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CPS Cross Country: The Secret Behind Their Success?

“Our sport is other sports’ punishment.”

That’s what Jonah Porth, senior superstar for the cross-country team, explained. Running is a brutal sport—it’s just you and the trail for miles upon miles upon miles. In cross-country, runners grind through 15-20 grueling, painful minutes in which they look to push their lactate threshold to the max. Cross country isn’t, for the most part, about skill but about cardiovascular strategy and the endless pursuit of maximizing aerobic ability.

So how does one look to succeed in a sport where their body is constantly begging them to quit? Many of the leaders of the group point to culture, saying it is the tight-knit resilience of the group as a whole that inspires everyone to push themselves forward.

“Your running for your teammates, your coaches, and yourself last,” Jonah says is a motto of the Cougars.

Adding on, senior Maia Beltran explains that although it’s counterintuitive, culture is crucial to success in an individual sport such as running.

“It’s kind of different from other sports, where, as Talia was saying, like, you don’t really physically pass the ball to each other and connect through that way. It’s more about filling your role individually and contributing to a team score. Everyone can encourage each other to improve themselves. It’s a sport about what you control, so you don’t have to put any weight on yourself,” she explains.

While cross country isn’t exactly your traditional team sport, where teammates actively work together to score points or tackle a challenge, the team aspect is truly integral to success. For the Cougars, an especially close and connected group, they work off of each other in order to push each other further and faster. This “inter-competition” as Maia calls it, eases the pain of running, and inspires everyone to get better.

It’s easy to understate just how impressive College Prep’s cross-country team was this season. Here are some key statistics to exemplify the greatness of their campaign:

  • BCL East Championships: Girls 1st place finish, Boys 1st place finish (BCL SWEEP)

  • NCS (D5) Championships: Girls 4th place finish - Talia Green ‘24 9th, Boys 3rd place finish - Owen Irving ‘24 4th

  • State (D5) Championships: Both teams qualified for the first time in forever, Girls 17th place finish - Talia Green 34th, Boys 12th place finish - Owen Irving 12th

  • West Coast Championships (Mt. Sac): For the first time in school history, College Prep put together a West Coast Championships (the qualification meet for nationals) team… runners included: Owen Irving ‘24, Jonah Porth ‘23, Emiya Rendall-Jackson ‘25, Talia Green ‘24 (and Renzo DiGrande ‘25 would’ve also ran if not for illness the week of)

This was a historical cross-country season and definitely one to remember for years to come. Roster-wise, many veteran upperclassmen runners contribute to the team's all-time success, from the group's depth to the underclassmen runners' commitment and speed.

Reflecting upon the season, both Jonah and Owen echoed the sentiment that “this team will be good for years to come,” with sophomores such as Rendall-Jackson and DiGrande taking significant steps this season, along with freshman runner Isan Skarbinski (alternate at NCS). For the girls, lower classmen were also huge, with sophomores Aurora Campbell, Olivia Falk (who was injured for most of the season), Emily Jung, and freshman Katelyn Roberts all being key points scorers throughout the whole of the season.

And, of course, any successful team needs its superstar talents—its Stephen Currys and Patrick Mahomes.

Owen had an incredible season for the boys, winning the BCL East championship race and adding an astounding 12th-place finish at state, dropping about a minute on his 5k time from the previous year. Insane stuff. See his feature interview with Runnerspace (yeah, he got interviewed) to learn more about his successful season.

Jonah and Emiya, centerpieces of team culture, both finished just outside the top 50 at state. Jonah, a graduating senior, is committed to Occidental to continue his running career and will be remembered as one of the school’s all-time great athletes.

For the girls, Talia Green and Maia Beltran led the way. Green, an under-20 race walking world championships participant, finished top 50 at State and won the BCL East championship race. Beltran, a Prep soccer star, finished 3rd at BCL and was a noticeably key upperclassmen addition to the squad.

“Let the legs do the talking and go racing,” Irving always likes to say.

This year the cross-country Cougars did just that and more. The legs did the talking, and history was made. Until next year…


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