It was so bright his eyes hurt.
André Zumaeta was an assistant coach for the South Pas High cross country program in 2005 when the first order of team t-shirts arrived in a cardboard box.
“We were expecting Tiger orange,” he said last week in a phone interview, “but when we ripped the box open, the shirts were almost neon.”
Zumaeta and the other coaches looked around at each other in disbelief, but there was nothing they could do. A massive order had been placed and delivered. The shirts were there to stay.
Today, that mistake has become a trademark of the program. From Rio Hondo League Finals to the State Championships, South Pasadena’s cross country team is recognizable by its signature neon orange t-shirts. Often overlooked is the slogan the shirts carry, “Live, Dream, Run,” a motto that captures the identity of one of the high school’s most successful athletics programs in the last two decades.
“We wanted our team to think of running as an essential part of their everyday lives,” Zumaeta, a graduate of the Class of ’03 and a former Tigers cross country runner himself said while recalling the origins of the slogan. “My initial idea was ‘Run or Die,’ but obviously that wouldn’t have gone over so well with the administration, so we settled on ‘Live, Dream, Run.’”
This summer, per tradition, members of the cross country team have been waking up as early as 5:45 a.m. for early morning workouts to beat the heat. The grueling training regimen prepares the students’ bodies for the fast-approaching fall season, but perhaps even more importantly tests their mental fortitude. Enduring the summer requires runners to keep what often may seem like a distant dream, crossing the finish line, at the forefront of their minds.
“Being able to envision completing the race is such a powerful thing for a runner because, in my experience, no race was ever easy, every race was hard,” Zumaeta said. “In cross country, you are in this constant battle with yourself. You’re trying to surpass what your body is telling you you’re not capable of, by using the power of your mind. If you don’t have a dream of what you want to accomplish then it is really hard to reach your goal.”
Zumaeta, now the athletics’ trainer at Westridge School in Pasadena, believes the goal-oriented nature of cross country has had tremendous impact on other aspects of his life.
“For me, no matter where I went or what I was doing after cross country, I had goals set up for myself and I was determined to achieve them,” he said. “I know I got that from cross country. Now that I’m no longer involved in the South Pas program, I’m proud we helped to create an identity within the program where the team embraces hard work and dedication.”
The South Pasadena team is now under the leadership of Joe Soto. Their first event is the Woodbridge Invitational on September 14.