XC competes in first meet of season

Swasti Singhai, Final Focus Editor

Kaitlyn Arciaga (10) finished third with a time of 12:05 out of 105 runners in cross country’s first meet of the season, the Vaquero Stampede, on Aug. 20 at El Capitan High School. 

“This was my first cross country meet because I had previously done track, and I had a slight knee injury going into it, so I was pretty worried,” Arciaga said. “It was different because I was going into it not knowing who I was racing against, and some [of my usual] competitors weren’t racing that day.”

Unsure of pacing in cross-country, Arciaga said she started off slightly slower than her normal running pace in track, but was able to speed up around the end of the first mile in the two-mile race. 

“While running, I didn’t know where I was [distance-wise], so it was honestly pretty difficult,” Arciaga said. “But I think I did the best that I could. I went pretty fast at the end, and normally I end with a super fast sprint, but with a two-mile distance, it’s different [from track meets].”

Arciaga said that she hopes to continuously improve throughout the season. 

“It’s all about doing it better than you’ve done before,” Arciaga said. “And I think that the next time I do it, I’ll be able to do it better.”

After recovering from a tendon injury, Sofia Welton (10) was able to improve her two-mile time by three minutes in this meet, to 13:29. While recovering, Welton started cross-training and integrating swimming and biking into her workouts. 

“I changed my mindset quite a bit,” Welton said. “Last year, I was kind of lost as to why I was there, but I’ve gotten a lot more excited for this season because I feel like I’m really running for myself now.”

Olivia Kooyman (11) had also been training individually throughout the entire summer, and participated in team practices starting from the week before school started. She medaled in the meet, after placing in the top 25 with a time of 13:23. 

“As the first meet of the season, we were trying to just get back into things but I have been training for a while, so I felt pretty ready,” Kooyman said. “The course wasn’t super hilly or challenging, so it was a good one to get started on and build some confidence back up for the year.”

Kooyman has been running ever since middle school, and since then has developed strategies to manage her pre-meet anxiety. 

“I’ve done cross country for a long time, and I get super nervous,” Kooyman said. “But it’s something I’ve been working on for a long time and I have things that I do to make myself feel better, like I drink water, eat well, get a lot of sleep so I feel prepared. I also talk with my teammates, parents, and people who support me to think through the race and strategy and calm me down, just positive self-talk and a positive mindset.”

Kooyman said that though it’s tough to get motivation to go to practices or races, cross-country has been a fulfilling experience overall. 

“It’s rewarding to see times improve and to see yourself improving,” Kooyman said. “Overall, it not only makes you tougher as an athlete, but also as a person. It shows yourself that you can do hard things and I think that’s a super fun thing about it.”