Cross country flies out the gate in first meet of the season

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  • Varsity runners Jackson Spenner and Lucas Keeley make their way down the back straight of the course just before Cougar Hill.

  • Junior Lauren Gonzalez sprints up the short hill on her first lap of the course.

  • Junior Isaac Van-Voorhis races to the finish, barely beating out his San Mateo High School rival.

  • Minnoli Raghavan kicks to the finish line on the last few meters of the course.

Alex Kelly, Business Manager

‘Shish kebabs.’

That’s how one Burlingame runner described his legs after reaching the top of the notoriously steep Cougar Hill at the Sept. 16 Artichoke Invitational, the cross country team’s first meet of the season.

Despite the challenge presented by Cougar Hill, the team still produced impressive results. Boys’ varsity placed seventh overall with a score of 183, just beating out Mills High School’s score of 184. Girls’ varsity came in fourth overall with four top 25 finishers, contributing to a team total of 131 points.

“We’re in good early season form, but there’s definitely a couple things to work on,” head coach Chris Coleman said. “But across the board, all of our varsity folks finished very well.” 

While scoring is based on the times produced by individual runners, running alongside teammates helps promote self-improvement. Sophomore Lucas Keeley and senior Jackson Spenner pushed each other through the challenging course to two top 25 finishes for boys’ varsity. Keeley placed 19th in a time of 13 minutes, 30 seconds. Spenner finished two places behind Keeley in a time of 13:33, with both athletes running at a pace of approximately 5:48 per mile.

“At the start it was a shock because we haven’t run in so long, but it was really great to have great teammates to run with, and by the end that really helped,” Keeley said.

Girls’ varsity had a strong performance at the meet. Its top four runners were split by just 9 seconds, with senior Minnoli Raghavan finishing 17th and junior Lauren Gonzalez placing 23rd. Raghavan started the race slowly but gained speed throughout the course to lead the Panthers in the final stretch. 

“It was a really good race,” Raghavan said. “I definitely think as a team we did really well, sticking to our race plan, working together and coming in strong at the end.”

While the Half Moon Bay course is the shortest of the season at just 2.33 miles (the two other courses are closer to three miles), the surface and elevation changes make it equally challenging for runners. Particularly daunting is the aforementioned Cougar Hill, a narrow, steep slope located 1.5 miles into the course.

“Everyone’s starting to get tired and then you turn the corner, and you see this giant hill, and it’s really a mental struggle to get up,” Raghavan said.

The girls’ team also performed surprisingly well in the open division, where freshman Stella Newman finished first. Newman’s time would have placed her in the top five of the girls’ varsity race. 

“I want to race probably in varsity in the future, but also I’m fine with the freshman [division],” Newman said. “I just do it for fun… because I enjoy it.”

After the great first meet, Burlingame is looking forward to the rest of the season and plans to build on their performances in Half Moon Bay.

“I can already tell that I’ve improved a lot from last season, and I’m also really proud of all my teammates, and I have a feeling we’re gonna have a really great season,” Keeley said.

*Scoring note: Each runner on the team receives points according to the order of their finish. Teams aim to have the lowest combined score across their top six runners.