By: Joseph Nguyen
The breath. It is inhaled swiftly, but not viciously; it is a controlled motion, practiced over countless hours. Exhaled – for one purpose.
The calves. Their muscles are not pronounced. They are slim, efficient, effective. For one purpose.
The eyes. Some are focused inward on other things; homework and TV shows and music. Some are sharp. Dangerous. Hungry. For one purpose.
The purpose? running. Some run for glory, for competition. Some because they have to, some because they love to. Everyone on the d.tech cross country team has his or her own reason. Regardless of who they are, they are anxious before the Crystal Springs Invitational.
The first student I talk to before the run is sophomore Kate Hayashigatani. She is in the hangar listening to music. Kate is visibly nervous, her body language unusually jumpy. I ask her how she feels before the meet, and she responds, “I have really high anxiety right now, and I had some coffee. My heart feels like a vegetable on steroids. Like, I like running, but I don’t like meets. I really hate competing. It’s one of my least favorite things, but it’s mandatory.” Hayashigatani gives a smile, or grimace, depending on how you view it. “You gotta do what you gotta do.”
Across the hangar from Hayashigatani, I find Tanson Chan, varsity junior, who is well known for being the fastest person on the team. As experienced as he is, Chan feels, “a bit nervous. Having running this course since freshman year, and it’s an actual cross country course. It’s gonna be pretty intense.” Curious, I ask Chan his thoughts on competitive races, and he says, “Competing is really good because there’s a lot of other people to run with and pace against, and you guys push each other’s time to set new personal records. And it always feels good when you do that, but it’s always a bit nerve wracking, because it is a race and you are competing. You never know what happens on a course, like you might get a really dry throat and pass out or something.”
At The Starting Line
Founding team member Tyler Chan, a senior on the varsity team, comes directly to the Crystal Springs course from the San Mateo Adult School. I interview Chan for a brief five minutes before the race. He says: “[This is my] first race this year, and second time on this course. I’m nervous, but I don’t mind the competition, because I really like running.”
Chan jogs to the starting line. I step off to the side, observing the runners, from a total of 12 schools: Nueva School, Latino College Prep, St. Thomas More, Kipp San Jose Collegiate, Downtown College Prep, Summit Shasta, Alma Heights Christian, University Preparatory AC, Summit Prep, Mid-Peninsula, DT College Prep, and yours truly, Design Tech. Some of the athletes are stretching, some are being hyped up by their respective coaches, while the rest of the runners are relaxed, waiting for the race to start.
Matthew Cooley, coach of the cross country team and d.tech math teacher, gives a brief motivational speech before the run. A few excerpts from the speech, all words of wisdom: “it’s supposed to hurt…pass them up one by one,” and the last one, a paraphrase from mixed martial artist Urijah Faber, “Ready is a state of mind.” With Cooley’s empowering motivation as fuel, the d.tech students prepare for the 5K, getting into position.
The race starts with a literal bang, everyone immediately pushing through. The runners begin cementing themselves into a pace with which they’re comfortable running for five kilometers.
The Results are In
Tanson Chan comes in at second place, at 16:59 with an average pace of 5:46 per mile. Exhausted doesn’t even come close to describing his fatigued state of mind and body. And yet within ten minutes of recovery, a cooldown run, and a bottle of Gatorade, he’s perfectly fine. I ask him what he was thinking about while running the course, and he responds: “It’s definitely hard, but I just imagine it as my usual run, from Ashton [Ave, Millbrae] to Loyola [Drive, Millbrae.]”
Tyler Chan runs the 5K in 19:57, pacing at 6:46 per mile, placing 21st. He says, “I felt nervous, but I also felt ready. I wasn’t in top form though, and I could have definitely prepared harder.” When he crossed the finish line, Chan says,slightly disappointed, “I could have ran faster at the end.”
Coming in at 5th place, as the only d.tech participant in the girl’s varsity, Kate Hayashigatani finishes in 22 minutes flat, with a pace of 7:28 per mile. She modestly says, “I didn’t do that well, I could have closed the gap, and I should have. I wish I did better, but we have a lot of races here, so hopefully I’ll have a better time next meet.”
Regrettably, girls varsity rankings are unavailable as Hayashigatani was the only female runner. Junior varsity rankings are not listed because the administration does not do rankings for junior varsity. The d.tech varsity team ranks fourth, out of twelve schools, with an average of 20:00 sharp and a total of 99:56.
The first cross country meet is off to a great start for d.tech. Judging from the results of the race, however, the team did more than just three point one miles in a respectable time. Everyone shared this experience as a bonding moment for both new and returning athletes, regardless of the grade or gender. Cheers, shouts, and unnecessary volume welcomed every runner as they crossed the finish line. Whatever the current milestone, there is only one goal for each runner: to run as fast as you can. And whether that was fulfilled this meet is irrelevant. Today was the first step, and the following meet will be the next step towards the finish line.