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After a huge 2018, CHS cross country looks to dominate

The 2018 Claremont High School cross country season was outstanding to say the least, with nearly every accolade and victory covered.

The list includes:?girls and boys Cool Breeze Sundown Showdown champs; girls and boys Stanford Seeded Race team champs; girls Manhattan Invite team champs, boys third place; girls and boys Palomares League champions; CIF Division Two Southern Section, girls champions and boys runners-up; CIF Division Two California State girls champions and boys third place, and finally girls Nike Cross Nationals, 12th place in the nation.

With a season like that expectations are high for 2019, however, past success only goes so far in predicting future results. The problem is nearly the entire girls varsity team graduated, leaving a bit of a vacuum. But that is how it goes with high school sports, even the best runners are only around for four years max.

That huge graduating class included more than one scholar, with former CHS runners now attending Princeton University, UC Berkeley, Humboldt State, Brown University, Occidental College, Biola University and two at UC Davis.

Returners include standout sophomore Maddie Coles, who took the CIF Southern Section individual title and placed second at the California State meet last year. Also coming back are two super fast competitors, senior Azalea Segura Mora and junior Angie Gushue.

“We are pretty good from one to three,” Coach Bill Reeves said last week, “but we won’t know where we are until we race.”

That first chance will come on September 6, when CHS cross country hosts its annual fundraiser, the Cool Breeze Invite at Brookside Country Club in Pasadena. This will be the sixth year for Cool Breeze, four since Coach Reeves joined the Pack, and it will be the biggest yet with 120 teams.

“I am super excited about this season,” Coles said before practice on Tuesday. At Cool Breeze she will be looking for a personal best. As for defending her Southern Section title she was characteristically upbeat if not a bit evasive, “I am looking forward to CIF and see if I can PR there too.”

The website Mile Split has the CHS girls ranked at seventh in the state, and in a switch from last year the boys are a notch higher than the gals at third. The CIF Southern Section’s official pre-season rankings just released this week show the defending champion varsity girls on top of Division 2, while the boys sit at a respectable fourth place.

More changes for this season include three new assistant coaches, including Chris Ramirez, who will be helping Coach Reeves lead the varsity teams. Coach Ramirez was on the Azusa Pacific University cross country team 20 years ago and Mr. Reeves was his coach. Coach Ramirez joined the CHS coaching staff after a chance meeting while running in Marshall Canyon park.

“I parked my car in front of his house and we just bumped into each other,” Coach Ramirez said.

Apparently, Coach Reeves was pulling weeds in his front yard when Coach Ramirez finished his run. In the course of catching up, Coach Reeves mentioned CHS was in need of an assistant and asked him on the spot if he was interested.

Filling out the coaching staff are Kaylie Balvaneda and Ruben Ramirez, who will be in charge of the JV and Freshman teams.

Senior Adam Trafecanty will be co-captain of the boys team and, similar to Coles, he has an upbeat assessment of the team’s season.

“We are looking good, we had one of the best summer camps ever and we continue to improve,” Trafecanty said.

The boys team is very deep, with a strong JV and freshman squad, so the competition to fill the seven varsity spots should be fierce. Other names to watch for as the season progresses include Jack Keough-Lansford, James Settles, Yoon Cho, Diego Denson and Blake Bertrand.

Back on June 28 the team participated in their annual 24-hour charity relay. This year the runners chose the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training and raised $2,480.

Following Cool Breeze, the varsity teams will be traveling to the Richard Spring Invite in Peoria, Illinois on September 19-22, followed by the first Palomares League meet on September 28 at Whittier Narrows Park.

This week as the team transitions from its summer workouts to the full-steam-ahead pace leading up to the racing season, they held a time trial up Thompson Creek Trail, ending at Padua Hills Theater. It is a brutal uphill course that was only made more challenging by the hot and humid conditions, but it was also a very important because it will be key to determining who will run varsity this year.

“Today is not a tempo run, today is a race,” Coach Reeves said before the start of the time trial. “Today is a big deal we are looking for the top seven. We need to push ourselves to see how we do in competition.”

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com