Last Thursday’s Rio Hondo League cross-country meet was rife with missteps and miscommunications, but after the eleven-and-a-half months that preceded it, it’s safe to say that nobody cared in the least.
The only thing that mattered was that it took place at all.
“This helps bring back our sanity,” declared Angus Leung, San Marino High School’s cross-country coach, as runners assembled at the starting line.
Since the San Marino Unified School District closed its campuses on the ominous date of Friday, March 13, 2020, and shut down all in-person extracurricular activities, athletes, their families and coaches have ridden the roller coaster of all roller coasters anticipating their return. That day arrived last Thursday, Feb. 25, following a series of scheduled starting dates that went wanting while the pesky coronavirus persisted.
But that all came to an end, at least for now, as San Marino High School’s harriers donned their royal blue uniforms and took to the trails of Pasadena’s Hahamongna Watershed Park to celebrate the return of sports. Due to the socially distanced nature of their sport, Titan runners were able to train almost uninterrupted and have held student-only workouts since last summer.
On the picturesque three-mile course, senior Peyton Talt blazed to a finish of 20 minutes, 31 seconds to finish second overall in the girls’ varsity race. Junior Anya Tang (seventh place, 21:59), junior Katelyn Hansa (23:49), senior Avery Page (24:12) and senior Lily Tong (24:47) locked up second place behind South Pasadena.
The Titan boys’ varsity didn’t have enough members to record a team score as two runners were unaware of a turn during the race and ended up chopping off a substantial distance. Junior Gavin O’Malley successfully made it from start to finish to pace the Titans, finishing 12th overall in 20 minutes, 11 seconds. Freshman Taylor Tan had a strong first outing with a clocking of 23:26 to display promise for the future.
“Peyton ran a very good race,” said Leung. “Finishing second in this group is impressive and I was very happy for her. But I am just so glad that we finally had an official race. It’s great to have the kids back in competition and back doing what they love. I am happy that they are all safe.”
Talt was one of the student-athletes who helped organize the team workouts and said she is “grateful to have a senior season.”
“It was exciting and nerve racking to get back to competing for cross country after a year filled with uncertainty,” said Talt, a triplet who just so happened to be running on the 18th birthday she shares with sister Thayer and brother Glover. “Being able to line up at the starting line and compete with some of my favorite people was such a blessing. The first race was tough, but it definitely showed us what we need to focus on. This team works hard and has a lot of spirit and I can’t wait to see what this season brings.”
The competition was staged in atypical fashion, with teams participating in a “time trial” format, which calls for each individual school to complete the course together in a single cohort. The finishing times were then combined into a total team score.
The harriers will return to action in two weeks, though the time and location have not yet been determined.
Thursday’s meet was the first official sporting event that included San Marino High School student-athletes since March 12, 2020, when the Titans’ boys’ varsity volleyball team hosted Arcadia. Providing what would quickly be a harbinger of things to come, spectators were prohibited from entering Dingus Memorial Fieldhouse shortly before the game’s first serve. The Titans suffered an additional setback when they were defeated by the Apaches in four sets, a loss they are still waiting to avenge.