Saddleback men’s cross country team hits the ground running this season

Connor Yartz leads a pack of runners during their race last week.(Brad Hoiseth/ Saddleback Athletics)

Connor Yartz leads a pack of runners during their race last week. (Brad Hoiseth/ Saddleback Athletics)

The men’s cross country team hit the ground running this season, claiming a top three win at the Palomar Invitational, and a earning a top ten finish at the Socal Preview.

“We started training way back in June. In a sport like ours we need to be as prepared as possible so we can be ready to compete in September,” said Sophomore runner Michael Kabbout.

Cross country running isn’t literally running across country, but it seems pretty close. The courses are natural terrain, usually dirt, grass or both. Courses can contain gradual slopes, hills, turns and some courses cross rivers, as if running on a regular track isn’t hard enough. Runners typically compete on four to five mile courses in different conditions.

“My least favorite part would be running in the heat,” Kabbout said. “The hardest part of cross country would be getting mentally prepared for the races. It takes time to get into the racing mindset.” 

Even if the runners are mentally prepared for the race, their bodies might not be fully on the same page.

 “My least favorite part is trying not to throw up after a hard workout or race,” sophomore Steven Pedraza said.

In the sport of cross country, scores are totaled by adding the top four or five individual finishers from each team. Points are awarded to the individual runners based on the position they’re in when they cross the finish line. All the points are added up and the team with the lowest combined score wins. The men’s team plans to score very well this season, and to keep improving.

“Our team goals are to run as a group, get to state, and get top 5,” Kabbout explained.

Pedroza shared his personal goal. 

“I want to run a low 22 minute 4 mile, and to make top 7 on the team,” he said. 

Having a close knit team that gets along well can really go a long way in any sport, but especially in cross country.

“The relationship between my teammates and I is like a family,” Kabbout said. “We all hang out together, help each other out and we can count on each other.” 

Pedroda added the team shares a close bond. 

“We all get along great. We roast each other all the time, we are always planning something and just having a good time,” Pedraza said.

While the season is still young, the Gauchos men’s cross country team is off to a good start. With their sights set on state and beyond, only time will tell if they can outlast the rest of the field.