Out of Our Element

Cross Country battles the Snow Summit track in their first official meet


Ethan Bunn

Seventh Grader Kylie Flores jogs down the last leg of the middle school track, finishing as one of the first from the school division.

Treasure Olson, Yearbook Editor - Journalist

It’s the 9th of September, late evening, and senior Cross Country athlete Caitlyn Torno is sitting at her dinner table, staring down at an enormous bowl of pasta. “There IS a certain meal most of us eat to prepare for meets, and that’s pasta.” Torno admits later, standing confidently in front of the sprawling Big Bear forest the next day. “It has a lot of carbs in it, and it helps us keep up our stamina during the race.”

And for the race, a winding uphill track scattered with boulders and rough terrain, the University Prep Cross Country team definitely needed the stamina. Their first official meet took place on Snow Summit between 3 and 5 PM, and as soon as the eager racers unloaded from the bus, a difference had been made apparent. “The air was a lot thinner up there,” Junior Jermaine Smith commented. “It was harder for me to breathe because of how high up Big Bear is.”

However, other students didn’t notice a difference, and were determined to make the most out of their race, like Junior Elena Valladares. “It’s going to be harder to run up here, but I’m trying my best! I feel more confident for the race this time around… because I beat Jocelyn!” She exclaimed humorously, joking around lightheartedly with one of her good friends, Junior Jocelyn Gutierrez.

Not everything was fun and games, though, for one of the six members of the Middle School Cross Country team. “Being on the middle school team… it kind of feels like all the pressure is on you, because you’re representing the school. You always want to be at the top because our school is considered a top school, and you also want the sports teams to be at the top as well. That’s kind of like, the pressure I have going into these races.” Seventh Grader Kylie Flores admits, stretching determinedly just minutes before the start of the first race, tying the tracker that’s used to keep time onto the laces of her shoe. Flores was one of the 40 University Prep athletes representing for the school at the meet, and the team was gathered unitedly together before the starting shot.

Then, with a loud shot and a flurry of uproarious cheers, the middle school team was off, racing down the dirt track the wound up into hills and forest. The younger students were followed shortly after by the high school girls, then the boys, starting off in one uniform group before separating and making pace as they ran through the course. The path was separated into a big loop, trailing slightly up the side of a mountain, then a smaller loop that cut across its larger cousin, separating the track into two different areas. While the middle school students completed the larger track, the high school students struggled through the second loop, making the race an even 3 miles long.

When asked about the motivation that follows her on a race-to-race basis, Valladares responds, “It’s silly, but in my head, I don’t pay attention to anyone around me and instead I think stuff like ‘You’re great!’ and ‘Keep going!’ in order to make myself run faster. The most difficult part of the whole race was probably all the hills and rocks since I was tripping over a lot of them.”

After the race ended, the exhausted racers gathered together to see the announcement for their place. “We got 8th overall,” Smith recounts, stopping for a moment to catch his breath as the sun shone down on the athletes warmly. “I was able to get my time down to 23 minutes for the three miles that we did, no thanks to the downhill parts of the race. Just… just hills in general are always hard when you’re running.”

There is no denying with the lush forest, thin air, and chilling breeze that the University Prep Cross Country athletes were out of their element when they stepped foot onto the coarse dirt of the Snow Summit, but through hard work and dedication, the 40 racers were able to take the track by storm. “It was a really fun experience,” Valladares states happily. “I can’t wait to have a chance to do it again.”


Retraction: 9/16/2019 @13:12 pm: The story was changed as follows:

Kaitlyn Torno was changed to Caitlyn.