As the Samo boys sat anxiously on the bus headed to Kenneth Hahn Park, they found themselves gazing out of the large windows as the bus began to make its ascent to the top of the mountain. The sky outside was a bleak, misty gray. Temperatures had dropped significantly, and the gray that had conquered the sky was also beginning to manifest itself in their immediate surroundings. Captain Nick Salazar couldn’t have been happier with the conditions. The team exited the bus at the top, and began their routine preparatory ritual of jogging around the circular asphalt that encompasses the large field in the middle of the park. Spectators began to arrive and position themselves, attempting to get a simultaneous view of the starting line and the final hill. It was apparent that the Samo boys were focused, and were more ready to get their race underway.
“Andrew Capron and I started out a lot faster than last time, we ended up running together until the bottom of the hill,” Salazar said. “We really helped each other out.” The infamous hill at the end of the Kenneth Hahn course appears unexpectedly for runners, who have just traversed a two-mile segment of windy, rolling dirt hills that seem to last forever. The runners are flushed out of the hills by a rapid decline that places them at the bottom of a steep, 300-meter uphill. Already exhausted, the daunting task of racing up this monster of a slope seems almost cruel, yet admittedly necessary to win.
Two of the team’s top runners — juniors Logan Weinberg and Arash Assar — were excluded from the race due to injuries, forcing the remaining boys to step up and run to the best of their abilities. While many teams would use the lack of key runners as an excuse for a lesser performance, the Samo boys used this setback as a motivator, which became apparent considering the results of the race.
The squad pulled off a substantial victory, placing first as a team. Salazar was the first to trounce the hill running, an impressive 17:07. Right behind him came junior Andrew Capron, finishing with an equally admirable 17:15.
This is the last time the team ran Kenneth Hahn this season, and quite a few races stand between now and League Finals.
“People are kind of worn down right now,” Salazar said. “It’s not quite the end of the season, but we are almost there.”
During the weekend of Oct 16, the top 12 Varsity boys and girls drove to Cal Poly for the annual invitational. The team was pitted against top teams and runners from up and down the coast, and ended up placing second out of the Division 2 teams that they ran against. Capron dislocated his hip at the finish line after finishing the race 22nd overall, running 17:14. He is expected to make a quick recovery, but whether he will be able to participate in next week’s race at Mt. Sac remains questionable. Salazar finished the race 20th overall, coming in one second before Capron at 17:13. On Oct. 23 the boys will find themselves at Mt. Sac, another large invitational. This is the final race before the Ocean League Finals, and will take place at Rancho Park on Nov. 4. The team seems to be in a good position to maintain the tradition of placing first at League Finals, and hopes to make this year their ninth consecutive win.
The Samo girls’ cross-country team began their season strong, running faster times than any varsity squad has in many years. They have managed to maintain this pace and continue to set a precedent that, considering the youthfulness of the team, is guaranteed to be met for the next few years. However, every path to success is not without its rough patches.
On Oct. 14, the girls ran their second league meet at Kenneth Hahn Park. They missed the first place spot to Beverly Hills by a mere point, which proved to be disappointing but far from disheartening. Although they sustained a loss as a team, Senior Amanda Botfield set the girls’ school record for the course, running an impressive 20:48 and coming in first place.
Unfortunately, many other runners seem to have fallen prey to the usual mid-season snares.
“We have been battling sickness,” coach Tania Fischer said. “But since we’re in the middle of the season we have been doing our best to work with it.”
With only a few races left until League Finals, the girls are trying to remain focused and finishing running as strong as they started. They best exemplified this drive on Oct. 9 when they earned the third place slot at the Central Park Invitational, a Division 1 race.
Last weekend, the girls ran the renowned Cal Poly invitational and finished 2nd against other Division 2 teams. Sophomore Emily Berkin led the varsity squad, finishing 10th overall running an impressive 20:42. Freshman Brooke Weiss finished second for Samo, running 20:56. Results like these reveal the true potential of this year’s Varsity girls, who hope to put on an equally impressive show this upcoming weekend when the girls will be running the famed Mt. Sac Invitational, which is their last race before the Ocean League Finals at Rancho Park on November 4th.