This year I had the chance to run in the world’s largest high school cross country meet, the 71st Brooks Mt. SAC Cross Country Invitational in Walnut, California. There were more than 75 races over the two-day event Friday, Oct. 19- Saturday, Oct. 20 with thousands of runners competing.
At the starting line I was both excited and nervous, as I looked around at all the other runners. We all did our last sprints. I heard the race official say, “runners, on your mark…” and I reminded myself that all my training would pay off today. Before I knew it, we were off…the course was tough with lots of hills, twists and turns, but the switchback hills stood out the most to me. It was fun racing around the corners; and I used the down hills to my advantage. I finished in 11th place in the girls Division 2 Freshman race; and was honored to get a medal.
As I was running, my younger sister had an opportunity to cover the event. Seventh grader and cross-country runner, Stefania Sesock, shares her unique perspective of this world-renowned two-day event.
Mt SAC Invitational is where all the top runners come to compete. It’s an annual event that brings top competitors from all over. The course is 2.93 miles and guarantees a fun, hilly challenge. The weekend’s races saw temperatures in the 90s. I had the chance to watch runners of all levels race, and interviewed some as well. Two inspiring sisters that caught my attention are known as the Wallace sisters from Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, Calif. They are Junior Skyler Wallace and Freshman Stormy Wallace. Skyler won the girls Division 4/5 Sweepstakes race with a time of 17:19.2, and her sister Stormy finished fourth in 17:48.9.
Skyler was so excited about the win and how well her team performed. “I wanted to win the race, so my strategy was to go out conservative for the first mile and then make my move on the top of the first hill,” she said. As all runners, Skyler had specific goals for this event and she felt accomplished. “I was able to meet my expectations for this race.” Lucky seven for her, as this was Skyler’s seventh time running at Mt SAC, ever since she was in sixth grade, and this year’s win was her big goal. She is proud of her race accomplishment. Up next for Skyler will be the Hoka Postal 2-Mile and then the post season races begin including League Championships, the CIF State Meet, the Footlocker Regionals and possibly, the Footlocker Nationals.
This was Stormy’s first time running on the high school course, and she confessed it was a challenging course, but was a great day. “Going into the race, I had really no expectations at all and didn’t know what to expect. I felt really great! It was overall a great race,” she told Youth Runner. The Sage Creek Team had a strategy, “to conserve the first mile and make our move at the top of the switchbacks; then charge fast the rest of the race.” Sage Creek succeed in the team competition as well by a 70-92 margin over its competitor Foothill Tech High School. Stormy is proud of both her race and how well her sister did. “I definitely exceeded the time that was expected for me. Skyler absolutely killed it and exceeded her expectations immensely.” She admits this was one of the hardest races of her life, but feels that she, her sister, and their team did amazing and accomplished their goals.
Another impressive win was seen by Senior Bailey Darnell from Redwood High School in Visalia, Calif., who won the boys Division 2 Varsity race with a time of 15:32.6. He felt well prepared for the challenging course as his team has been practicing hills for this invitational. Bailey shared with Youth Runner that during the race, once he took the lead going into the second mile, he just kept pushing towards his race pace goal, and into the finish line. “My race strategy was to go out slower than usual so that I had plenty of energy to push through the first hill and get a solid lead.” Like in any race, runners must train hard, then show up and not only perform, but have confidence in themselves to do so. “I knew going into the race that I was capable of getting first. It was just going to be a matter of how hard I was willing to push for it,” said Bailey. And he was able to run an incredible win in his race that day. Up next for him will be League Championships and the CIF State Meet. Bailey hopes to finish off the season strong and looks forward to running cross country in college next year.
Junior Chloe Schultz from Redwood High School in Visalia, Calif., placed 10th in the girls Division 2 Varsity race with a time of 20:09. She told Youth Runner that she and her team were all very excited to run but also nervous for the hilly course. “The hills were a little tough, but it was a fun race, and an amazing team bonding trip.” This was Chloe's first time at Mt. SAC and she wasn’t sure what to expect but her goal was to “go out and attack the hills and to have fun…because that’s what it’s all about.” She feels that her entire team did their best and she is proud of everyone. “The trip was definitely one for the books and I can’t wait to come back next year and beat my time.”
As a young blogger, and runner, it was an exciting weekend for me – speaking with other young athletes and watching them run for their goals. The course was lined with family, friends and teammates during all races cheering on the runners in the hot Southern California sun. Mt. SAC is a top-notch event with lots of volunteers to help guide runners and make it a wonderful experience for everyone. I even heard parents talking to their kids reminiscing about the old days when they were runners and competed at Mt. SAC. I look forward to running here, too, when I am in high school. Youth Runner leaves you with other athletes’ strategies and experiences from the two-day event.
Junior Cristyn Oliver from Bishop Montgomery placed 11th with a time of 20:51 in the girls Division 4 Varsity race. “I wanted to run slower on the first mile, so I don’t die on the switchbacks.” She used the downhills to her advantage and was happy with her results.
Senior Mikala Benally from Page High School in Arizona finished 15th in the girls Division 4 Varsity race in 21:42. “My strategy was to jog the first mile...and at the second downhill, to take off.”
Senior Kai Dettman from South Pasadena High School won the boys Division 4 Varsity race with a time of 15:57. “I knew that I had a chance of winning, so I just went out hard.”
Sophomore Taylor Sovich from Ventura High School won the girls Division 2 Sophomore race in 20:40. “I focused on transitioning at the top of each hill; and getting back on pace on the flats.”
Sophomore Kelly Blatter from Bishop Alemany High School placed 12th in the girls Division 4/5 race with a time of 24:06.