Woolridge excels in first cross country season

Trang Woolridge (9) came into her first cross country season expecting to find a new group to run with, but instead, she found a group to run against.

Whether it was at practice or a meet, she’d be surrounded by the same faces that were initially uninviting.

“In the beginning, it was extremely intimidating,” Wooldridge said. “They were all seniors and juniors who all knew each other and [I was] an outsider.”

Quickly, Woolridge, a freshman who often showed up to middle school meets without any practice, found herself running head-to-head with one of the team’s top seniors, Ellie Misuraca (12).

After losing team leader Erica Barrett (’17), Misuraca had big shoes to fill this year. Most importantly, however, Misuraca no longer had a training partner to run with.

“I was leaning toward [running with] the boys more [to push myself] when it came to practice,” Misuraca said. “So, having [Woolridge] on the team was great for me. The way we raced together just came naturally. ”

Soon, the pair’s times were similar and their season started to interconnect. With the exception of two races in the season, Woolridge and Misuraca traded off placing first and second. As the season progressed, they said their individualistic styles gave way to a dynamic bond.

“It was pretty motivating just going back and forth and winning races,” Wooldridge said. “During practices, we’d always try to keep up with each other and it got me to push myself just that much more.”

There was no doubt coming into the season that Woolridge was a strong asset, but with quality, daily training and the strong presence of Misuraca, Woolridge grew into her own as a runner.

“At the beginning of the season, Trang was a little shy and quiet, coming into a new team, and [Misuraca] was the loud, vocal senior,” coach Amanda Trujillo said. “So, Trang just kind of fell in behind [Misuraca], like, ‘This is my mentor, this is who I’m gonna run with.’”

Practice, however, was only the tip of the iceberg; Palomar League Finals put Woolridge’s training to the test. The strategy was, according to Trujillo, to let Rancho Bernardo’s fastest runners lead first and burn out later in the race, leaving room for Woolridge to pass.

But, when race day came, Westview’s top opposition didn’t show and Misuraca fell slightly behind.

Woolridge realized she was on her own.

“It takes guts to lead a league finals race as a freshman,” Trujillo said. “But, she still started out tactfully. She got out to a good start and no one really passed her.”

At practice, Woolridge always had a moving target to motivate her. Now, Woolridge no longer had Misuraca there running beside her, giving her a constant gauge of her pace. And with no other runners making any ground on her, Woolridge was running a 2.96-mile course alone.

“I think during the end of the season, it wasn’t even a physical thing anymore,” Woolridge said. “It was more mental. In the beginning it’s just all adrenaline and you have to just keep pushing.”

The lead Woolridge gained in the middle of the race was the lead she ended with, placing first at league finals and earning a spot to compete at State.

“I just wanted to take my freshman year to see where I would pan out with everybody else,” Woolridge said.

According to Misuraca, a freshman runner tends to learn they won’t forever stay the youngest or the fastest on the team, but for Woolridge, her cross country career is far from over. Her first season was not only a testimony to her work ethic, but a sign that the small, shy runner she started off as, was no longer there.