Running start — cross country girls aim to repeat as Freeway League champs under new head coach


Juniors Isha Patel (front) and Sneha Amin jog up Lancer Way toward school during their cross country practice Aug. 15. Photo taken by Accolade photographer Paul Yasutake.

Sydnee Tallant, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

Head coach: Ashley Geisler is in her first year guiding the girls cross country runners

Top new runner: Kayleigh Castro (10) 

Top returning runners:  Esther Fee (11), Stephanie Gonzales (11) and Peyton Rushing (11) 

Last season: The cross country girls captured their seventh straight Freeway League title. The team made it to the CIF Finals and finished in 17th place. 

OutlookThe Lady Lancer runners have been gearing up for their new season while also transitioning to their new coach, who takes over from former coach Dan Scott, who retired after the 2018-2019 school year. 

“The main factors that will lead the team to success are working hard, staying focused and having a positive attitude,” Geisler said. “The team will still work up to it by working hard at practice, staying focused on the end goal and doing their due diligence while no one is looking. Staying healthy and injury-free will be a huge factor when it comes to the team being successful.”

So far, the girls are heading toward a strong start, coming in third place overall during their first event at the Aug. 31 Riverside Showcase in Riverside City.  

“I felt quite a bit reassured by our first race,” said Fee, who’s entering her third year in cross country. “I came in first, and many of our new runners plus freshmen did really well.”

The team then had a Sept.7 meet at Tri-city Park in Placentia and finished in seventh place out of 18 teams.

“For the first race, I felt I did good because I pushed myself to run with my teammates, which makes me go faster,” said Rushing, who like Fee is in her third year on cross country. “For the second, I felt I went too fast in the beginning and tired myself out; however, I still pushed until the end and ended up in 16th place.”

The coach has trained her boys and girls squads the same with the exception of how far she expects each gender to run and how much time each gender takes to reach a set number of miles.

“We all receive the same information except our mileage and workouts are different from the boys some days,” said sophomore Khyla Moore, who is in her first year on the team.

To improve for future meets, Geisler has set some goals for her runners. 

“Some specific aspects I want to emphasize this year is pack running and trusting your teammates,” she said. “If you can trust your teammates, they will have a desire to run faster; you are then able to focus on your own race and run harder.” 

Other runners have noticed how Geisler has brought upon many advantages to the team to train them for their future races and overall experience. 

“I really like her; she helps us work on certain areas we need to train harder at; instead of running normally in the streets, we do hill running occasionally,” said Gonzales, who is in her third year with the varsity Lady Lancer cross country runners. 

The first step toward repeating as Freeway League champions will come Sept. 18 when the girls will compete in their first league event at 2 p.m. at Ralph B. Clark Regional Park.

This season, Fee has also set her sights on two teams in the league.

“Specifically,  we wish to beat Troy and Sonora,” she said. “Troy and Sonora were [our] biggest competition last year.” 

The girls’ goals this year are to keep their streak of winning the Freeway League title and to make it to the CIF Finals. 

“We don’t want to break our streak because it would be our eighth year winning league,” said junior Samantha Mejia, who is entering her third year with the varsity runners. 

“For our first Freeway League race, I am overall excited because I just love to race in general,” Mejia said. “I know we can keep our winning streaks; we have been working really hard, and we will give it our all.”