San Marino’s cross country team was out of its element Saturday. With three strong hill runners primed for the tortuous Mt. SAC hills and looking to make a move on teams with weaker hill runners, the rain forced the meet organizers to abandon that course and run the Finals on the asphalt surfaces around the school. That translated into a 14th place finish for the Titans instead of the 12th or even 10th place finish possible on the regular course. It also factored into the team’s top 3 runners not challenging the field for the 5 at-large invitations to next Saturday’s State meet in Fresno. In the end, the guys were just happy to get home and get dry.
The rain course, rarely used and not familiar to any of the runners, included two laps within the Mt. SAC sports fields. Spectators could hear the squish of racing shoes not designed for splashing through puddles. A little over halfway into the race, the Titan’s three lead runners were together but well behind the lead pack. Senior Michael Gimbel, running his last cross country race as a Titan, broke away from Peaky and Robbie at the 2 mile mark. Robbie and Peaky also picked up the pace and all three of them passed quite a few competitors in the final mile. All three were attempting to secure an at-large invitation to State but Michael, the closest, was 12 seconds out of that last at-large spot. The hard-luck runner of the race had to be Banning’s Mark Santiago Flores who finished an inch behind Big Bear’s Bobby Morales, barely out of the State meet.
Regardless of the tough day for our guys, they will look back on this season with pride as they beat the odds through hard work and a great ethic. In what could be the beginning of a long run of CIF appearances under Coach Mundo, the men made something big out of a thin team. They started the year with essentially only three varsity runners. Freshman Drew Jack quickly proved that he was up to the task and then we had to wait to see what other runners would emerge from the freshman class. Making CIF was the last thing that any of us expected at the beginning of the year. It just doesn’t happen for teams that are heavy with freshmen. But, Drew, Kenny Lee and Yuvan Wickramsinghe set out to prove that they could help this team extend their season beyond league. And they did.
Next year should be a lot of fun to watch. Not only is the girls team going to be stronger but the men may be, as well. Even though the team is losing senior leader Michael Gimbel, the team returns two of its stars - juniors Peaky Yuter and Robbie Moreton. Peaky has previously been a member of the tennis team during spring but this year has opted to run the 800 meters in track. That will mean that he will have a full year of training in preparation for cross country season next year. And Robbie keeps getting faster. Expect the two of them to challenge the league’s leading runners. And then we have the three freshman returning as sophomores, a year of valuable experience under their belts. Finally, it appears as though the team may have one or two more valuable additions to the team. We’ll have to wait and see what develops on that front. This year is done and is now a great memory. But, just wait until next year!