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Cross Country Girl’s Journey to State

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by Olivia Fernflores

My name is Olivia, and I joined cross country because I love to run. I went on many adventures with the team this year and grew a lot as a person because of these experiences. After Ocean League Finals, I continued to train with the team and attended CIF races as an alternate.

It takes a special type of person to join cross country; the season is long and painful, and all you ever do is run. At Morro Bay High School, a very special groups of girls took on the challenge of running miles and miles every week. It began in June, with practice three times a week. Soon enough, practice was five days a week. The summer practices were capped off with a retreat led by Morro Bay High School running legend Teresa McClish at Huntington Lake. Upon returning from three days of grueling runs in high altitude, school started and the season officially began.

The season kicked off with a series of invitationals, including the Morro Bay Invite, which we hosted. Following a series of invitationals, we competed in the Ocean League Finals. We cleaned up at league finals, winning both as a team and producing the individual winner, sophomore Adrienne Frere. Due to our outstanding performance in the Ocean League, we qualified for the CIF Central Section Finals. We went into the race ranked third in Division Three, but needed to finish first or second to qualify for the state meet. A top-10 finish from senior Audrey McClish led the team to second place in Central Section Division Three, allowing them to qualify for the state meet as a team.

Reaching the state meet as a team was a huge milestone for the cross country program. The last time a cross country team from Morro Bay went to state was the boy’s team in 2013, although individuals have been in more recent years. The CIF State Meet is held in Clovis at a legendary venue, Woodward Park, and includes some of the best high school runners in the nation. We departed for Clovis on a rainy Friday after Thanksgiving. The first stop when we arrived in Clovis was Woodward Park. The atmosphere at Woodward Park is unique- no longer are you in a place where people groan when you say the word run. Now, you are in a place where the word run is part of every few sentences and even produces smiles. On Friday afternoon, some teams chose to jog the course, others chose to purchase CIF merchandise. We decided that since many of them had run before leaving home, we were going to buy CIF merchandise. After a long, cold, and wet wait in line, we were finally able to buy our goodies.

Although the experience of the race is eye-opening, many of us especially enjoyed the activities on Friday evening. First stop: dinner. Before dinner, we had fun playing Concentration and Heads Up while waiting for a table to seat eleven. During dinner, we talked and laughed, trying to avoid the fact that we had to race the next day. Normally, after dinner, we would just go back to the hotel and hang out, but this was a special occasion: Black Friday. After dinner, Coach Jackie kindly took us Black Friday shopping. We spent an hour and a half walking around a huge store joking with each other and teasing each other about what to buy. When everyone had bought all they wanted, it was time to head to the hotel.

At the hotel came the worst part of the trip: ice baths. Instead of taking a hot bath or shower, we ran a cold bath and dumped ice in it. The cold temperature of the water is supposed to help repair the small tears in muscles that cause soreness, leaving your body ready to perform at its best. Although the concept makes sense and the idea does work, it is not fun. After the traumatizing experience of an ice bath, we went to bed.

Having had a good sleep, we woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to run fast. Breakfast was very light and quiet, everyone full of nervous energy and nobody wanted to cramp up from eating too much. After breakfast, we packed up and loaded the vans to drive to the race. The drive was very quiet, except for the blaring music.

At Woodward Park, there was a long line of cars waiting to get in that we were in the back of. Once inside the park, the first challenge was finding parking. After creatively parking on the side of a small gravel hill, we got out, only to hear the booming voice of the announcer talking about how at the one-mile mark the leading pack was well under five minutes. This was an intimidating first thing to hear and it added to the nerves that many were feeling. After setting up camp, the team headed to warm up. Their warmup is something many people would consider a workout, showing just how special the sport is. After a warmup filled with inspirational words, the team was ready to race.

The CIF State meet is an intense competition with strict rules. Before entering the start area, the girls who were racing had to check in with a course clerk. The experience of checking in is nerve-wracking, especially for the people watching. All I could think about is how they could say the team can’t race, making all the hard work we have put in result in nothing. After a brief inspection, the girls who were racing were allowed to take their place on the line.

On the starting line before a big race, it’s hard to think about anything but the race, hard to push aside your nerves. We always talk about doing it for the team and using each other as a support system. These are important things to remember before an important race.  After pumping each other up and receiving last minute advice from Coach Chuck, it was time. The moment we had been hoping for all season had finally come.

“Bang!” The gun went off, and the race began. During the race, the girls ran faster than ever before and experienced pain like none other. The course at Woodward Park that they ran is dusty and hilly. It is one of the toughest courses around and many find it difficult to finish. However, this special group of girls conquered the course. Several girls ran their best race ever, but some wished they had done better.

When asked how the race was one said “I’m so glad the season is over and I’m so glad I ran well!”

Others responded to the same question with “eh, it wasn’t that great.”

Regardless of how we felt we did, the accomplishment of making it to state is something we are proud of. The girls that were a part of this very special team are wonderful people who will go far in life because of the skills they learned about hard work by doing cross country. We spent months trying to achieve a common goal and pushed each other day in and day out to get there. The trip to the CIF State Meet was a very special experience that us nine girls and two coaches who went will never forget.

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