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CHS Girls’ Cross Country Runs Their Way to Nike Cross Nationals

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A starting gun goes off in the distance. Bodies fly by. Crowds anxiously wait for the first runners. Such is the set-up of a cross country meet, an environment that the cross country program at CHS has learned to dominate. This year, both the boys’ and girls’ teams shattered records, crushed opponents, and succeeded in putting CHS on the map as one of the most revered teams in the nation.
This year, the girls’ varsity roster was made up of freshman Angie Gushue, sophomore Azalea Segura-Mora, juniors Sydney Hwang, Kalinda Reynolds, and Sarah Ayala, as well as seniors Tess Rounds and Alyssa Cantrell. The team entered the season with mild expectations; however, that was soon to change as the girls’ team began to make a name for themselves in several major early-mid season races.
Even with the early success of the girls’ team, the boys’ team of sophomores James Settles, Michael Carpenter, Blake Bertrand, Adam Trafecanty, juniors Vicente Huerta, Ryan Cowgill, AJ Reyes, and seniors Daniel Scheider and Jeremiah Alarcon did not reach acclaim until later post-season races. The boys’ team entered CIF Southern Section Finals as an underdog, but that did not hinder them in any perceivable way. They won the boys’ first CIF Championship since 1962. Additionally, the girls’ team handily defeated every other team present for another CIF Championship. For the first time in school history, Claremont swept Division 2 CIF Southern Section. Junior Vicente Huerta felt this success was due to the hard work each team had put in throughout the season.
“Our work ethic is what makes us successful,” Huerta said. “We run hard and know we can succeed as a team.”
The season did not stop there, and both teams headed to state with big goals in mind. The boys’ team finished fourth place in state, a great accomplishment in itself. The girls’ team won the D2 title for the second year in a row, but were unsure if they had qualified for Nike Cross Nationals (NXN). To qualify for NXN, a team must be in the top two teams among all divisions in their region, which, in this case, was California. However, four at-large bids would be selected from all eight regions to select remaining teams. The wait to see who came out on top resulted in a roller coaster of emotions as different databases posted different results. CHS was nearly tied with Buchanan for the second spot. After a long wait, the results were announced: in an unexpected 20-team merge, Buchanan came out on top. As the at-large bids were announced, the first team in was Claremont. Upon receiving the call, the girls rejoiced. For the first time in school history, Claremont was sending a team to NXN.
As the first Claremont team to qualify for NXN, the girls traveled to Portland, Oregon. In addition to hundreds of dollars worth of Nike apparel, the team was given a tour of the Nike headquarters and facilities, as well as opportunities to interact with several Nike Olympians. The course, wet and muddy, was new and relatively unknown to the team, who were used to racing on primarily hard packed dirt or concrete. Despite the novelty, the team still ran one of their best races of the season. Finishing exhausted and nearly unable to move, the team was reenergized upon learning they had scored ninth out of the 22 best teams in the nation.
“It was such an honor to be racing against some of the top girls in the nation,” Segura-Mora said. “We found out how we compared to other highly ranked teams, which gave us more knowledge on what we could accomplish and showed us how to improve for next year.”
Even after completing one of the most successful seasons in Claremont cross country’s history, both girls’ and boys’ varsity teams look to improve as each team will return five of this year’s seven best runners. The cross country team is getting better every year, and this year marks the first of hopefully many NXN qualifications for the program.

 

Photo courtesy of dyestat.com

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CHS Girls’ Cross Country Runs Their Way to Nike Cross Nationals