They’ll do anything to beat the heat.
Many local high school cross country runners have been training at 6 a.m. this week to avoid running in 100-degree weather in the afternoons.
It’s a sound strategy for the Coastal Canyon League teams at Camarillo, Moorpark, Oak Park, Royal and Simi Valley.
So before recoiling in horror at Russell Wilson eating a sandwich with the bloodlust of 10,000 vultures circling a pork chop, let’s dive into cross country.
Scorpions don’t break off into pods. They all run together at practice.
“Boys are pushing girls. Girls are helping motivate boys,” said head coach Mary Perez, who is also the school’s athletic director. “We’re trying to get the most out of every runner and help recognize their potential.”
The Scorpion girls, who took third place at the first Coastal Canyon meet last week, are ready to tackle hillier courses in the second half of the season.
Kimberly Willard, a track and field standout in the spring, is a senior captain who rumbles at the top of the lineup.
Gianna Vazquez, a sophomore, is one of Camarillo’s most improved athletes.
Samara Alaniz, a freshman, is a fearless, confident runner with a promising future.
Lilliana Sanders, a junior, is a varsity returner who has improved her stride. She’s a smart, efficient and hardworking runner.
Mercedes “Sadie” Pewsey is a freshman to watch. Her mother, Claudia Gonzalez, also ran cross country at Camarillo. The coach said Pewsey, who also plays soccer, possesses a lot of raw talent.
Sisters Athena and Samantha “Sammie” Villavicencio bolster the squad. Athena is a freshman; Sammie is a junior transfer from Newbury Park who will become eligible to compete on Oct. 3.
“She’s put in so much work and so much effort and is raring to go,” the coach said of the junior. “She’ll be top-three for sure when she’s eligible.”
Maya Thayer and Willard are senior captains. Thayer is also a 400-meter standout in track.
“Maya is one of the very best leaders I’ve ever seen at a high school in more than 25 years of coaching,” Perez said. “She is positive and enthusiastic. Even though cross country is not her forte, her presence makes such a difference on the team.”
Camarillo boys took fourth in the opening league meet.
Diego Montag, a junior returner, is the No. 1 runner in the lineup.
Trevor Stimpson is a hardworking sophomore with a great kick and great stride.
“He’s fun to watch run,” Perez said of the sophomore.
The youngster’s brother, Jared Stimpson, is a senior captain. Dylan Rosenthal, a senior, is also a captain.
Cruise Chavez is a sophomore newcomer to watch. With a name like that, he was born to run.
“Cruise probably put in the most miles of anybody on our team this summer,” the coach said. “He’s super dedicated.”
Junior Michael Lennox, senior Eyouel Abate, junior Tyler McLemen, senior Austin Weisse (a three-sport athlete who also competes in track and wrestling), senior Joshua Sheppard and sophomore Luke Jones contribute for Camarillo.
James Rieckewald-Schmidt, a varsity newcomer and sophomore, works hard and logs serious miles.
The Scorpions—there are 48 boys and 15 girls in the entire program—will try to hit their stride at the Coastal Canyon finals on Nov. 3 at Mission Oaks Park in Camarillo.
“We try to make them realize all the work they’ve put in should pay off the second half of the season,” Perez said. “They come to practice every day ready to put really good work in. We know that everyone is getting the most out of every workout we do. It’s important to fuel that culture of intensity and learning to be tough—that’s what’s going to get them through the rest of the season.”
The Musketeers are engaged and ready to race.
“This might be one of the hardest working teams we’ve ever had,” said Scott Mangers, Moorpark’s head coach. “They are just laser-focused, dialed in and truly working hard.”
The Musketeer girls, who reached the CIF-Southern Section finals in 2021, took second place to host Oak Park in the first league meet last week.
Samantha Maggiora, a senior captain, is running at the front of the pack.
Miriam McGregor, the other senior captain, is a vocal leader.
Olivia De La Cruz is a rookie to watch. She won the freshman race at the Moorpark Invitational on Sept. 9, snaring gold in a field of 87 runners. The local meet featured 23 schools.
Moorpark’s boys, ranked No. 8 in CIF-SS Division 3, took second to Royal during last week’s league meet.
Junior David Raigoza, senior Tyler Smith and sophomore Hunter Lee propel the boys’ squad.
Christian Brady Breton, a senior, is the only current Musketeer from the 2019 squad that reached the state championships. Brady Breton, who is also one of the top mountain bike riders in the county, has been battling injuries this fall.
“He’s a tough kid,” the coach said. “I think he’ll help us at the end of the season.”
Moorpark marches forward with 60 runners at all levels.
“We are heading in the right direction,” Mangers said. “We’ll try to reach state for both teams.”
OAK PARK EAGLES
The Eagle girls, who qualified for state in 2021, snared first place in the opening Coastal Canyon meet.
Oak Park features arguably the deepest program in the league with 80 total runners.
Katarina Modrzejewski and Tate Creason lead the pack for the girls’ squad, ranked No. 9 in Division 3.
“They work really well together up front,” head coach Steve White said of the dynamic duo.
Allyson Youde, Savannah Sawyer and Nina Russillo are senior captains.
Luc Lepin, a third-year varsity veteran, is a senior leader on the boys’ team. He is a positive role model for the 22 freshman boys, White said.
Royal boys are ranked No. 8 in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 poll.
The Highlanders, who won last week’s league opener, are favorites to capture the Coastal Canyon title. They are determined to qualify for the state meet.
Jonah Bazerkanian, a senior, is the fastest runner in the league when he’s healthy. Bazerkanian verbally committed to run at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
“His best attribute is his work ethic. You never have to worry about him doing the work or complaining,” assistant coach Peter Mogg said of Bazerkanian.
Noah de la Rionda is a talented senior. His older brother, Jack, also ran for Royal.
SIMI VALLEY PIONEERS
The Pioneers boast a proud history in cross country, but they are currently rebuilding with a young roster.
“We’re a sleeping giant,” said first- year head coach François Wolman. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
Angelica Espinoza, a freshman, has been a revelation for the Simi Valley girls’ squad.
Elijah Rojas, a sophomore, leads the Pioneer boys’ pack.