Boys cross country adjusts to 2 new coaches after retirement of longtime leader Dan Scott
Senior Chris Sanchez finishes his run during practice near the train tracks near the Agriculture complex Aug. 29. Photo taken by Accolade photographer Paul Yasutake.

Head Coach: Ashley Geisler and Jacob Holloway replace Dan Scott, who retired last school year

Top New Runner: Ivan Guzman (12)

Top Returning Runners: Noah Barragan (12), Robert Flores (12), Zachary Gomez (10), Chris Sanchez (12), and Emiliano Zavala (11)

Last season: The boys won their sixth straight title in the Freeway League. The team made it to CIF-SS Finals and finished in 20th place. 

Outlook: Heading into pre-season training this summer, the runners gained two new head coaches when Scott retired after the 2018-2019 season. 

“I chose to coach because I have always had a passion for coaching,” said Ashley Geisler, Who graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and coached as a camp counselor at the Jim Ryan running camp when it was in San Diego, CA. “As I was finishing my college degree, I knew I wanted to coach; it was a matter of taking the first step and getting my credentials and clearances.”  

Geisler, who is the head coach working primarily with the varsity squad this season, was an all CIF-SS (third place 2013-2014), and a three-time individual Trinity League Champion (2012-2014) and ran cross country from (2011-2014) at  JSerra Catholic High School

“I have always loved helping others and coaching is a fulfilling sport of helping athletes get better in a sport that is more technical than people realize and possibly pursue running in college,” she said. 

Along with Geisler is the other head coach Jacob Holloway, who helps JV out. 

“I have no prior cross country coaching experience, but last year I did shadow my cousin who is a cross country and track coach at Antelope Valley College and got certified through the National Federation of State High School Associations\ and [Los Angeles] coaching programs,” he said.

In high school from Kalamazoo Michigan, Holloway was the conference champion in the 100 meters along with being a four-year varsity letterman, he was also a three-year letterman in football and honorable mention All-State for his senior year. 

 “I think this year’s team is really talented. We’ve had a good turnout during the summer and first week of school. I’m looking forward to everyone progressing daily, repeating as League Champs, and a better performance in the CIF-SS finals,” Holloway said. 

Both Geisler and Holloway want to push the team to reach their expectations for this season but also want the runners to enjoy the overall cross country experience. And despite the new coaching staff’s inexperience, the runners are optimistic about the direction the program is heading.

“Personally, I like the new coaches. They’re young, fresh and experienced and bring a different take on our routine,”  second-year runner Gomez said. “There are some things I do miss about coach Scott like his harsh “put your all out there” attitude; he always encouraged us in his own way, but I believe these new coaches will help us continue our [Freeway League title] streak.”

Geisler and Holloway picked Senior Ivan Guzman as the top new runner for cross country this season. “I just joined cross country recently so this is my first and last year in it so I didn’t really expect this, I am honored,” Guzman said. “Recently I had a small injury with my stomach and it puts some pressure on me because I want to contribute to the team and help.” 

Guzman did track and field in his junior year and plans to do it again along with continuing cross country. “At first I mainly joined to get better at the 400-meter dash for track and field but it turns out, I actually like cross country and I wish I did it early as a freshman,” Guzman said. “It’s a really fun sport because I just like running in general.” 

In the past with former coach Scott, the summer training regimen featured a rotation of running in the evening and afternoon for athletes to get used to the heat. “I do think practices should have been held nearer to when we usually run which is in the afternoon, to prepare us then rather us adapting now,” Gomez said.

But with the new coaches, the team’s summer training that began July 8 was different in that the team only ran in the early mornings. 

“The following week, we changed it to morning practice because of our schedules, and it gave the afternoon to the athletes for what they wanted to do,” Geisler said. “Some of the runners are already seeing the results of their summer conditioning.”

The team trains by doing speed, abdominal muscle or arm workouts after a run to strengthen the runner’s legs, core and arms to prepare for their upcoming races. “We also do strides which is sprinting or we run meter races,” Gomez said. 

Varsity and JV get different mileage each day; normally JV runs from three to six miles while varsity runs four to eight.

“We are constantly running faster and further than the previous week,” said third-year runner junior Ryan West.  

The boys hope their streak of capturing the Freeway League title will continue under new leadership.

 “We want to improve our CIF results and continue our league streak while staying healthy and injury-free, which will be a huge factor when it comes to the team being successful,” Geisler said. 

Veterans on the squad are also looking forward to seeing what their new teammates can contribute. 

“I’m excited to see when the newbies find that racing drive in the first two miles,” Gomez said.

Besides winning the Freeway League title and advancing at CIF, some of the runners are also looking forward to upcoming head-to-head matchups. 

 “My hardest opponent this year is a former Sunny Hills cross country team member, junior Jared Alcarez, who now attends La Habra,” Gomez said. “By the end of last year’s season, Jared had a full minute on my three-mile [personal record]; now that he’s with La Habra, that’s even more incentive for me to attempt to level the playing field between us.”

The runners are gearing up for the Aug. 31 Riverside Showcase at 7:30 a.m. in Riverside, where they will compete against 30 other squads.

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