A running start for CHS cross-country team

Early Bird Invitational by Hilary Houpt

The CHS cross-country team’s season started off with a bang this month, and expectations are running high for this fall.

At the Earlybird Invitational at Toro Park on Sept. 6, the freshman boys took home third-place medals in their grade-level race, a feat assistant coach Matt King says is “unheard of.”

“That’s probably the highest showing in a meet like that in years and years for any Division IV school,” King comments.

Freshman Dylan Houpt finished 15th out of 265 freshmen at the invitational.

“I’m just comparing myself to what my goals are or what other people ran,” Houpt remarks. “My goal was sub-18:00 [minutes] at Early Bird, so actually, in my mind I didn’t accomplish what I wanted.”

But considering that he ran an astounding time of 18:03, Houpt is well on his way.

In addition to its new talent, the team also has relatively new coaches. Head coach Tom Clifford is joined by Alexis Smith, a professional triathlete who competed in the 2004 Olympic Trials and brings the team first-hand knowledge of racing and training.

2013 was a transition year, with long-time coach John Ables no longer at the helm, and “there was a degree of tension,” Clifford says. Now, he feels “that the tension has dissipated.”

Senior Maddie McKenzie, the 2013 Mission Trail Athletic League Champion, observes that in spite of initial separation, the “team has come together more as a family.”

Clifford acknowledges that “Earlybird was a bit of a wake-up call,” and that there will be constant competition for the top seven varsity spots.

Carmel’s boys inched past Pacific Grove on Sept. 18 at Garland Ranch Regional Park, where freshman Kenshi Husted scored first place. This was Carmel’s first victory against P.G. in three years.

Carmel will be racing in the Stanford Invitational on Saturday.

-Michael Montgomery