Mount San Antonio College, known as Mt. SAC, is a community college in Walnut California. Mt. SAC holds one of the largest cross-country invitationals once a year in the state. This year is the 73rd anniversary of the Mt. SAC Cross Country Invitational. Due to COVID-19 last year, no races were hosted, but as the vaccine for the virus increasingly became available in 2021, the community is proud to host the race again. The race course is extremely challenging, especially for runners who have not practiced running on hills at all. Mayfair’s cross country team was very excited to run this invitational this year. The Mayfair cross country coaches are always helping out runners every step of the way. Coach Boppell, the head coach who has experience coaching for more than 20 years, has been especially working hard to aid and train his Cross Country team to be successful. Coach Widman has helped the team a great deal as well by holding fundraisers and making sure the team has all the funds needed to attend invitationals.
Mt. SAC 3-mile hill course is one of the toughest Cross Country racing courses due to its many hills that runners have to run on. Those hills include the Valley Loop, Poop out Hill, the Reservoir Hill, and the Switchbacks which are zigzag trails that go up a steep hill.
Many have found the course to be difficult and challenging. Runners found that “The most challenging part was the big hill part where you kept going uphill. Just constantly going uphill was really tough,” as expressed by senior Noah Macias. “[You] just [can’t] stop. If someone passes you at least try your hardest to not let them pass you.” Senior teammate Brianna also mentioned, “The most challenging parts were the hills, mainly the second hill, I hated that one.”
Our Boys varsity team came in 8th place during the 73rd Annual Mt. SAC Invitational. Senior Noah Macias came in 1st place for Mayfair and 15th in the race with a time of 17:09. Senior Juan Guerrero came in 2nd for Mayfair and 28th with a time of 17:49. Next, senior Evan Brogdon came in 3rd place for Mayfair and 50th with a time of 18:29, while senior Ryan Meas came in 4th place for Mayfair and 63rd place with a time of 19:02. Lastly, senior Zach Velazquez came in 5th for Mayfair and at 89th place at 20:22. For Girls varsity, senior Mia Cuellar came in 11th place with a time of 20:26, and senior Brianna Markham came in 95th place with a time of 27:42.
With everyone following pandemic policies last year, several runners were struggling to come back. Senior Mia mentioned that “running with other people again and [with] more training on hills and speed.” was a serious struggle. Similarly, senior Evan mentioned, “The thought that some of our best runners graduated,[I] didn’t think [the team] could fill in their shoes.”
While racing, many runners push themselves to complete the course by having certain mindsets or believing in particular thoughts. For instance, senior Juan said he tries to think about “Trying to get on top and keep it going. You are going to get tired but it’s something you gotta do. The pain is temporary and it goes away.” while completing the course. Similarly, senior Zach said, “I was always thinking to stop and walk but I knew I would be weak if I did it so I just kept going.”
Elijah on the left is an athlete at Mt. SAC and Luis is an assistant coach at Mt. SAC. They were happy that Mt. SAC’s annual race continued even after the pandemic. They were also helping out around the college when runners or coaches, or even parents had any questions.
Coaches were very happy about the progress of everyone racing. Coach Boppell in particular mentioned, “Overall, at Mt. SAC, everyone went beyond my expectations. Normally, we would go to Mt. SAC once before the actual race to see the terrain and route that runners will be running so that runners have an expectation of what the race will look like. But this year, runners went blindly and they didn’t get a chance to practice there or view the course. I was impressed by how great everyone ran without having any background knowledge about the course.” He continues to say, “I think the more races they run, the more they will do better each time. When runners race many times, they get less and less scared of racing and that means that they will do better each time they race. Due to COVID-19 last year, there wasn’t an actual season and that changed so much about this year’s season coming back and adjusting.” He also goes on to describe the kinds of challenges the team faced this season, “Some of the challenges I [faced] this season are injuries. This is one of the smallest teams I have had. Not having a large team means that everyone is more valuable. Having an injured runner really affects the whole team since the team is small and every individual runner matters to the team. One of the things that made this season easier is having Coach Wallace and Coach Andres as assistant coaches because they help out the team so much to become much stronger and better.”
Boppell discovered that this year the team is different than in previous years, “The team now realizes they all need each other to be more successful. It’s not about a specific individual but it’s about every member of the team that makes the whole team become successful. In previous years, it may have been only about a top runner but now it is about every single runner. This year, everyone has been supporting each other and encouraging each other both during practice and races way more than in previous years.”
Coach Andres is one of the cross country assistant coaches at Mayfair. [He] “started as a volunteer for two years [he] is now an assistant coach.” He then adds several words of encouragement, “the team has gone past the coaches’ expectations, they are all working extremely hard.” Some things he thinks runners should improve on, he adds, is that “The runners should realize that the race isn’t an individual competition among one another, but as a team, and that they all count together to win the race.”
Coach Wallace is also the assistant coach at Mayfair and he helps train the cross country team to become faster. He also helps the team a great deal when dealing with runners who have varying degrees of injuries and he helps them recover. His opinion on how everyone performed was that “Everybody did great during the race today and their hard work paid off.” He also adds several ways runners can improve which include, “sleeping better, getting more protein, and stretching more.”