Culver Cross Country Looks Good
Photo courtesy of CFP Studios
The 2013 team at Culver City
By fred Altieri
The time tested beaten paths coming and going through Culver City have become a bit more beaten during these dog days of summer 2014. There are more teenagers running the streets, parks and hills... and that's a good thing. Cross country running at Culver City High is enjoying a renaissance as the girls and boys teams prepare for the upcoming 2014 fall season.
Head coach Tom Fritzius touched on the training and potential of his current teams and the renewed interest in the sport at the school. He also reflected upon the runners' transitions and success that saw last year's girls team make a serious challenge for the Ocean League crown.
He also anticipates this year's boys squad eagerly pursuing a similar destiny as it brings a solid varsity core back onto the footpaths of the overlooking hills of the Kenneth Hahn State Rec Area, out to the rolling hills of the South Bay area and miles beyond.
"Our program has really evolved tremendously within the last five years. It has shot up like a rocket. We used to have to beg kids to come out and try and now they are actually coming to us. Instead of having one or two kids that are serious we now have 10 to 15 that are serious. Instead of having one good runner, we have eight good runners. With the girls, we'd have one or 1 1/2 good runner. We now are eight deep. So it has really changed for the better.
"This year we had 53 kids come out here at least once to workout. That was a record for us as far as the number of kids showing up in the summer. The list of freshman girls that signed up got to be about 20. About seven freshman boys signed up. Four of them have actually appeared to workout. A fifth one just emailed me yesterday and asked, "What do I do? When do I come?
"We have a group of kids, freshmen, that are extremely academic oriented. So all these kids take a class or two during the summer and they can't come and train in the morning. So at six o'clock at night I get at least two runners and two or three others. Then I have some other kids that are taking classes at Santa Monica College and West L.A. College.
"The other thing we see is that these kids graduate and then they come back for the summer... and they run with the group. We've had like nine former students come back and run this summer. I can't get them to go away.
"Last year we had the best girls team we've had in ages. Three graduated and we had a little exchange student from Germany who after four months had to go back home. This year we've already gotten seven freshman girls to come out for the team, which is excellent. One year we had none. One year we had one.
"Last year the girls were second in the Ocean League and just missed beating Santa Monica High. Sage Sims-Bleser was our number one girl. Sage got accepted to UCLA. Anouk Brose, a freshman exchange student from Germany who's actually not German, her father works for UCLA, was the number two girl on the team. She stepped on this team and just blew everybody away.
"Our number three was Lauren Kelly who just got a regent scholarship to Cal Berkeley. Akela Morinaka was our number four girl runner and is going to Cal State University Northridge. So those plus two other seniors: Violetta Rodriguez who's going to Cal Poly Pomona and Harari Watanabe who is also going to CSUN, they all graduated."
"But the rest are coming back including Ez, Esmeralda Sandoval, who's the team captain now. Her dad is the cross country track coach for Venice High School. We had a freshman last year, Kathy Hermosillo, she is awesome. We also have Marina McNary, now a sophomore who made varsity as a freshman and Rina Padilla made varsity last year in her first year running as a sophomore."
"We will be relying on some of the freshmen: Alla Roche-Willis, who weighs about 70 pounds. But she is strong. We'll put some weight on her and she'll probably end up making the varsity after she gets experienced. We also have Eden Winlsow whose sister was on the team and by the end of the year she will be in the top group, too.
"The boys are different. For the boys last year we had three seniors. One didn't make varsity, one quit halfway through the year and the other was the only one that actually ran varsity. All the other six varsity runners, plus the next six are returning. So the boys are going to be stronger this year. We've got Abraham Vasquez who during the track season ran a 4:48 mile as a sophomore. They're pretty strong.
"With the boys we don't really have anyone that stands out as a newcomer but we really don't need a standout. We have Abraham who's our number one. Max Flynn who's going to be a sophomore, he's our number two runner. Patrick Gardner who's a senior and Chris Goodwin who is the other team captain, he's a senior, are both back.
"Chris has been running all four years. Patrick is a musician and he's in AVPA, the Culver City Academy of Visual and Performing Arts. He's got his own band and he's in the high school band playing the sousaphone even though he's a guitar player. Most of these kids are also music oriented. We have Jasper who's a violinist. Ryann McDowell, she is a pianist and a violinist. We have another young lady who does circus. She's in a camp run by Cirque du Soleil. She's very athletic.
"I'm hoping to keep about 50 kids in the program. That's the most we've had in years. In varsity we use seven runners of each of the girls and boys teams. It doesn't mean it's the same seven all of the time. It can change.
"For the season we will do three invitationals where they run by class for each of the boys and girls races: freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. We will take the times from those first three races and the best seven times are the varsity for the first league meet. That's not to say the next time out somebody else can't pick them off at the end. It's also not uncommon where somebody has an injury and someone else has to step up.
"Another thing we do and it's worked pretty successfully, if we have a senior in the program that's not on the varsity we will make sure that they get one varsity competition so that they will get a varsity letter in their senior year.
"What we try to emphasize with the kids about running for a college once they graduate from high school: if you want to do it, there's a school out there that will let you run for them. But you need to be less particular about the name on the jersey and more particular about the academic programs that they have to offer to meet what your goals are, and then the ability to participate.
"Our first meet is going to be at Cerritos Park. Our second meet is at Rosemead High School. Our third meet is at Irvine Park. Then we go to Rancho Park. We also have a meet at Palos Verdes High. They have their own course.
"This year they realigned the Ocean League. There is Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Hawthorne, Lawndale, El Segundo and us. We also picked up another school: Environmental Science and Technology High School. It's a very small school.
"But it's to our advantage to have the extra team in our league. In cross country with six teams you get three spots in CIF postseason competition. With five teams you only get two spots. With seven teams you get four spots. And believe me, we needed it one year.
Boys, Girls 2013 teams
"El Segundo is a very good team. They've traditionally have been a power. They have a gentleman they call the Colonel, Rick Reaser. He's not the coach but he's been very instrumental in that school's program. He's a very good guy and does a lot of volunteer work for other schools. He also reports all the meets for all the bay schools on the active.com website so the athletes' times are in.
"We ran into Lawndale twice last year at the invitationals and I was surprised. They were fairly represented and are better than other school programs we've had in the league. The overall aspect of the Ocean League is going to be difficult for us. We used to be guaranteed a spot. Now there are no guarantees."