As the boys and girls of Carlmont’s cross country team walked through the entrance to the Crystal Springs Cross Country Course, uncertainty filled the air.
While the team swept both PAL Championship titles, Saturday’s race was uncertain for the girls as their top three runners were injured and could not compete.
For the boys, chances for qualifying for State were higher, but it would still take an immense effort from each runner for the team to secure a spot at State.
Down their top three runners, the girls fall short at CCS
Going into this season, the expectations were high for the Lady Scots. With a strong returning roster from last year, the team’s main goal was to qualify for State.
However, as top runners such as Allie Ayers and Kaimei Gescuk, seniors, and Sabrina Jackson, a junior, sustained injuries late in the season, the fate of the girls soon became one of uncertainty.
After this season’s first PAL race at Half Moon Bay, Ayers’ hip became progressively worse to point where she was no longer able to run.
“I’ve been biking and cross-training since then and I was expecting to run by the end of the season, but that just didn’t happen,” Ayers said.
Despite the challenge these injuries posed, the girls banded together and, through their hard work and perseverance, were able to win the league, securing the PAL Championship title for the second year in the row.
Runners lengthen their strides seconds after the race starts as they descend down the steep dusty downhill path that wraps around a narrow loop.
“We had a goal of winning the league, which we did, and on the girls’ side, that was really an accomplishment,” said John Lilygren, the team’s head coach. “I’m particularly proud of the girls and the way they adjusted to the injuries of their teammates.”
With Ayers, Gescuk, and Jackson out of the race, Samantha Turtle took the lead for the Lady Scots placing 14th, breaking her personal record (PR) with a time of 19:25.
“Without our top three runners, we knew that we weren’t really going to have as much of a chance at qualifying for State so today we were mainly focusing on breaking PRs,” Turtle said.
However, her goal for Saturday was not easily met as she had to struggle through the immense pain that comes with the steep inclines and declines riddling the nearly three-mile course.
“I had seen them pass me beforehand and I was really upset when I was coming down the last 800m,” Turtle said. “I felt like I wanted to give up and I felt so much pain at the end, but you just gotta get rid of all those thoughts and just push through.”
Luckily for Turtle, her pain paid off as she set a new PR and regained her composure after reuniting with her fellow Scots.
“It’s just always really great to have your teammates there. I love how the whole team supports each other when they come through,” Turtle said.
Despite the disappointment of not being able to compete at CCS during their final season, Ayers and Gescuk were among the many Scots who cheered on the girls from the sidelines
“One thing that I really love about running is being able to cheer everyone on in their different races and of course, it’s sad because I didn’t get to run my senior season, but I’m just really glad I’ve been a part of the team for this many years,” Ayers said. “We’ve had some really fun memories and I’ll be back in the spring for track.”
According to Lilygren, the girls have an even greater potential for the coming season as Naomi Metzler, a freshman, and Bella Hopewell, a junior, are both strong runners that can help bring the girls to State.
Scots duo stays on path to State
Colin Peattie, a junior at Bellarmine, sprints ahead of the crowd during the Division 1 boy’s race. Peattie cleared the finishing line with a 20-second lead, ending his 2.93 miles run with a time of 15:02.8 seconds.
While the Carlmont boys were unable to qualify for State as a team, two runners were able to push through, breaking PRs and securing their spots at the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) State Championships.
Going into Saturday’s meet, Sam Jones, a junior, and Aidan Dimick, a sophomore, felt a combination of excitement and nerves as they lined up against the white starting marks.
“I definitely felt nervous because this could have been my last race of the season and I didn’t want it to be,” Dimick said. “I wanted to keep going.”
The two boys planned to stick with the same technique they used throughout the season.
“Sam and I have been running together the whole year so going into every race we wanted to stick together and work off each other so that’s what we did,” Dimick said.
Jones shared Dimick’s sentiments.
“By sticking together, we kinda used each other’s energy, like mental energy, to just keep going and that’s what got us through the finish line,” Jones added.
As the race progressed it became harder for Dimick to breathe; however, by sticking behind Jones and making sure no one got between them, the two boys were able to secure third and fourth place for the Scots.
“The whole time I was really excited because when we were up there [in the lead] I was like, ‘If we finish well here then we’re going to make it to State,’” Jones said.
Jones took the lead for Carlmont, breaking his own PR with a time of 15:26, a shocking 36-second drop from his previous record.
Dimick soon followed, setting his own PR with a finishing time of 15:27.
“On the boys’ side, we were hoping to make State and we came up a little bit short, but Aidan Dimick and Sam Jones both qualified for State as individuals,” Lilygren said. “So that was the secondary goal: to at least have the individuals qualify.”
Jones and Dimick are already making plans to continue their training and Lilygren predicts the two will run around a 15:50 to 15:40 and hopefully set a new PR.
The two Scots will compete for CIF State Championships next week on Nov. 30 at Woodward Park, Fresno.
As far as next season goes, the Scots look particularly strong on the boy’s side. Despite losing seniors Caleb Metzler, Max Hariri Turner, and Aidan Truel, four out of the top seven runners will return next season.
Lilygren also notes that there are a number of underclassmen who will be moving up and have the potential to secure a spot at State next year.