Bearcat cross country runners plan to pound the pavement at CIF State Finals
After a draining seven hour school day, 65 students make their way up to the track, preparing for the four to ten miles they will run in the approaching two hour practice by following the special routes around town they have memorized.
This year’s set of coaches consists of three veterans and a single newcomer. Jessica Meyer, a new assistant coach who ran cross country for UC Santa Cruz, now contributes her time and knowledge to the cross country efforts. She will work alongside volunteer walk-on coach Jory Hallanan, coach of eleven years Jon-Paul Ewing, and head coach of 30 years Ivan Huff.
Forty-eight boys and seventeen girls circle around their leaders, laced up and ready for their warm-up instructions. Rain or shine, heat or chill, these runners repeat this schedule five days of the week from Monday to Friday. Saturday mornings, the long run day, is spent logging around six to ten miles, unless competing at other race courses.
This 2016 fall season, the team is striving to recreate and even usurp last year’s season, which both Ewing and Huff credited to be their best season in the history of PRHS cross country.
“Last year… [The boys] ended up second in the CIF Southern Section and third in State. It was by far the best season we’ve ever had,” Huff said. “On the girls side… we ended up tied for third in league last year, but we made it to the CIF Finals, which was a highlight of the season for the girls and we ended up tenth in the Southern Section.”
This season, coaches agree that the team is made of strong runners who will pose as fierce competition. The top runners include senior Annie Meeder for the girls, and seniors Trad Berti and Luis Armendariz for the boys.
Meeder, who has ran for the varsity team for four years, plans to end the season stronger than she started and overcome the iron deficiency problem that she struggled with last year. The lack of iron made it difficult to get ample oxygen throughout her body, which negatively affected her race times.
“I really want to show college coaches that I’m a durable person… I really hope that my times can actually be something that a division one college would look at,” Meeder said with a hopeful laugh. “Before when I ran, I’ve never had such a passion for it. Now I want to show myself that I can be strong and do this.”
To kick off this year, Meeder’s first three races resulted in new records for the Bearcats. “[Meeder] is literally running faster than any girl distance runner has ever run in the school. Her senior year, it’s going kind of crazy good for her,” Ewing said, who hopes to see the girls team make it to CIF Finals.
For the boys side, top runners Berti and Armendariz push each other to do their best. Currently the number one runner, Berti has been running all four years of his high school career and holds the record for the fastest mile at 4:17. On October 1 of the 2016 season , Berti shocked the crowd by running a 5k race with a time of 14:57, his fastest race time, at the Stanford Invitational. Coming in after Berti, Armendariz claimed second place in the Boys Division 3 section with a time of 15:29.
Most recently on November 3, 2016, the team achieved a big goal they had set by winning their PAC-8 League race. The boys’ side claimed the first four places with their top runners and Annie Meeder earned second place for the girls division.
As for the future, Berti plans to fill this season with a win at the CIF State Division 3 meet and hopes to be one of the forty boys fast enough to run in the Footlocker Nationals in San Diego on Dec 10.
After he graduates in June, Berti doesn’t plan on slowing down. “Right now, I’m looking into Cal Poly, Chico, and UCSB for cross country and track, and to major in Kinesiology,” Berti said.
Regardless of what future years may hold, Berti and his teammates are focused on working hard to reach their goals for the season. “We have the same goals [as last year] to try to place high at CIF Finals, get to be in the top seventeen and make it to the State meet… we have to be in the top seven to make it to the State meet and that is kind of the ultimate goal,” Huff said.
Working together day in and day out, both the coaches and runners hold much respect and gratitude for each other. The two groups each act as a leg; one needs the other to propel the team forward towards the finish line.
“I think the reason for the success we’ve been having is the commitment that our runners have. They met all during the summer. You have guys like Trad [Berti] and Luis [Armendariz] that are putting in seriously big miles… Annie [Meeder] as well,” said Ewing. “The high mileage and commitment to come to every single practice… we don’t take days off… that is what pays off. It toughens them up and they can out-suffer other people on the course in the season. And that is what Paso has going for us.”