By Griffin Cappeletti
The Loyola varsity cross-country team, which is currently ranked fourth in CIF Southern Section Division II, is enthusiastic and ready to continue its already solid season. The Cubs are prepared to continue their rigorous training regimen that began in June, according to head coach Lalo Diaz.
Coach Diaz commented on the Cubs’ training throughout the summer, “The runners are in such great shape because they gave up their summers for the team. We trained at Loyola for most of the summer, but we also took a trip to Mammoth to do high-altitude training.”
Due to the departure of last year’s standout senior captains Robert Brandt, Nicolaus Jakowec and William Antonoplis, this season has been considered a rebuilding year for Loyola; but Coach Diaz does not believe this year is one of transition. He said, “Our goal is for the team to remain the same: win the Mission League, win CIF, and place in the top three at the CIF State Championships.”
When asked about this team’s strengths, junior Gavin Pfaffinger mentioned the Cubs’ resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity. He said, “The loss of last year’s seniors really hurt the team, but the leaders of this year’s team have really helped keep the team together and focused.”
The team began the season with the annual Blue and White Meet on Saturday, Aug. 29. They officially began the season with a first place finish in the Cerritos Invitational at Cerritos Regional Park on Saturday, Sept. 5. These early meets were a good opportunity to find out where all of the runners are individually, according to Coach Diaz.
On Saturday, Sept. 12, the Cubs continued the season with the Rosemead Invitational at Rosemead High School. The nighttime meet in Rosemead was cut short due to the failure of a nearby transformer, which led to all of the lights being shut off during the junior race. Because of the power failure, the senior race did not occur and was not rescheduled.
Commenting on the power failure, junior team captain Charlie Sherman said, “At first it was fun running in the dark because it was a surprise. It pumped us up to do even better. It was cool how the whole pathway was lit by different people’s cell phones so that the runners could see, but at the end of the day, we all tried to stick to the same game plan and finish well.”
Even though the lights went out, junior Chris Roy felt he was prepared for the unexpected because of the team’s leadership. He said, “Our junior captains Charlie Sherman, Alejandro Salinas, and Michael Fissinger have really helped lead the team by preparing us for anything, such as the lights going out and running in nearly complete darkness.”
About the meet itself, Coach Diaz said, “The sophomores were very successful in the Rosemead meet, placing first out of all sophomore teams. They were packed very tightly; there was only a 19–second split between the top five runners. Standout sophomores included Shane Bissell, Corey Kumamoto, Brandon Cobian, David McAndrews and Joshua Ma.”
According to Coach Diaz, the juniors came in fourth place overall, but top individual performances came from Charlie Sherman, Alejandro Salinas and Adrian Jauregui.
Following the Rosemead Invitational, the Cubs raced in the Mt. Carmel Invitational at Balboa Park in San Diego on Saturday, Sept. 19. With the help of top individual performances from senior team captain Jonathan Piñon; junior team captain Charlie Sherman; and sophomores Shane Bissell, Joshua Ma and Corey Kumamoto, the team placed first overall at the meet.
“I was really happy with how the team performed at Mt. Carmel. It was a great warmup for the Mt. SAC meet, which is coming up soon,” said Piñon. Kumamoto added, “We succeeded at Mt. Carmel because of our determination in the face of adversity. It was a really hot day in San Diego, but we have a great group of guys that always pushes us to do our best, regardless of the situation.”
Coach Diaz commented on the success of the team as a whole at Mt. Carmel. He said, “The freshmen, sophomores, and juniors all placed first in their races, and there was incredible packing amongst all of the runners.”
The cross-country team will continue the season with some important meets, including the Mt. SAC Invitational, one of the largest high school meets across the country, on Saturday, Oct. 24, and the Mission League Finals on Wednesday, Nov. 4.