouts for over 80 athletes, a large task considering the varying speeds and ages of the team.
The guidance of experienced coaches helped Nicolas Gorman qualify individually, though his twin, Annalee Gorman, also qualified with the girls team. Reesey Beyers, who runs for the Hoka One One Aggies, helped Nicolas significantly with motivation in training.
“Reesey pushes me to my max both physically and mentally,” said Gorman. “Without him, and his killer pasta, I would not have made it to states.”
In addition to quality coaching, the cross country athletes can equate their success at state to the hard work put in throughout the summer and fall.
Occurring five to six days a week, cross country practice was only canceled once this season, due to extreme heat. Even then, athletes woke up as early as 4:45 a.m. before school and ran in the dark in order to stay in shape and maintain weekly mileage.
The top athletes will train up to 40 miles a week for girls and 50 miles a week for boys, running 10 or 12 mile long runs, respectively.
“You have to practice every day and do tough workouts multiple times a week while still staying positive and motivated,” said senior Alyssa Escay, a top varsity runner. “It’s definitely worth it because you get to race against the best schools in the state and even the nation.”
Though upperclassman run significant miles, the coaches take caution with younger athletes, not wanting them to burn out too early in their running career. This was the case for freshman Olivia Schlieman and sophomore Kaylee Barnes, who traded off as the team’s second fastest athlete behind Karperos.
“It was an honor to be a part of the varsity team,” Schlieman said. “Everyone was so welcoming and I learned a lot from them, especially when we went to state. It was an amazing experience and it helped the team grow closer together.”
State provided the team members who qualified to strengthen their bond, as they drive up the day before and stay in a hotel together. Even with the fun the day before, these athletes live for the feeling after a good race.
“The most memorable part of my last state cross country meet was definitely afterwards when everyone on the team was so excited about their races,” said Karperos. “We could not have ended on a better note, and I can’t wait to see how everyone does in track this spring.”