By David Olds, Cross Country and Track Coach and Upper School English Teacher
After almost a full year with no Crossroads interscholastic athletics events due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Upper School Cross Country team became the first sport to once again engage in head-to-head competition against another Gold Coast League school when it traveled to Limekiln Park in Northridge on Feb. 18 to race against Sierra Canyon.
Against a beautiful winter afternoon canyon backdrop, the Roadrunners toed the line for a hilly 3-mile race. The coaches and athletics directors from both schools acknowledged the race as an important and historic event in this new pandemic reality, and hopefully just the first step (or steps) on the road to a return to normalcy for our high school athletes.
First up was the boys race, and despite having just returned to training the week before, the Crossroads’ boys were ready to perform. Out team’s strength is our ability to run in groups, working together to pull teammates along while racing against our opponents. From the gun, the boys found their assigned groups and perfectly executed the team tactics that make for successful dual-meet racing. Senior Addison Davis and sophomore Hugo Guckert led the race through the first mile, followed closely by juniors Bruno Bernal and Sean Mucheru. They, in turn, were followed by a trio comprised of sophomores Harry Woods and Ryan Celmer and senior Shant Kassabian.
It was cool in the shadowy canyon bottom, but runners had to climb out of the canyon to the ridge above twice during the race. The ridge was baking in the afternoon sun, adding an additional challenge for the athletes. Fortunately, the veteran Roadrunners were more than up to this challenge and finished well over the final loop through the canyon. Hugo took the top spot in a stellar early season time of 15:50. He was followed in short order by Addison in a fine 16:03. A few moments later Bruno and Sean crossed the line, and then Harry captured the all-important fifth scoring position. Ryan and Shant were close on Harry’s heels, closing out a very strong victory by the Crossroads boys.
Three minutes after the boys started, the gun sounded for the girls’ race. Due to COVID-19 protocols, Crossroads athletes may only participate in one sport’s practice at a time. This meant that we only had one girl ready to race on Thursday. Fortunately, senior Indiana Guckert was more than ready to carry the Crossroads banner in this first competition. She had the added challenge of facing the defending league champion Sierra Canyon girls, who were led by First Team All-League and state meet qualifier Isis Diaz, a formidable opponent and just one of a strong returning group of experienced Sierra Canyon runners. At the start, Indiana positioned herself at the back of the Sierra Canyon pack, biding her time as she got into the rhythm of the race. When the runners came back into view after their first trip up and back along the canyon, Isis was in the lead, followed fairly closely by another runner whom I at first assumed was the #2 girl for Sierra Canyon.
However, as the runners neared the start of the second loop, it was clear that the second runner was wearing Crossroads red. Indiana had worked her way up through the entire Sierra Canyon pack and now had Isis in her sights. By the time she passed the second loop start, Indiana was right on Isis’s shoulder. Then, less than 400m into the second loop, Indiana passed Isis and starting pulling steadily away. Never looking back, she powered through the final mile and a half of the course to win in a very impressive 19:55, besting Isis by almost a full minute and capping off a dominant day for the Guckert family and the Roadrunners.
On Feb. 27, Crossroads traveled to Brentwood to race the Eagles on their home turf. The Crossroads boys dominated the competition, placing first through fifth place overall, tallying a perfect score of 15 to defeat our arch-rivals. On the girls’ side, Indiana Guckert battled Brentwood’s number one runner for the first half of the race before a foot injury forced her to slow her pace, allowing the Brentwood runner to pull away. Despite the increasing pain in her foot, Indiana carried on to finish a solid second overall.