By Alejandro Salinas
The varsity cross country team is poised and excited to start a new season. With last year’s top two runners, Robert Brandt and Nicolaus Jakowec, having graduated, the Cubs are working hard in the preseason to make up for their loss.
Last year’s cross country team finished first in Mission League, fifth in CIF, and seventh at CIF State Championships. Front runner, Robert Brandt, who is currently continuing his running career at the University of California, Berkeley, finished second at CIF State Championships and 13th at Nike Cross Nationals, a national meet, last year. Nicolas Jakowec, who continues to run at the University of Southern California, was also a top runner and low scorer to last year’s team.
With the loss of Brandt and Jakowec, the cross country Cubs have a lot of work to do this season. According to Head Coach Lalo Diaz, many of the Cubs’ competitors are projecting that “Loyola’s performance this year will be modest at best.” The Cubs, however, recently showcased their speed and are expected to be as good if not better than last year’s team.
On Saturday, Aug. 29, the Cubs participated in their annual preseason Blue and White meet at Cerritos Regional Park. The Cubs’ top seven runners finished within 11 seconds of each other, packing that has not been seen in recent years. Sophomore Charlie Sherman finished first in 15:07, followed by seniors Jonathan Piñon and Preston Ortiz; sophomores Shane Bissell, Corey Kumamoto, and Brandon Cobian; and junior Alejandro Salinas. After adding the top five times together, the Cubs are only three seconds behind the cumulative time of last year’s team. The Cub’s performance gave them confidence as their season begins tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 5, with the Great Cow Run at Cerritos Regional Park. Junior Charlie Sherman, one of the varsity captains, said, “The meet we ran on Saturday gave us a lot of confidence because it showed us that we have really good packing and that we only have an 11 second gap. At the beginning of the preseason, we didn’t think we could compete with other teams but now we think we have a good chance of doing well and making it to state.”
The team’s goal this year is to make the California State Championships in November. Although the Cubs are just as good as last year’s team on paper, they still have a long road of hard work ahead of them, according to Coach Diaz. Varsity captain Jonathan Piñon believes this year’s team is up for that challenge. He said, “This is a new team, and we’re poised to compete at every meet, to break personal bests, and to make a statement in playoffs.”
The varsity runners have established an atmosphere of hard work and determination as the freshman runners are also ready to give just as much effort. Senior JV captain Tommy Atlee said, “The freshman runners have proven themselves over the summer, and they are ready to compete during invitationals and league meets.”
In preparation for the upcoming season, the cross country cubs have spent two mornings every week building their speed on the track. Due to the football home games, stands have been placed on the track leaving 1 ½ lanes free for cross country. Despite the limited space, the runners have been able to adapt and continue training. Coach Diaz indicates, “We have been able to work around the stands being placed on the track by scheduling alternate days for our track work. It seems to be working fine.” Fortunately, the Cubs spend a majority of their training time at Elysian Park, Griffith Park, and neighborhood streets around Loyola.
Following the season opener tomorrow at Cerritos Regional Park, the Cubs will compete on Saturday, Sept. 12, at the Rosemead Invitational in Rosemead, and on Saturday, Sept. 19, at the Mt. Carmel Invitation in San Diego. Any student wishing to join the team should contact Coach Diaz.