Cross Country Athletes Bring Home the Gold

Hearts raced, sweat fell fiercely down foreheads, and feet ached as cross country runners glided toward the finish line at the Survivors Challenge and the Sparks Stampede in October. Excited parents and anxious coaches shouted from the sidelines at both events. Each time, eight Raider Runners came home with medals.

Liberty Vasquez, 8th, never thought about joining cross country, but she did and was rewarded for that choice.

“To finish second among junior high girls in the 10k at the Survivor’s Challenge means a lot to me,” Liberty Vasquez said. “Before coming to Kimmons, I didn’t dream of joining a cross country team, I was a terrible runner, and couldn’t even run four laps around a track. Look back to see all the progress I’ve made while at Kimmons is amazing.”

Unlike Liberty, Natalie Estrada, 9th, has run cross country for three years. Natalie finished first among junior high girls in the 10k at the Survivor’s Challenge and in the 5k at the Sparks Stampede.

“Finishing first in both events means a lot to me because I’ve worked hard to improve my running since 7th grade,” Natalie Estrada, 9th said. “I constantly tell myself that I can finish the race because when I’m running, it’s hard to keep going, especially when all I want to do is stop.”

Placing 4th overall among junior high boys in the 5k and 2nd in his age group at the Sparks Stampede was surprising for Zander Sells, 7th.

“When I finished the race, I did not know where I placed,” Zander said. “Since I started running for Kimmons, I have always tried to get a medal or finish top 10, so when I found out, I was stoked.”

Heidy de la Cruz, 7th, was very happy about placing first among junior high girls in the 5k at the Survivor’s Challenge and 3rd at the Sparks Stampede.

“I love running and to be able to have placed 1st and 3rd feels amazing!” Heidy said.

Kirsten Alvarez, 8th, placed 3rd in the Survivor’s Challenge 5K and became the overall women’s winner for all age groups at the Sparks Stampede.

“I never thought I’d be able to do it,” Kirsten said. “It all comes mentally and physically. Before each race, I checked out the course, so I would know what pace to keep when running.”

Competing in Cross Country can be very difficult as runners must prepare in advance, monitor their breathing while running, and stay motivated to finish strong.

“I stretched, warmed up, ate healthy, and thought positively,” Roman Bastidas-Cortes, 8th, said.
Anxiety can come easy before a race, so calming nerves can be key to running with confidence.

“When I prepared for a meet, I usually ate a small breakfast, stretched, and talked to my family and teammates to get my mind off the run, so I could do my best,” Liberty said.

Coach Skelton and Coach Jones guided the team throughout the season.

“Coach Skelton and Coach Jones have helped me so much!” Liberty said. “Not only did the coaches give up their free time to help us train before and after school and went to races, but they were always there to give good advice.”

Zander appreciated the coaches as well.

“Whether it was on the course or in the classroom, the coaches cheered us on and encouraged all of us,” Zander said.

Sometimes while training, runners can get stressed out and want to give up.

“Coach Skelton and Coach Jones pushed me to keep going and not quit,” Heidy said.

Roman placed 2nd among junior high boys in the 5k at the Survivor’s Challenge and 2nd overall in his age group at the Sparks Stampede.

“I ran to support the cancer patients, and placing 2nd made me happy and proud,” Roman said. “It’s a dream come true for me!”