The Haggin Oaks Golf Complex field was swarming with hundreds of cross-country runners on Sept. 30, and a sizable collection of team tents huddled together on the sidelines at the Capital Cross Challenge.
Many spectators set up lawn chairs and picnic blankets.
“This is like a music festival with no band,” coach Nick Domich said as music blasted from giant speakers in the background.
Domich said that because of his three-person team, large meets are beneficial.
“Normally you’d pace yourself against your team,” Domich said. “(But for our team) there’s just these (two) other guys.
“There were only 20 kids in their race on Wednesday (Sept. 27). This (race) is huge, so that helps them feel like they’re not running on their own (and like they’ve) got to stick with these people.”
Freshman Charlie Acquisto agreed.
“Big meets make you feel like you have to run harder,” Acquisto said. “Small meets are a little more chill.”
And the team did improve, Domich said.
Wilson and Acquisto ran the sophomore and freshman boys’ two-mile race in 15:08.7 (150 of 171 runners) and 16:43.4 (169 of 171), respectively.
“I kind of died at the end (because I didn’t prepare),” Wilson.
Although Wilson wasn’t satisfied with his performance, he said he had progressed from the previous meet.
Wilson said he needs to strengthen his endurance, too.
Acquisto also said he needs to build up his stamina, but his new familiarity with the course distance allowed him to pace himself more efficiently.
Domich said that since Acquisto wasn’t on the team in middle school, everything is new to him.
“He just has to be competitive about it,” Domich said.
“(He has got to think about) that idea (of) ‘I could keep pushing,’ and that’s just the training. You build up that endurance, you get that confidence and then you can do it. It’s tough.”
Senior Riya Rampalli ran her first race of the season, the girls’ 5K, completing it in 33:03.9 (282 of 290 runners).
The 5K is physically and mentally demanding, Domich said.
“Your mind has to be (in) it the whole time,” Domich said. “You can check out in a 50-miler. You can start walking for the first mile if you want.
“(But once) a 5K starts, you’ve got to take off and run the whole time. There’s no time to get into a rhythm like (in) a marathon.
“You got to keep asking yourself, ‘Am I going fast enough?’ (During) the last two miles you are supposed to suffer.
“You’ll recover; you can sit down afterwards.”
Domich said that Rampalli was happy with her first meet but still has to work on her speed.
Considering that it’s the beginning of the season, Domich said he isn’t looking at the times, but rather how the runners feel about their races. Domich said that he hopes this approach will keep the players interested in cross country, as he sometimes loses freshman runners. If there aren’t many runners, some may quit, Domich said.
Running with a multitude of people builds a sense of community, Domich said.
The size of the match also brought a variety of participants.
One runner yelled triumphantly as he finished, falling to his knees after crossing the line.
Another racer halted before the finish line, vomiting. Yet another almost fainted beyond the finish line as she stopped running, held up by an official.
“I saw a guy running with his jacket on unzipped, like a cape,” Domich said. “I (said), ‘You could’ve taken it off. It’s not cold out.’”
The next meet is on Thursday, Oct. 12, at 4 p.m. at Sacramento Adventist Academy.
—By Larkin Barnard-Bahn