Junior Vincent Chu powers through last straightaway against Bell Garden competitor in Almont League meet. “I burned every muscle in my legs to pass him but near the finish line, he showed that he had the stronger will and ultimately beat me.” Chu said.

Cross Country crosses limits in season opener

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After the cross country team’s strong performance in the annual Rosemead Invitational, the Matadors rushed into their first league meet of the season on Sept. 25. The Matadors placed first in frosh/soph boys, fourth in junior varsity (JV) boys, third in varsity boys, second in frosh/soph girls, and fifth in varsity girls.

“I knew that our team had great potential from our individual times from Rosemead Invitational, but I was blown away by the team’s performance in our league race,” senior girls head captain Rashell Zamarripa said. “I am so proud of the results our team achieved.”

Compared to last season, the team increased the mileage of its distance runs in hopes of achieving top three in Almont League finals. Junior boys head captain Tan Ma said that the growth of each runner has shown since the team incorporated the new trails for practice.

“There’s a separation between the boys’ and girls’ workouts since we have an extra coach this year,” Ma said. “There’s an emphasis on grouping to ensure that each group gets the necessary attention they need; some groups would run longer and others would run shorter.”

The meet started off roughly with an unexpected schedule change for both the boys and girls JV and varsity races. Due to complications, the JV team was the last division to race instead of the varsity division. To guarantee fair placements among the teams, the varsity runners had to race before the JV to ensure that there were at least seven varsity runners before there were any JV runners.

“It is important to have seven varsity runners because [seven] is the minimum number of members to race since each team’s placement is determined by the first five runners of its school who cross the finish line,” Zamarripa said.

Although the varsity race began ahead of time, the experienced runners were unaffected by the change in schedule.

“I was surprised because varsity usually runs after JV,” sophomore Johan Oetomo said. “Even though the varsity race was sooner than I expected, I [managed to] collect myself and push through the nerves.”

On the other hand, the delay in the JV races caused anxiety among the runners.

“I felt nervous because we were the last race of the meet,” senior Tammy Dam said. “Since we ran last, I felt more pressure to do well because the other girls who went before us had fast times.”

The team eventually developed a steady momentum and ended the meet strongly.

“Despite how nervous the new and returning members were, all their efforts from practice really paid off,” Ma said. “Everyone did a great job on their first league meet.”

Coach Steve Morales has high expectations for the team as the season continues to progress. He hopes to see each division place top three in Almont League finals and all runners improve their times.

“Our future is bright because there are so many young athletes running varsity for us,” Morales said. “This season is one of the best overall team results I’ve seen from the cross country team.”

The team’s next league race will be held on Nov. 5 at Legg Lake Park in South El Monte.

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