Cross country team keeps pace
By Ken David
Among the disruptions to normal life reaped upon the local community by the COVID-19 pandemic, area high school fall sports athletes, as well as coaches and administrators, are dealing with a schedule-jarring postponement to their seasons.
As of a July 20 announcement, the CIF does not expect to start Section competition in any fall sport until December.
A CIF San Diego Section announcement on Aug. 14 stated that “Season 1” high school sports, including cross country, will be allowed to begin practice on Dec. 12. Scripps Ranch cross country head coach Chuck Warren was able to give a glimpse of what the changes mean to his sport and the runners on his team.
“I think we can start official practice sometime in early December and any official games or meets will be after the new year,” Warren said. “Official practice usually starts the first week in August, with the first meet normally right after Labor Day.”
Before pandemic-related restrictions began, Warren was planning activities for the running club he offers during the summer. Open to any student looking to run for training, Warren said, the group usually meets for workouts three times per week at Miramar Lake.
“I wasn’t sure if that was even going to happen, and then I got a call from my athletic director mid-June and he said go for it,” Warren said. “I sent out an email expecting 20 kids, but I got 50, so I guess they wanted to get out of the house.”
Warren quickly found Miramar Lake too crowded with other users to work out runners safely, so he moved club activities to Jerabek Park. He said during the club, runners are spaced out for group talks or meetings and any non-running activity, wear facemasks for all talks and stretching, and break into smaller groups for the runs. He even had groups showing up at different times based on experience levels.
“I was trying to break it up as much as possible,” Warren said.
Then he learned there was not going to be any competition, for any fall sport, until winter.
“It’s going to be more challenging after cross country because our goal is to make it to state championships every year,” Warren said. “Now, that’s going to be in late March. Then the following week we start track and field. Normally, we have a winter season before we start track. So, if we do get to that level at the state meet, those kids will need some time off and probably won’t compete in the first few meets in track and field.”
That not only impacts training schedules for the competition season, but also presents a challenge for multi-sport athletes, including many cross-country runners who also compete in track and field.
“The whole idea (usually) is to peak them in cross country in November and peak them again in June for track. That’s going to be a neat trick to do it so quickly. It’s new ground for me,” he said.
Warren said that once the season starts, he expects student athletes will have to sign a waiver, perhaps have to fill out a questionnaire and probably have their temperature taken.
The coach said a challenge will be how meets and races, including large invitational events, play out. At this point, the best he can do is speculate and prepare for whatever comes.
“Maybe we could just have some morning session races. Then, after morning sessions, have those runners leave and then another group comes in,” Warren said. “Maybe have morning, midday and afternoon sessions. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens.”
However logistics are handled, Coach Warren is optimistic when it comes to the talent on his team and the prospects for the season ahead.
“We’ve had a lot of success the last few years. The boys have been to state championships three years in a row and our top two runners from last year are returning,” he said. “They finished fifth and seventh in CIF finals last year. They’re going to be very disappointed if we don’t have a season. They’re trying to compete in college and so on.”
Warren said the team was one of the favorites to win its division, led on the boys side by standout senior runners Giancarlo De Silva and Caden Farrow.
“They’re best friends, training together every day,” Warren said. “They’re two of the top track athletes in the county.”
Among the girls, the coach said he’s pleased with how the team has come up after losing key runners and rebuilding from scratch.
“We had eight strong girls and five had never run cross country before,” he said. “Then, in CIF, we were the youngest team from San Diego by far. They had a respectable CIF finish at sixth in one of the strongest divisions.”
Standout Chloe Ellermeyer returns to the team this year and is expected to pick up the pace where she left off last year, when she qualified for the CIF state meet as an individual.
Despite the unique challenges posed to fall 2020 sports, Coach Warren is optimistic about cross country.
“I’m looking forward to this season quite a bit. It’s not just about the varsity. Some kids join the team for the social life. It’s a great way for freshmen to meet new friends. (For) a lot of them, it’s a training ground for their sport; club baseball or soccer or whatever,” he said. “It’s going to be very interesting. We’ll see what happens.”