Girls adopt pack strategy to ensure victory

Henry Vogel

By using the “pack running” strategy that encourages the entire team to run together, the girls cross country team is ranked first in the Mission League. The boys team is tied for second.

“Running as a pack is a big part of how we are doing well because the girls are able to work together,” Cross Country Program Head Jonas Koolsbergen said. “They use the strength of the group to pull themselves forward and to put a number of placers in high positions in front of our opponents.”

The strategy relies on the theory that to win, individual runners don’t need to win the overall race. The team just needs to have a lot of people placing near the top.

Against Notre Dame, the girls’ biggest competition, for example, the squad deals with losing to Notre Dame’s number one and two runners, who are also top runners in the CIF, by placing as many runners as they can ahead of the third place finisher for Notre Dame. In the second Mission League meet, the entire team finished before Notre Dame’s third runner.

The boys’ roster does not use the pack running strategy as often, Koolsbergen said. The squad’s best runners work together on one race plan, and the next tier of runners work together on their own race plan. The system still relies on group running, yet not to the same extent as the large pack the girls use.

As of press time, the girls finished first in both Mission League meets. They have also completed three invitationals that have no bearing on their league standings. The boys finished third in the first Mission League meet and second in the second one. They are tied with Bishop Alemany for second place behind Loyola.

Though runners have not sustained any serious injuries this season, though they are being cautious because they want to be at their best for the postseason, Koolsbergen said.

The squad has one more invitational Oct. 24 before league finals Nov. 5. Depending on the team’s results, the it can potentially advance to CIF preliminaries Nov. 15, CIF finals Nov. 22 and California State Championships Nov. 29.