The success and strength of this year's varsity girls cross country team sits squarely on the shoulders of its returning runners and the coaching staff would have it no other way. The Lady Warriors will rely on the abundance of veteran leadership this season that includes four seniors, a junior and three sophomores.
“We are a veteran team and will depend on our returning runners to lead the way. If we hope to challenge for a State qualifying spot every athlete will need to contribute, led by our top runners.” Coach Small said of his team's aspirations.
Qualifying for the State Championship in Division III became more of a challenge than ever as the CCS now only qualifies two teams.
Up for the challenge and leading the charge will be senior Jessica Xu. Already making her mark in the Valley Christian record books she comes into the season as one of the top 10 all-time Warriors on the track at 1600 and 3200 meters. She is also #6 all-time at both Crystal Springs and Toro Park, the courses for which the WCAL and CCS Championships are held. Sharing “Runner of the Year” honors last season, Jessica earned recognition as First Team All-League after her top 10 finish at the WCAL Championship and was a top finisher at the CCS Championship. It was a breakthrough season last spring for Xu running personal bests in the 800, 1600 and 3200 meters.
Ashley Lara traded off duties with Xu as the top runner for the Warriors last season. Co-Runner of the Year, she finished last season magnificently earning All-CCS honors with a 7th place finish at the CCS Championship, qualifying as an individual for the CIF State Championship. Lara carried that momentum onto the track as she had a stellar spring resulting finishing on the podium in the 800 meters at the WCAL Championship.
Adding to the strength of the Warriors 1-2 punch is sophomore Kailey Eddy. Motivated to make amends for last cross country season she has been blazing in the early going, setting the pace in summer workouts. She hit her stride on the track in the spring running 5:34 for 1600 meters and 11:48 for the 3200, a mark that ranks her eighth all-time for the Warriors. She has built a strong base and will have a big impact on the team this fall.
Karen Mac missed much of last season due to a knee injury as a result from getting tripped up in a track race her sophomore year but came back strong last track season recording a top finish and personal best in the 800 meters at the WCAL Championship. Working steadily through the summer Mac brings a desire to make up for lost time and has looked strong in the early season workouts. After a stellar sophomore season in cross country running 20:25 over the 5k course at Woodward Park, her leadership, talent and grit wil be a vital part of this year’s team. She has also earned recognition as one of Valley Christian’s all-time best with top performances at Crystal Springs and Toro Park.
For any cross country team there is a direct coorelation with the strength of the team and the strength of its core runners. For the Warriors a decorated veteran group is at its core led by Shannon Luu, Vanessa Giacalone, Leia Wang and Megan Gillespie. Luu ran brilliantly over the challenging Toro Park course last season to finish as one of the top runners finishing in 21:05 at the CCS Championship. She was pushed by Giacalone whose gutsy running style resulted in a great second half of the season running times of 21:31 at Crystal and 21:36 at Toro Park.
Megan Gillespie is a racer at heart who steps it up most when it counts, as evidenced by a solid track season running 6:04 for 1600 meters. She is joined by Leia Wang who stepped up big for the team at the end of the season running Varsity at the CCS Championship. She was a finalist in the 800 meters last spring running 2:43.
The Warriors officially open their season September 7 at the Early Bird Invitational at Toro Park in Salinas.