Despite the departure of many runners, the boys’ and girls’ cross country teams hope to make it to the CIF Playoffs again under the leadership of program head Jonas Koolsbergen.
“The athletes who have been with us have done some excellent preparation,” Koolsbergen said. “Our team running camp in Big Bear was productive and special as always. We are a little less experienced than last year’s team, but ready to step into the spotlight and make our mark.”
To start its campaign to the State Championships, the team will first compete Aug. 31 at the 2019 Univeristy of California, Santa Barbara Invitational.
Last season, the girls’ team finished first in the Mission League, while the boys’ team finished second. The squad also had two runners, Daniela Quintero ’22 and Nathalia Quintero ’21, reach the CIF State Championship finals for the 5000 meters category last year.
Both the boys’ and girls’ teams have lost several key contributors, including Avery Keare ’19 and Keon Mazdisnian ’19. This year’s team is also much smaller than last year’s.
Siji Smolev ’22 said that the current team has found a new identity that has brought the runners closer together and made them more supportive of each other. He said he believes that the runners’ strong bonds will propel the team to greater heights.
“I think our team is special because of our chemistry,” Smolev said. “Running is a sport that takes a lot of willpower, so having that camaraderie helps you to push yourself past your limit”.
Along with the change in size, Runner Isabel Lawrence ’21 said that the team has a different mindset than in past seasons.
Lawrence said that the team members have a lot more confidence and belief in themselves as a group.
“I think one of the biggest differences in our team this year is our mentality,” Lawrence said. “Especially for the members that were part of our amazing team last year, we are definitely more goal-oriented and hopeful for the future because of everything we experienced last year. The fact that we believe in our potential is really big.”
Lawrence added that while the team’s primary goal is to win, the runners also want to enjoy the process.
“Our goals this year definitely include making CIF and just to get on the podium at state,” Lawrence said. “Who doesn’t want to win a ring? But if that doesn’t happen I hope that, at the very least, some people will accomplish personal records or other personal goals. But more important is to do all of this while having fun.”
Koolsbergen said he expects success at the League and CIF level.
“Our goals are always to have success on the League level, be in the mix at the CIF level and qualify for the California State Championship Meet,” Koolsbergen said.
The team began preparing for its upcoming season early in the summer. The team runs and lifts four days each week and recently competed in a preseason meet. The meet gave the runners experience for the many invitationals and meets they will compete in throughout the season.
The whole team recently attended a five-day training camp in Big Bear where the runners trained and participated in team building activities. Isaac Dienstag ’21 said that training in a higher altitude environment will help the team in the future.
“Training and being in the high altitude meant workouts became much harder because of the thinner air, causing us to get a lot of great training in while we were there,” Dienstag said.
Dienstag said that, overall, the team members understand that there will be many challenges, but hope their hard work in the off-season and their chemistry with each other will lead to with a strong season.
“This is going to be challenging for us, but I think with the hard work of everyone on the team, we can make it happen,” Dienstag ’21 said.
Koolsbergen said that he is ready for the Wolverines to be challenged this season at the Mt. SAC Invitational and at the Palos Verdes Invitational.
“The league meets are exciting as an opportunity to test ourselves and succeed,” Koolsbergen said. “The Mt. SAC invitation is a famous Cross Country classic and the Palos Verdes Invitational is new for this group and will be different than most meets and will be a lot of fun,” Koolsbergen said.