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14 Years of Valley Victory

  • Nov 27 2014
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I've said this before and I will continue to say it because it's so true. I met some of my very best friends on my high school and college running teams and running, if it’s not obvious enough, has and will always have a special place in my heart. Running competitively at a young age in cross country and track has taught me life lessons that I've been able to carry on into adulthood.

High School teammates, Mika and Chelsea, and college teammate Dina at various post-college races.

When I was in high school I was a sprinter in track and also ran cross country for the Buchanan High School Bears. I was a 400 meter runner, so if you’re a sprinter, you can assume that running cross country was not really my “thing”. I had always been pretty good at running longer distances since I had started running in fourth grade, but by the time high school came around, the 5K distance was a bit too far for my liking. My freshman year I even quit cross country because I just couldn’t handle it. Freshman track season whipped me into shape. I helped my 4x400 relay break the school record and also got to compete at the state meet in Sacramento.

My Valley Championship Ring representing Track 2000, Cross Country 2000, Track 2001, & Cross Country 2002

The following year, when I was a sophomore, I started to actually enjoy cross country and I was lucky enough to help our team qualify to run in the cross country state meet. My junior year, our team was so good and so deep, we had 10 girls competing for the top 7 spots. Which meant, if even three girls got sick, we had three girls right there ready to compete with the top girls. If you aren’t familiar with cross country scoring, it’s the top 7 who compete in a championship race. This was cross country season, 2001. And it wasn’t just our girls who were great, our boys team was awesome as well. They took, took second place in the state meet in 2001.

2001 CIF State Championship Cross Country Runner-Up Boys Team

We won our first Cross Country Valley Championship title (CIF Section Championships). I was on and off the top seven all season and when the state championship team was chosen, I did not make the team. These girls finished second in state, almost taking the title. Not making the top seven for state made me want to work even harder the next year. I had one more year in high school to prove myself. My senior year, I placed 9th in the Valley and we, and together as a team, we won Valley again! I will never forget the feeling of joy and the taste of victory as I shared an exciting moment of celebration with six of my closest friends.

2001 CIF State Championship Cross Country Runner-Up Girls Team

Now here’s for the really cool part. The Buchanan Bears girls cross country team took the Valley title the next year, and the next year, and the next year, for 14 consecutive years! After five years, it was really exciting, after 10 years people started to wonder if we had some kind of magical fairy dust that helped us fly, after 12 years it was close, but they continued their streak. In the last couple weeks, the Buchanan Bears for the first time in 14 years, felt the mortal sting of second place and the Clovis North Broncos, tasted victory. It’s a bittersweet ending to a fairytale streak of winning year after year after year and an huge and amazing accomplishment for the team who was able to defeat this seemingly immortal group of athletes.

Fresno Bee article featuring the Clovis North Girls (my sweet neighbor Lauren!)

I was only part of this winning streak for two years, the first two. There are girls who went all four years of their high school careers being undefeated Valley Champions. If you ask me what had set us apart from the rest was, I’d say the discipline, the expectation, the desire, and the bond I shared with my teammates were the driving forces of what led us to victory. But I am sure that there was so much more than that, including all of the support we received from countless volunteers, our amazing coaching staff, and our family and friends who chased us around the park to holler out all of our names just so we knew we had people there who loved us and wanted us to do well.

Our of Buchanan High School, we’ve watched some of our teammates win individual Valley and State titles, and even continue to run at the college and elite levels. These athletes include, Olympian Kyle Alcorn, American Record Holder Fernando Cabada, Elite Marathon Runner Kelli Smith (Vanderburg), and University of California 100m hurdle record holder, Osarhiemen Omwhanges.

Sunny and Fernando at Big Sur Half 2013, Kelli and Sunny at San Diego Rock N Roll 2014

I was lucky enough to have grown up in a small town, with a strong running community. As a matter of fact, my next door neighbor is the head coach of the Clovis North Broncos, my elementary school cross country coach, and his daughter is one of their top runners…small town! If you're not from Fresno, you might not realize that behind the cow pastures and endless acres of farmland, that there's a community within it built on it's love and passion for running. And it's only getting better.

Fresno is not only the destination for the Two Cities Marathon and Half that attracts thousands of marathon and half marathons from around the country to run, we also have more recently become host the California Classic in the spring that consists of a half marathon and cycling races that extend up to a 100-mile century ride.

CIF State Track and Field Championships 2014 at Buchanan High School's Veterans Memorial Stadium

For many years we have been the host of the CIF Cross Country Championships and more recently we have become the host of the CIF Track and Field Championships as well. When I was in high school, the CIF State Track meet alternated venues each year from Sacramento to Cerritos. Finally, they realized how beautiful of a facility we have, not to mention the professional level of our race directors. Our local high school coaches, administration, and teams are responsible for bringing in thousands of visitors and spectators into the city to not only enjoy the sporting events, but to add a significant boost to many of our local businesses and economy as well. Hosting a running event is a huge production. Everything down to the detail is planned from timing, scheduling, advertising, officiating, announcing, lighting, seating, and I have to mention the impressive number of parent (even former parent!) volunteers that make these events possible. It’s no joke, and I’m thankful to have been part of something where there are people who get excited to be part of such a positive, supportive, community.

Endure Jewelry celebrating Cross Country

This Saturday I will be enjoying the best time of the year outdoors in California’s Central Valley for the CIF High School Cross Country State Championships. I will cheer on my alma mater as well as the new Valley championship team. Congratulations to all who have qualified for this monumental race and best of luck to you as well!

Today I will be cheering on my family at our local Turkey Trot, which is run on the same course as the CIF cross country course. I will also be scrambling to make some cream of spinach, corn bread, and mashed potatoes. So good luck to all of you “turkey trotters” and I wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving!

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