The Fountain Valley High School cross country team made a strong appearance at the Central Park Invitational meet this weekend on Saturday, Oct. 2 in Huntington Central Park. The Barons impressively placed fifth overall for the boys and 15th for the girls.
This three-mile course required runners to loop around the park’s lake on a path that included grass, dirt and asphalt sections, and traverse a hill. To celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the meet, the top 40 runners received medals which Girls’ Assistant Coach Stacey Ferris acknowledged as a helpful motivator for her athletes.
The varsity boys kicked off the event at 8:30, junior Benjamin Prado finishing in third place with a time of 15:16.9, a personal record (PR) for this course at an incredible pace of 5:06 per mile.
“I was going to go out hard for the first mile to stay in contention to win…I was in fifth place with the pack that I was sticking with and I was trying to stay on there as long as I could,” Prado said.
Senior Shane Hill came in 13th, not far behind Prado, with a PR for the course of 15:59.9, and junior Luke Dias set a PR with a 16:11.9 to place 21st, his best placing this season. Overall, the boys’ varsity team came in fifth among the 13 schools that competed in the event.
Girls’ varsity began half an hour later, featuring senior Leah Ferris and junior Keira Tallas, who earned medals for nineteenth and twenty-fifth place, respectively. Both Barons achieved their best placing in a meet this season, Leah Ferris running a 19:12.9 and Tallas with a PR of 19:24.5 for the course.
Leah Ferris felt good about her pacing, going out faster than usual on her first mile, but would still like to improve on having a stronger finish. She also noted the impact of her mental strategy.
“Today, I tried to go into it thinking this race doesn’t matter. I kind of had a neutral mindset because normally I go into races super nervous … I went into it feeling good, having a positive mindset, and I think it really helped me,” Leah Ferris said.
The Barons’ boys junior varsity team contributed with their ninth-place finish overall, key runners including juniors Noah Korhonen and Thomas Chisnall. Korhonen set a PR of 18:07.1 and earned a forty-seventh place finish, his best placing this season. Chisnall’s sixty-second place finish and time of 18:30.8 were also his season bests.
Another highlight of the meet included freshman Aya Roque’s run of 21:08.7, earning her third place in the girls’ junior varsity competition. While she did not originally have a strategy, she later reflected that she felt good about her execution of the course’s hill.
Sophomores Mariana Hernandez and Alinne Dao finished the girls’ junior varsity race a mere three seconds apart, placing 26th and 27th, respectively. With Hernandez’s time of 22:20.7 and Dao’s time of 22:23.5, both girls achieved PRs for the course and their best placing this season.
Roque, Hernandez, Dao and their teammates pushed the Barons’ junior varsity girls to fifth place.
Coming into the meet, Coach Stacey Ferris’ primary goal was for her runners to PR from a time trial they completed at the course this past August, and most of them were able to improve, in some cases by five to seven minutes. Above all, she was proud of the athletes’ support for one another.
“The camaraderie on [this team] is amazing … This year, just the cohesiveness of the team and their connection is I think what has made them such a good team because they work for each other, not just for themselves. So, that’s been really exciting to see,” Stacey Ferris said.
The Barons will attend their next meet, the Mount SAC Cross Country Invitational, on Saturday, Oct. 23, at Mount. San Antonio College in Walnut.
“[Mount SAC is] a super hard course, so we’re using that as really good training for the following week, which is league finals. [Our] ultimate goal is to win league again because we won last year,” Stacey Ferris said. “We didn’t have [Mount SAC] last year. The year before that, they were under construction, so this will be the first year that [the runners] actually get to run it. So, we’re going in it to just tackle Mount. SAC [and] to just get through the course because it’s the most difficult course in the whole season.”