The final push

The Boys’ and Girls’ Cross Country teams have a strong showing at the CIF Division 1 State Finals despite some challenges


Photo via Lyla Fedio

In a race that assembled the best performing teams California has to offer, RUHS’s cross country team placed 10th in the girls’ race and 17th in the boys’ race at the CIF Division 1 Cross Country State Championships on Nov. 27. 

“Being in this race with all of these great runners was pretty crazy,” senior Vivian Martinez, the girls’ team’s second finisher with a time of 19:03, said. “We were so happy to compete in the state meet since we didn’t get a full season last year. Getting here after giving it 110 percent all year and not getting the chance to get to this stage last year was one of the highlights of the season for me.”

To prepare for the race, the team trained by running up to 50 miles a week since summer vacation, utilizing various hills and running trails near the beach. According to Martinez, the team felt prepared because the course, which combined flat roads and hills, was similar to those the team trained on. The girls’ strategy was to pack up, or run together, during the race.

“We’ve wanted to place in the top 10 since the beginning of the season and we were both excited and relieved to do this,” Martinez said. “Packing for us is really important because by staying together, we encourage each other. For me, seeing my mom and my other teammates’ parents cheer for us midway through the race gave me a boost of adrenaline and motivated me to do even better.”

For sophomore Lyla Fedio, who placed 17th in the Division 1 race and 43rd out of all girls in the state with a time of 18:12, the state meet was “a great experience” especially due to it being her first full cross country season.

“I was really happy with my performance and the team’s performance. We showed other schools that we have a lot of talent and that we’re here to play,” Fedio said. “It’s really exciting to be able to do all of this as a sophomore and I’m really excited for the next two years.”

Although the girls’ team expected to get to the state meet, according to Coach Robert Leetch, it wasn’t certain for the boys. To qualify for the meet, they needed to place top 7 in the section finals and did so by only one point after what was “not [their] best performance” according to junior Aaron Thomas, who placed 30th at state with a time of 15:45.

This left the team, on account of Thomas, wanting to redeem themselves by placing in the top 10. However, things got complicated when at the last minute, due to medical issues, the team’s top runner and only State Championship veteran Chris Waligorski became unable to run.

“Not having Chris hurt the teams’ confidence and we didn’t perform our best,” Thomas said. “I didn’t let it affect me and I went out with the top guys who are the best in the country. Racing with them, along with our team’s situation encouraged me to do well and I was happy with the way I ran.”

Needing 7 runners to compete, alternate Harry Lonsdale, senior, competed after finding out about the team’s need for him 20 minutes before the race. Lonsdale ended up finishing second for the team with a time of 16:33.

“Not having the pressure of thinking I was going to race helped me because I wasn’t worried about the race in the days leading up to it,” Lonsdale said. “Going from alternate to second on the team was great. I showed that I belong up there and it was a great way to end off my high school cross country career.”

Although the boys’ team wasn’t satisfied with their performance, Leetch was “proud” of them due to the unforeseen circumstances that surrounded them, and was “happy” with both teams’ improvement over the season.

“Our boys’ team has been really unlucky,” Leetch said. “Given what happened I think they raced well. They’re young and I think they and the girls’ team are going to be amazing. I can’t wait to see what this team can do next year.”