Thursday, August 30, 2012

2012 Girls Cross Country Preview

On paper they weren’t supposed to be any good.  

After a disappointing showing at the 2010 CCS Championship where the team finished 6th, their worst performance in the previous 6 years, it was no wonder Valley Christian was off the radar.  Little seemed to go right for the Warriors that season, so heading into last season it was no surprise they weren’t expected to challenge for a State spot after losing 2 of their top 3 runners.  It was a motley crew of returning athletes: outside of the Morgan Lira, the defending WCAL Cross Country Champion, of the three returning varsity team members only one had run under 21 minutes for 3 miles, and of the top returning JV runners none had run under 22 minutes.

The sting of their 6th place finish the year before was a driving force the following spring.  It was motivation in the summer and the focus in the fall.  The team was determined to get back to the State meet.  No one ever told them they weren’t supposed to.  

Coming into the season the Warriors were unranked, well outside of the top 15 but that quickly changed at the season opener when the Warriors opened up the season with a 3rd place finish at the Early Bird Invitational.  While 2011 graduate Morgan Lira won the Senior race, the impact was evident from the incredible depth of the Warriors squad.

It was the first race for Ashley Lara, who finished in 20:30 setting the team’s freshman record for Toro Park in the process.  The performance was a nice surprise for Lara, who is a dedicated softball player playing winter, spring and summer ball.  Jessica Xu and Karen Mac burst onto the scene as well running under 21 minutes for their first time ever while Kellianne Connolly hovered at 21 flat.  The Warriors were back and determined to get back to the State meet.

That was the focus and determination all season and came to fruition at the CCS Championship as every runner finished with a personal best boosting the team to a second place finish and solidifying them as the fastest team ever in Valley Christian history.

Heading into the 2012 season the Warriors will need every bit of that momentum coming into the upcoming season.  Once again it is the Warriors who are unranked underdogs on the outside looking in.  Aptos, the defending DIII champions last season impressively put 5 runners in the top 13.  SI drops down to DIII and returns every runner from last year’s state qualifying team that had their top 5 runners finish in 19:50 or better.  Sacred Heart, who the Warriors edged by just 4 points at last year’s Championship also returns a full team.  The Warriors are the only DIII team to lose runners to graduation and will need to step up collectively to fill in for Morgan Lira, who will run at Moorhead State at the NCAA D1 level in the fall.  

While it will be a difficult battle, the Warriors have once again stepped up to the challenge working hard this summer putting in a solid base for the fall.  The top returning runner is Jessica Xu who finished 11th in last year’s CCS Championship with a personal best time of 19:21 for the hilly Crystal Springs Course.  Ashley Lara had a strong freshman season running 20:30 at Toro Park, 20:29 at Woodward Park and 20:05 at Crystal Springs and looks to be a major contributor to this year’s squad.  Kellianne Connolly found her grove at the CCS Championship running 20:11 at Crystal Springs.

Karen Mac had a breakthrough season.  Entering 2011 with having run under 22 minutes only once (21:54 at Shoreline) and blossomed into one of the best runners in the section running 20:37 at Crystal Springs, 20:25 at Woodward Park and 20:58 at Toro Park.  Shannon Luu also had a breakthrough season running 21:38 at Woodward park at the State Championship!

Two new additions to this year’s team make this Varsity team perhaps the deepest ever in school history.  Amy Reyes joins the team after a solid debut track season last spring.  Running 5:53 and 12:56 on the track this past spring she is a strong runner expected to have an immediate impact on this year’s squad.  Freshman Kailey Eddy has come into the season determined to make the top 7 and has been impressive in early season training.  One of the top runners in the Santa Clara County in Junior High Eddy brings a competitive edge to the team and has been running with the varsity team in practice.

The Lady Warriors will run in the team time trial Watermelon Run this Saturday and officially open their season at the Early Bird Invitational, September 8th at Toro Park in Salinas.

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