As soccer-season change frees up new runners, cross-country team flourishes

Benett Sackheim
All cross-country members, both high schoolers and middle schoolers, participate in high steppers to warm up their legs before running.

Last year the cross-country team had a single runner. This year’s team has 12, the biggest team since 2010: nine boys and three girls.

That’s because of a decision made by the California Interscholastic Federation in April 2015 that moved the boys’ and girls’ soccer seasons to winter, leaving the male soccer players without their usual fall sport.

“The 200 schools in our section voted statewide to change soccer from a fall sport to a winter sport,”  athletic director Matt Vargo said.

In addition, the team attracted classmates of soccer players, who wanted to run with their friends.

“I only had one runner last year, so it’s nice to just be able to say ‘team’,” coach Nick Domich said.

“I have had more middle schoolers than high schoolers (on the team) these past few years, but now the opposite is true.”

Sophomore Heidi Johnson, the lone runner last year, agreed with Domich.

“It is really nice to be able to practice with a team,” she said.

“It helps me push myself more.”

Benett Sackheim
Senior Aidan Cunningham and freshman Zak Wright run two warm-up laps around the baseball field before cross-country practice.

First-time runners junior Theo Kaufman and seniors Emil Erickson, Christian Van Vleck, Aidan Cunningham, Jaelan Trapp and Adam Dean are also very excited about the big team, which they think will give them a better chance to qualify for state.

In addition, they say cross-country will get them in shape for soccer.

“If you have amazing skill as a soccer player but can’t run for longer than 10 minutes, it doesn’t do a whole lot for your team,” Dean said.

Kaufman agreed.

“I am mainly doing cross-country for soccer season because I want to be physically ready,” he said.

Not surprisingly, the team of first-year runners had a rocky start at their opening meet on Aug. 26. Van Vleck, Cunningham, Erickson, Trapp and Dean placed 158th, 164th, 166th, 180th and 184th in a race of 185 runners at Lodi High School.

In their next meet however, Kaufman placed 41st, one spot away from a medal.

“Theo might become the fastest runner I have ever coached,” Domich said.

Benett Sackheim
The whole cross-country team completes another part of their warm-up, bear crawls. Bear crawls improve the boys’ ability to recover quickly if they stumble during a race.

And freshman Zak Wright placed 11th in the first meet in the boys’ two-mile freshman race.

“Zak might be a faster runner than Theo one day,” Domich said.

Wright ran for Oak Hill Racing, a club cross-country team, last year and hopes to run for the club again this year.

Wright started cross-country in seventh grade. Initially, he was good at the sport, he said, so he decided to stick with it.

“Cross-country was a good way for me to make friends at Country Day coming into school as a freshman transfer,” Wright said.

So far the boys are third in Div. V in a close race with the top four teams.

By Briana Davies

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