Breaking News in Cross Country: CIF and State

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Underdog Cal High proves to be a dominant force and qualifies for State. 

This past Saturday, the Cal Cross Country Boys team ran at the CIF-Southern Section Finals and qualified to run at the State Championship. Being one of those runners, I cannot begin to explain the excitement and joy of making it to state.

The road to state has been a tough one, we started as being the slowest team in five years and lost to La Serna at our first two league meets. However, we ended as being the fastest team in Cal history and beat La Serna at league finals, making us league champions.

For context, the Southern Section is easily one of the most competitive sections, not just California, but the entire United States. Five out of the seven qualifying teams are nationally ranked.

A few days after the race, I had the opportunity to interview my fellow team mates and my coach.

The first question I asked was this: Did you expect we’d make it to state?

“Yes, yes I did. Because we’ve been working hard all summer and during season, I knew we could do it,” says Ethan Ruiz, the number four runner for the team. At Finals, Ethan beat his PR (Personal Record), running a 15:19 3-Mile and came in second for Cal, beating the number two and three runners, Andres Espinoza and myself.

“Did I expect it? No, we didn’t win the first two league meets so that made me think we wouldn’t be able to do it,” says Jesse Perez, referring to Cal’s first two losses during league. Jesse, the number seven runner for Cal, had an exceptionally good race at Finals. When I and a few other runners fell back during the race, Jesse was able to step up and finished as our fourth runner. It’s safe to say that without him, we probably wouldn’t have qualified for state.

When asking the question to our new coach, Jon Bazinet, he simply replied, “yes”.

The second question I asked was how they felt when finding out that we had made it to State.

“Right as I found out?” Coach Bazinet responded. “I was ecstatic. I knew you guys were fully capable of making it, so I wasn’t surprised, just really happy.”

“Umm, I was super happy that we made it,” responded Ruiz.

“It went through my head like ‘wow, we made it’”, Perez responded sarcastically.

The final question I ask was how they felt about beating La Serna for league, prelims, and now at finals, when everyone was ranking Cal lower and betting against the team.

“I thought it was great, we came back in clutch and beat them,” says Ruiz.

“We’re always ranked low, people always say we can’t beat them, we always prove them wrong,” replied Perez.

“It feels pretty good beating them, but I don’t care about rankings, they’re just other people’s opinions. I’m here with you guys every single day, and I knew you guys were all more than capable of beating them. Those first two league meets should not have happened, but it was a good opportunity to learn and step up. But back onto beating them, it’s a good feeling. All it took was you guys realizing that you could beat them,” says Coach Bazinet.

All in all, the boys’ team had a fantastic race and are all excited to run at state. Our goal is to come within the top five and hopefully qualify to run at NXN (Nike Cross Nationals). This would be a major accomplishment, as NXN is the highest level of competition a high school runner can get to. Cal has been there once before, during 2012. But for now, we will focus on running well at state.

At State, the boys competed with all their heart and landed 13th place. Runner Jesse Perez said he “couldn’t ask for a better season…we did what no one thought we could,” highlighting the boys’ excitement over their performance. Cross country boys have much to be proud of!

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