It’s Saturday, October 21, the sun is shining, and a bus full of teenagers hop out of the bus, bundled up in sweatshirts and half awake. The freshman “carry the boats” (meaning they haul the tent and water jugs off the bus) as the team walks over to find a place to set up. This is a typical pre-meet scenario. Welcome to the world of cross country.
Today was the Mariner Invitational, which takes place on a classic 3-mile XC course looping around Hayward High School. The team walked away with a slew of PRs (personal records) and medals. Our star senior, Owen Irving also broke the school record in the 3 mile with a time of 15:11, 13 seconds faster than the previous record.
Before we get into more details, let me explain how cross-country scoring works. Cross Country courses are usually somewhere between 2.6-3 miles and runners score points based on what place they get. First place gets 1 point, 2nd place gets 2 points, 3rd gets 3 points, and so on.
So, the lower the score, the better! In each race, the top 7 runners on each team can score for their team. Of these seven, the first 5 finishers accumulate points that count as the team score, and the 6th and 7th runners act as tie-breakers.
California splits high school cross country into 5 divisions based on school size, with Division 1 being the largest and Division 5 (D5) being the smallest. California is also split geographically into 10 sections and each section is allotted a different number of slots of the State Championship. CPS is part of North Coast Section (NSC) D5. Historically, NCS has had the strongest D5 teams with our competitors Lick Wilmerding and University winning many state titles, so we usually have 4-6 state-qualifying slots.
Last year, the men’s varsity team—Saahil Bakhru, Renzo DiGrande, Owen Irving, Tegbir Panasar, Jonah Port, Sam Reiter, and Emiya Rendal-Jackson—placed 3rd in North Coast Section Division 5 (NCS D5), narrowly missing second place to University, and women's varsity—Maia Beltran, Aurora Campbell, Talia Green, Emily Jung, Katelyn Roberts, Addie Maguire, and Nalini Salvekar—took 4th at NCS, qualifying both teams for the CIF State Championships. 2022 was a remarkable year as these were some of the strongest teams in CPS history.
Despite losing seniors from last year’s varsity teams, we’re still looking strong with several underclassmen additions. On the women’s team, Meda Borghei is the top freshman runner adding new depth to the team, along with returning sophomore Desiree Bauer. On the men’s team, we have returning sophomores Isan Skarbinski and Gabriel Barbosa-Topete, along with three freshmen potentially vying for that 7th varsity spot—Colin Ferrier, Aiden Fong, and Andrew Martinovsky.
We’re now halfway through the season with league and NCS championships just around the corner. The top five teams at NCS move on to the CIF State Championships for D5. The men’s team is currently ranked 2nd behind University and looks to be a shoo-in for the CIF State Championships and is in contention for the podium. On the women’s side, the team is looking strong but will need to put up a fight to be in contention for State. Owen Irving and Talia Green are both ranked in the top 5 individuals for NCS.
But for now, we’re still focused on BCL races. Last year, we swept the league with our Varsity and JV women’s and men’s teams all winning the BCL East League Championships. We also won the trophy allotted to the men’s and women’s league champions at the end of the season, which is determined by the placement of each team in all the BCL races combined. CPS will likely be able to repeat the feat this year but we’ll all need to be on our best game after forfeiting the BCL #1 because of bad air quality.
The women’s team took 2nd to Athenian at BCL #2 by merely 4 points and they will be our main rival through the rest of the season. Beating the Owls at our next races will be the trick to winning the league and our ticket to State. Given our performance last year with a similar Athenian team last year, I’m confident we can do it. The men’s team easily won BCL #2 with an all-time lowest score (and since you understand XC now, that means the best score) or 19 points. For context, the lowest score possible is 15 points if our first 5 runners all finish in the top five– something rarely seen in Cross Country anywhere, even at the collegiate level. There’s no question that they can continue at this level of performance.
Up next is BCL #3 at Crab Cove, an infamously fast and beautiful, yet poorly marked course, along Crown Beach in Alameda. Speaking from my own experience a couple of years ago, I went the wrong way in the last 100 meters of the race because the saucer cones were barely visible in the grass, losing my lead. But I have a lot more faith in our team’s ability to navigate the course and I have a feeling it’s going to be a good race on Thursday.