By Austin Block and Mary-Rose Fissinger
Queenâs iconic “We are the Champions” blared through speakers set up in the lounge. Two pillars of red, white, and black balloons flanked the stage. School President Thomas C. Hudnut waited on the stage, students crowded the room, and the girlsâ cross country team walked up to receive recognition for winning the schoolâs first state cross country title.
Hudnut recognized the coaches, gave a short speech congratulating the students on their accomplishment and called out each of the nine players by name, including sophomore Cami Chapus â12, who placed first overall in the state for Division IV, and Amy Weisenbach â12, who placed fourth overall in the same division. Each player was given a lei and Jamba Juice and the cookies were served.
The girlsâ cross country team became state champions for the first time in school history on Saturday, Nov. 28. Coupled with the boysâ fifth place finish, the day quickly became, in the words of the head of the cross country program Jonas Koolsbergen, “the single greatest day for running in the schoolâs history.”
“They have run in the dark and they have run up hills with no one watching and they have run in places that others of us only have nightmares about and they have excelled and they have done wondrously well,” Hudnut said of the state champions. “In cross country everybody counts. It is the ultimate team sport and so everybody up here has contributed to this great day and to a new state champion bannerâ¦being hung down in Taper.”
The team won state at Woodward Park in Fresno on Saturday Nov. 28 after taking the CIF title on Nov. 21 and league title on Nov. 4.
Chapus won the individual state title with a time of 17:59, a minute faster than her time from the state meet last year for which she individually qualified, and the 18th fastest girlsâ time run that day for any division.
Weissenbach followed in fourth place, running 18:24 and making Harvard-Westlake the only school to score two runners in the top 10.
Lily Einstein â11 finished third for the team, passing several runners in the final stretch and coming in 32nd place at 19:26. Claudine Yee â10 (46th) and Yasmin Moreno â13 (66th) came through next, running 19:42 and 20:05 respectively and finishing off the teamâs scoring. Nikki Goren â12 (70th) was next at 20:09 and Caitlin Yee â13 (78th) followed with 20:22, the first seventh runner to come through for any team by 35 places.
The Wolverinesâ team time of 1:35:36 became the fastest time ever run at the state meet by a div. IV team. The previous record of 1:35:53 had been set in 1999 by Corona del Mar.
“It was the best feeling to have all our hard work pay off,” Chapus said.