Girls cross country makes history at the state championship meet


Courtesy Tomoki Chien

The varsity girls cross country team poses for a group photo after running a record-breaking race on the Crystal Springs course at their second SCVAL meet.

From racing in the highly competitive El Camino league to competing in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) State Championship race, the Los Altos High School varsity girls cross country team has had a record-breaking season, making their mark in LAHS cross country history. 

After their outstanding performance early in the season, the varsity girls team competed in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League (SCVAL) finals and became the first-ever LAHS team to win the race in the El Camino League. This first-place finish qualified them for the CCS Division 1 race, the first team in school history to do so. While the varsity boys team was just short of qualifying for CCS as well, three varsity boys did individually make it to CCS: juniors Boden Sirey, Joseph Falkenburg and Nathaniel Joffe.  

On Saturday, November 13, the varsity girls team competed in the CCS Championship race on the hills of Crystal Springs. As they preserved through the heat of the day, they placed second in the race, making them the first LAHS team to qualify for the state meet since 2012. 

As the top two finishing teams in CCS, the team headed toward the CIF State Championships race, which was their goal at the beginning of the race. On Saturday, November 27, in Fresno, the team finished their season placing sixth in the state meet. They set yet another precedent in LAHS’s cross country history as the highest placing team in the state meet.

Along with their impressive accomplishments, the team continued to improve throughout the season. In the state meet, their combined time for the 5k distance beat their previous record in October by two minutes and 20 seconds. 

Racing to the finish line at CCS

With the roaring sound of the starter pistol, the runners sprinted away from the start line, elbow to elbow. Surrounded by an ensemble of cheering and shouting, the runners persisted through a grueling race. As the runners sprinted through the finish line, everyone’s attention was shifted to the scoreboard. Mixed feelings of disappointment and confusion were spreading among LAHS supporters, as the tight race shifted the Eagles between second and third place.

By the end of the race, LAHS was tied with Menlo-Atherton High School for second place with a score of 65, calculated by adding the first five runner’s placements. The two schools entered a tiebreaker as a result, where the sixth runner would decide which team got second place. The athletes and coaches from both schools were anxiously awaiting the result, as only the top two teams would be able to move on to the State meet. 

Ultimately, the sixth runner from LAHS, senior Shelli Lewis, placed higher than Menlo Atherton by finishing 25th overall. Upon hearing the news, the team shared an emotional moment as they broke into tears and hugged each other. 

“The fact that we tied made it more nerve-racking,” Shelli said. “But it was also more satisfying. It was a hard race, but I think we all pulled through and did our best.”

While Shelli was the deciding factor in the tiebreaker, all seven runners who competed in the race contributed to the team’s victory as they fought against the high temperatures and persevered across the finish line. 

Junior Lauren Soobrian was the first runner from LAHS, finishing in sixth place. Due to an injury, Lauren missed the earlier part of the season but competed in the last two SCVAL races for tempo runs (exercise runs with consistent pacing) as a strategy to get back into racing form. The CCS championship was her first race this season. 

“I feel really good,” Lauren said. “I wasn’t expecting much given all my injuries, but I felt strong, and I’m glad to be qualified as a team.”

Right after her was junior Fiona Bodkin, who placed in seventh and broke her personal record with a time of 18:40. Despite the mental and physical challenges, Fiona sped up in the last five meters of the race and ran past one girl from Menlo-Atherton and one from Los Gatos. 

“My throat got so dry, and I was gagging,” Fiona said. “But at the end, I got a boost of confidence because I know this is the race. And I saw girls from Los Gatos High School and Menlo-Atherton, so I decided to just go for it and see what happens. I felt uncomfortable at the finish, but it was worth it, and I felt good about my race.”

Sophomore Maddy Randall, who was the third runner from LAHS, also ran ahead of expectations and finished in 13th place with a personal record of 19:03. Right behind her was sophomore Jasleen Sidhu, who finished in 15th place. 

“I felt uneasy before the race,” Maddy said. “But I just kind of blocked out all the negative thoughts and went for it. On one big hill, I saw Riley right in front of me and I just watched her back and followed her up the hill. But when I passed her, I thought, ‘Okay, now we got to really go.’”

Despite not feeling their best on the day of the race, senior Riley Capuano and junior Ella Fadil finished in 19th and 25th place respectively. 

Two weeks later, the girls ran the Division 1 race in the State championship. They were competing against 20 other teams that are the best in the state, and the team ran far above expectations. They finished six places ahead of the Los Gatos team, who won the CCS race and finished 12th in the State meet. 

Out of 118 teams from the different divisions that raced in the State championship, the Eagles were tied in 10th place. In addition, out of the 977 runners who competed in the race, every LAHS girl ranked in the top half and Lauren ranked as the 27th best runner in the State.

Boys team set individual records

While the varsity boys team was just shy of making CCS as a team, many showed up at the race to support the three runners who qualified individually.  

Nathaniel was the first runner for LAHS, finishing in 46th place with a time of 17:21. Right after him was Joseph, who finished in 51st place with a time of 17:28. While neither broke their personal record, they were content with their performance. 

“It was a fun race because a lot more people are competing,” Joseph said. “I feel like we competed really well. We didn’t qualify as a team, which was disappointing but we were really close. Next year, we are definitely coming to CCS again.”

The third runner, Boden, unfortunately, stumbled at the beginning of the race and injured his ankle. Despite the injury, Boden persevered through the race and finished in 86th place out of 143 runners. 

All three runners gave the race their all, and they gained valuable experiences for their next season, according to the Cross Country Head Coach Steph Mackenzie. 

The secret behind their successes 

Before the CCS championship, MacKenzie predicted that the race would be a close one. However, the LAHS team had the advantage of having a team where every runner’s time was close to each other. 

“For some teams, if their number four runner has a bad day, their number five is 30 seconds back, but not for us,” MacKenzie said. “Our four through seven runners are all within 10 seconds of each other. So they are a much tighter bunch which helps with the scoring.”

MacKenzie’s prediction was exactly right. After the race, MacKenzie commented how the CCS championship race was the epitome of cross country as a team sport.

While the varsity girls runners were strong and resilient, the overall team spirit also added to the team’s triumph. Many runners showed up to support their teammates during the race, as well as Principal Wynne Satterwhite and Athletic Director Michelle Noeth. 

“Congratulations to the boys and girls,” Satterwhite said. “I’m super impressed. It was fun to watch them run.”

While the team had achieved many throughout the season, what they valued the most was their bond with each other. 

“My favorite part of the season was making memories with my team,” said Fiona. “Seeing our growth through each meet and becoming stronger as a team has been exciting.”