Girls Dominate, Boys Rise to Claim State XC Titles

Gracie Woidat, Lifestyle Editor

The cross country team made history by becoming the 1st Campolindo sports program to win both girls’ and boys’ state titles in the same year.

The Cougar harriers accomplished the feat at Fresno’s historic Woodward Park on November 30 to complete their impressive fall season.

Bouncing back from the North Coast Section (NCS) Championships, where they were beaten by Division 3 rivals Maria Carrillo, the varsity boys earned their 1st-ever state win in dramatic fashion.

The girls’ state win was their 5th overall, and 4th in the last decade.

The girls steamrolled the competition in the 2nd race of the day, with all 5 scorers finishing in the top 35, including senior Paloma Hancock landing a podium spot in 5th place. Their team score of 74 points was 80 points ahead of the runner-up school, Cathedral Catholic.

“It was really exciting and it was definitely a little nerve wracking just because I knew the stakes were pretty high. We had some good competitors, there were really good fields,” said Hancock, who finished with a personal best on the 5k course of 18:04. “I’m so grateful to have had that experience, like it was literally the best race that I think I’ve ever had in my entire career.”

Hancock was joined under the 19-minute barrier by teammates freshman Ellie Buckley, senior Alicia Hober, and senior Emma Smith, respectively.

According to head coach Chuck Woolridge, “We always knew there was a possibility based on the personnel that we had coming into the season… The girls have been building and building, we’ve been adding pieces to that puzzle for the last month.  I think we were pretty confident coming in, that if they performed to their capabilities, we would pull out a victory.”

However, the boys’ fate was uncertain due to their 2nd place finish at NCS a week prior.

“It was a magical moment for the boys, where we were up against arguably the best NCS Division 3 team of all time [Maria Carillo], and they had beaten us up pretty good the week before,” said Woolridge. “I think we all felt like a podium place was definitely an expectation, but a victory would take something magical, something heroic, from several of our athletes.”

The Cougar boys scored 47 points, the 4th-lowest point total in Division 3 history, while Maria Carrillo tallied 64.

Maria Carrillo was led by a 1-2 punch, with senior Colton Swinth separating from the other contenders to take the individual title.  His teammate, Rory Smail claimed 2nd place. But Campolindo countered that up-front fire power by placing all 5 of it’s scorers in the top 20.

Junior Owen Lekki sparked the impressive pack effort by moving up 12 places during the 2nd mile.

At the 2 mile mark, [Lekki] was in 9th place, which was a big shock. And that gave us the points that we needed to get ahead and stay ahead, and that kind of lead at the start of the race gave us the confidence to put Carrillo away and secure the bag,” said junior Dylan Gunn. “He gave us the fuel that we needed to win.”

Gunn and teammate senior Dylan Cronin both landed podium spots, finishing 5th and 9th, respectively.

According to Gunn, his motivation came from the support and dedication of Campolindo cross country alumni: “I knew that this wasn’t my dream alone, it was also the dream of people who had come before me. And so that also made me excited and gave me, like, the fire in my belly to give my best effort,” said Gunn.

It was probably 1 of the best feelings I’ve ever had. Just epic,” said sophomore harrier Rhys Pullen, describing the cathartic win. While Pullen finished 6th for Campo, he outran every other team’s 5th runner. 

“You just can’t really wrap your mind around how it unfolded and how we got there,” said Woolridge, who coached his 1st state championship team at College Park High School in 2003.

“This boys title today is that kind of kind of unique, very magical, very unexpected performance,” added Woolridge. 

“I’m really excited for next cross country season, because I believe we’re gonna keep being a strong and poised team,” said Gunn. “I want to stay winning.”