Cross country teams have younger faces for new league season

Chronicle Staff

After depth and injury problems cost the boys’ varsity cross country team its season last year, the team is counting on a youth movement to carry the team to a better performance than its fifth place mark in the 2005 Mission League Finals.

The team has shaken off a summer coaching change and started 2-0 in its dual meets against Chatsworth and Brentwood.

Chris Okano ’08 feels that the future of the current season and the boys’ program is bright.

“We’ve got a lot of young guns now, and I think as years go on, [the program] will grow a lot,” he said.

The team’s strong start has taken place over the backdrop of a coaching change where Geoff Bird took control of the team during their summer practices.

Bird, who is filling the coaching role in addition to his positions as a French teacher and Director of Financial Aid, has helped out at practices before, but was forced to take control of the team in late August after former head coach Tim Sharpe full took a full-time job at Buckley.

Several runners have said that the coaching change has not had a large effect on the team.

The team is looking forward to running in the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational alongside the girls’ team on Oct. 22, one of the biggest meets in the country.

Afterwards, the team will continue to prepare for CIF races in November. Even though they were not able to qualify for CIF last year, Okano is optimistic about their chances for this year.

“I think we’ve got a high chance of doing that,” he said. “We’ll improve a lot by that time, [and if we are focused], we could do really well as a team.”

The girls’ team, with only one senior, Janise On ’07, has managed to overcome heavy senior losses to the team and scrape together a good start. In their first three matches, the team beat Brentwood in a dual meet, had a third place finish in a meet against several schools, and came in fifth in the Kenny Staub Invitational, their last race before press time.

Last year, the team was laden with seniors and included Bridget Ballard ’06, who finished ninth in state and was Mission League MVP.

This year, however, the team, like its male counterpart, has also found strong performances from new runners, including transferring junior Kathryn Turner in addition to runners who have returned, such as On and Sydney Ember ’08.

While it was tough to lose the seniors, Ember said, the team has pulled through. The team is looking forward to a battle during league season, which starts tomorrow against Alemany, Louisville and Sacred Heart in Balboa Park.