Boys and girls cross country has high hopes for CIF excellence not just because of the quality of the runners but because of a division change that some view as a slight.
Not Coach Joe Soto, though. Soto says it encourages his runners to be ready for advancing further than ever before and that will require the best they have to offer.
“We are looking really strong,” said Soto, who is the head coach for both the boys and girls varsity cross country, during an interview in the coach’s office just prior to leaving for a match in Riverside. “I think going into the season we looked a lot stronger. We looked really strong. And now we looked stronger than we would have because something’s happening this year that hasn’t happened since I think maybe the 80s. Which is actually we are competing in Division 4 as opposed to Division 3 which makes us much more competitive.”
Divisions are based on school size and since South Pasadena High School’s size decreased, it dropped the cross country team down a notch to Division 4, which is considered not as competitive as Div. 3, according to Soto.
“In Division 3 we fought so hard,” Soto said. “We were definitely a team that other teams looked out for. In CIF, we were an inch away from going on to state and that has always been our goal. Now that we are in Division 4 that should be more attainable.”
Soto said that boys cross country does excellent year after year in league play and the girls are getting better.
“South Pasadena is an extremely competitive team,” he said. “On the boys side, although we don’t take this for granted, we do very well consistently. On the girls side, our major competition is La Cañada and last year they were league champions. The (So Pas) boys have been league champions for the last couple of years.”
Girls cross country is improving but they still have not overcome the Spartans hurdle.
One of the challenges for the girls is their roster is much smaller than the boys’.
“This year I’ve tried even harder to recruit as many people as I can,” he said. “The truth is it’s a numbers game. The more people I can get out here the easier it is to find talent. Right now, there are kids playing football that would be great cross-country runners but how do you convince someone who wants to be on the football team and perform well as opposed to being on the cross country team and perform great.”
Soto is confident that his teams will do well in the upcoming season, but he also hopes his runners will discover the joy of working together as a family. Soto calls it “team bonding,” something he believes is as important as winning.
He said that he doesn’t cut people from the team because of performance, he only cuts people from the team based on effort. He stresses that being a member of the cross-country team is being a member of the family. It might be a second family, Soto says, but it’s still a family; a strong bond that people can come back to. Soto is an alumnus of the cross-country team. His coach was on the team. His two sons are alumni. The list can be increased ad infinitum, he said.
“When we talk about family, cross-country wise, it’s massive,” he said. “One of the things I personally instituted was the leadership creed. So that’s something I take great pride in and because I initiated that and developed that, it’s very important to me.”
Members of the Leadership Creed wear belts that signify their acceptance into the fraternal family of cross-country.
“This is as important as winning,” Soto said. “Well, winning also is important and I think the boys and girls are going to better than ever before this season.”
|2018 SPHS Cross Country Roster|
|Boys||Francisco Ibarra Sanchez||10th grade||Girls|
|Alejandro Quinonez||11th grade||Hank Chen||9th grade||Amber Gonzalez Pacheco||11th grade|
|Alekzander Grijalva||12th grade||Ian Wang||11th grade||Amber Chen||9th grade|
|Alexander Diaz||10th grade||Jake DeQuattro||9th grade||Amelia Jarolim||10th grade|
|Alexander Parra||11th grade||Jeffrey Oh||9th grade||Bela Salazar||9th grade|
|Andre Patzkowski||10th grade||Jonathan Apodaca||11th grade||Chaerin Lee||10th grade|
|Andrew Wilson||9th grade||Joshua Fuller||12th grade||Destiny Rivera||11th grade|
|Andrew Parkinson||10th grade||Kai Dettman||12th grade||Diana Perea||9th grade|
|Anthony Uriarte||11th grade||Liam de Villa||9th grade||Elizabeth Bock||12th grade|
|Austin Cragin||10th grade||Max Mendoza||11th grade||Gabriela Rodriguez||9th grade|
|Austin Borgerding||9th grade||Michael Ma||11th grade||Kelly Wu||10th grade|
|Benicio Perez||10th grade||Michael Xiong||12th grade||Lauren Jones||10th grade|
|Blake Sanchez||9th grade, manager||Nick Kalaw||11th grade||Lilian Zhu||9th grade, manager|
|Brady Nakamura||9th grade||Nick Owens||11th grade||Lindsay Michels||10th grade|
|Bryan Rini||12th grade||Nicolo Porcu||12th grade||Lindsey Calva||12th grade|
|Colin Cragin||9th grade||Noah Kuhn||9th grade||Luyang Zhang||10th grade|
|Daniel Choi||9th grade||Philson Ho||9th grade||Mai Koyama||9th grade|
|David Zhang||9th grade||Pieter Wielenga||10th grade||Maylis Whetsel||12th grade|
|Derek Rodriguez||10th grade||Riley Williams||10h grade||Miranda Liu||9th grade|
|Dillon Tom||12th grade||Sam Clark||11th grade||Sarah Uriarte||12th grade|
|Dominic Chamorro||9th grade||Sid Sehgal||11th grade||Sydney Morrow||9th grade|
|Dylan Sevilla||10th grade||Tristan Bragg||11th grade||Threza Murray||9th grade|
|Earl Tizon||11th grade||Will Griffith||10th grade||Ye Young (Sarah) Kang||9th grade|
|Francesco Fortunelli||12th grade||Yidan Xu||12th grade|