Runners Sweep Center Meet

Casey Miller, Editor in Chief

Both girls’ and boys’ country teams swept all three divisions at the second DFAL [Diablo Foothill Athletic League] center meet at Shadow Cliffs Park in Pleasanton on October 29.

For the girls’ varsity, seniors Toni Finanne, Brighie Leach, Mary Orders and Rachel Johnson finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th, respectively. Orders’ finishing time of 18:09 for the 2.95 mile course was an improvement over her pervious course mark.

Crossing the finish in 17:23, Finanne was 9 seconds behind Las Lomas’s top runner Chloe Hansel. Finnane, Hansel and Leach battled stride for stride through much of the race.

“I’ve raced against [Hansel] before, and I know that she’s a really good competitor. We were pretty close at one point, and at one point Brighie and I were actually in front of her, but towards the end she got back ahead. But for most of it, we were pretty close together,” Finnane said.

While the girls’ team is traditionally strong, their low score on Wednesday was due, in part, to a wrong turn taken by some of their opponents. Johnson said, “Two people right in front of me went the wrong way, so I told them which way to go but I was already passed them. So I beat them, and that was pretty awesome.”

Wednesday’s result put the team in contention for another league title.  The girls are also favorites to repeat as NCS champions.  They are currently ranked #1 by for all division 3 schools in the state.

“As a team, I think we’re doing really well and we have a lot of potential and it’s really exciting to see how well we’ve been doing and it sets us up for a really great postseason. Every competition is important because it’s all helping in preparation for the big ones, but I think that it’ll really start to become more important and really crucial as we get into the races that really mean more,” Finanne said.

Finanne, a first year cross country participant, has been a surprise addition to varsity girls’ team.  Her performances this fall have resulted in interest from college coaches.  She has recently taken visits to NCAA programs at Notre Dame and Vanderbilt.

“Toni was friends with the veteran athletes before she began her participation, so I think she was comfortable with those athletes and has fit in well. I was told that she had experience with soccer and was a recreational runner but I had no idea that she possessed the talent that she has demonstrated over the course of the season,” Woolridge said.

With Finnane, as well as 6 of 7 returners from last year’s state championship squad, the Cougars felt good about their chances on Wednesday. “Toni and the rest for the girls were very confident, having beaten all of the other DFAL teams in the previous center meet,” Woolridge said. “They are currently ranked third in California, so yesterday was more of a time trial for the girls, and an opportunity for some of our less-experienced athletes to run on varsity.”

“Shadow Cliffs is not a very technical course. It’s flat, with only a few small changes in elevation. It’s not a course that requires a lot of preparation,” Woolridge said.

In the varsity boys’ race, Campolindo managed to place all 5 of its scorers into the top 10. “That’s typical of our strength this year. We don’t have a frontrunner, but we have a very solid pack, and that was evident in the way the boys handled the race yesterday,” Woolridge added.

Sophomore Richard Gong, in just his 2nd varsity competition, finished 9th. Gong said, “I didn’t really have any specific approach but I guess I tried these new things.”

One of the “new things” Gong tried before the race was a slight change in diet. Following advice of teammate Jared Yabu, Gong ate Chia seeds before the race. “I was like, why not? But I don’t know if that really affected anything,” Gong said.

“I kind of wanted to get a better time, but I guess it was a pretty good result,” Gong added.

“It was probably the biggest margin of victory we have had in the regular season against the rest of the league since I’ve been coaching here at Campolindo,” Woolridge said of the boys’ victory.

The meet was not without some challenges for the Cougars.  Junior Emma Ishida struggled to finish in the varsity girls’ race. According to Woolridge, she suffered from dehydration. “It was pretty obvious that she didn’t get the electrolytes she should have prior to the race, and yesterday was unusually warm, especially coming after a week of cooler weather,” he said.

However, Ishida thinks there may be other factors involved with her performance. “I had a bad race. I think I have the symptoms of iron deficiency, so I’m going to take some iron pills now,” she said.

Leach also struggled during the race with unusual dizziness. According to Woolridge, Leach was experimenting through the middle of the race, and trying to match the surge made by Hansel. “When she hit the two mile mark, she started to feel a bit woozy,” Woolridge explained. “At this point we’re not quite sure what it could be. She was having symptoms that I’ve seen in athletes who have mild asthma, or anemia.”

In the past, Leach has suffered from iron deficiency. As Leach finished third, Woolridge is confident that her minor health issue is not reason for concern. Finanne added, “I’m positive [Brighie and Emma] will be able to bounce back from it. They’ll recover.”

Like her new teammates, Finanne is excited about the approaching post season. “Every race is a chance to get out there and practice and prove what you have. Going into [NCS] I’ll definitely be very nervous but I have a really supportive team and they’re all very encouraging so they’ll help take the stress off,” Finnane said. “Just knowing that I’m there with my teammates is always really helpful, so I think I’ll go into it with a really strong mindset for myself and believing what our team can accomplish.”