Carmel cross country takes off running with high hopes

The Carmel High School cross country teams have come out with a strong start to the season, picking right up from last season with both the boys’ and girls’ teams winning two of three league meets heading into the Oct. 6 Peninsula Meet at Pacific Grove.

The boys began the season with a strong statement, edging out King City for the first time in three years by a score of 27-28. The girls won by a healthier margin of 16-42. (Note that the lower score wins.)

Each team has lost and gained talent in the face of the new season. The boys’ team lost a strong varsity runner in alumnus Michael Montgomery, while the girls lost two varsity members in Petrina Pinto and Mady Houseman. On a varsity team composed of the seven strongest runners, spots were available for up-and-coming runners.

cross-country-pic-by-kylie-lawrence

Junior Kenshi Husted does the bicycle exercise during cross country conditioning.

“There’s a talent level, and some people come in, while others leave,” Carmel head coach Tom Clifford says. “It’s just the hand that you’re dealt. We just need to be the best overall team that we can be. We’ve got a lot of new faces, freshmen or sophomores, and it’s a very young team.”

Both teams have the help of many new strong runners. The Athlete of the Week for the King City meet was sophomore Salvador Perez, who moved from Kentucky this past summer. For the girls’ team, freshman Pascale Montgomery, Michael’s sister, has excelled as the number one girls’ team runner.

“This is my first time doing a sport, and I think it’s a really great opportunity,” Perez explains. “I think it’s a good sport for anyone if they want to make friends or have a strong connection with a team.”

Perez was instrumental in the single-point win over King City by just narrowly beating out the fifth-place King City runner. Both teams were tied up until Perez’s finish. The race came down to which team’s fifth place runner ran faster, and the Kentucky transfer managed to best his opponent, helping CHS to a powerful win.

“It was really big,” Clifford adds. “We hadn’t beat them in five years, and these guys had gone to the state meet every year for at least the past three years. But it’s all about what we have done from it lately. We enjoyed the bus ride home, but then we got to get back to work. If we just get complacent that we beat King City, we are going to be disappointed come November.”

The team’s co-captains are seniors Connor Suess and Emerson Hardy.

“The Mission Trail Athletic League is one of the most competitive leagues,” Suess notes. “It looks like it’s going to be a tight race, like last year, between Carmel, Pacific Grove and King City.”

Hardy leads the team with records in three distances of 1.95 miles, 2 miles and 2.96 miles according to Athletic.net. He has run three personal records so far in the season, including the third fastest 2-mile time in the league at 10:26.00. He is followed closely by juniors Kenshi Husted and Nathan Suess as well as fellow captain Connor Suess who all have personal records on the season as well.

The elder Suess has high expectations for this year.

“It’s a really cohesive team, and we are all working really hard this year,” the senior captain says, “We’ve got good chemistry and really run together as a team. I think we are going to give Pacific Grove a good run for their money this season.”

On the girls’ side, the team has undergone some major changes.

“The girls’ team this year is really different,” senior captain Mindy Morgan notes. “We almost have enough girls to field two full teams, which is really cool.”

With the loss of two varsity seniors from last year’s team, Pascale Montgomery has helped to fill the void left by the graduating varsity members of last year.

“Pascale has been running real great and hard so far this the year,” Clifford observes.

The freshman runner currently holds the two fastest school times for 2 miles and 2.96 miles with times of 13:01.6 and 19:33.00, respectively, with the third fastest 2-mile time in the league.

A major change for both teams is the switch in venues for the home course.

“Our home course was at Garland Ranch for the past few years,” Suess explains. “But this year, we are in an issue because Garland would not issue us a permit, so it looks like our home course will be at the middle school.”

As for the team’s overall potential, Clifford sums up, “Well, it’s just like anything in that we have short-term and long-term goals. For all the athletes as individuals, we have expectations from their freshmen year to their senior year, and we want to get better as a team. We want the experience to be better. We want to be even more cohesive. We want our work ethic to improve. We just overall want to be a better team from one year to the next. The future’s looking bright. It looks like we are going to be competitive in league for many years to come.”

With a resounding victory over Gonzales and Soledad at the meet on Sept. 29, the team rebounded quickly following the Pacific Grove defeat.

At the Oct. 1 Stanford Invitational, the boys’ and girls’ team ranked 16 out of 32 and 14 out of 26, respectively. Against stiff competition from across the state, the boys have qualified for bigger meets, where the teams are able to run against over 220 competitors.

Senior varsity runner Henry Kou believes it’s healthy competition.

“There is always someone in front to follow at these big meets,” Kou says.

After a close loss to Pacific Grove at the second meet of the season on Sept. 22, both teams look to rebound and establish themselves as strong competitors in league. Carmel was set to face Pacific Grove again on Oct. 6 at the Peninsula Meet.

-Evan Patel