Mental preparedness is key

Christopher Richardson, athletic director of the cross country team, vowed that the mental preparation for the SCC Championships Friday for the men’s and women’s teams will prove that the defending champions were not “one-hit wonders” last year.

The SCC Championships will be at Heartwell Park in Lakewood, and the teams have been utilizing mental strategies to deal with the likes of Mt. San Antonio College and El Camino College after fatiguing competitions over the past weeks.

Richardson said, “We have young teams, so we strategically set ourselves in a position where we can get ready for conference, and hopefully train through the Southern California Championships and try to make a big push for the state championships.”

Last season, the men’s team came out victorious against Los Angeles Trade-Technical College in order to win its first SCC Championships in school history.

With new personnel added to the team this season, some of the younger athletes are starting to feel the pressure in running in a high stakes competition, and the extra break in between meets provides time for the team to rest and focus.

“It helps to get over any butterflies or anguish that (the team) might have or even (provide) an opportunity for some people to heal because running is exhausting. The training is tough,” Richardson said.

Marco Anzures, cross country head coach, added, “We have been focusing on coming together as a team even more, building our group running skills and maintaining our consistency in training day-to-day.”

Development in running technique and taking on leadership qualities were tactics emphasized throughout the season, and the team has been showing “big time” growth in these areas, according to Richardson.

“Primarily with the development of their autonomy, we’ve been giving them opportunities to be self-sufficient, and they’ve taken that and have run with it. It’s nice to see them take ownership of their own training.”

Richardson highlighted runners such as freshman Anthony Lozano and freshman Josh Roldan as athletes who have taken a leading role on the team. Additionally, Anzures noted growth within the women’s team.

“The women’s team in particular has developed a good group dynamic the past several weeks. The athletes have demonstrated a willingness to learn and adapt over the past few months and it has paid off. They are motivated and hungry to do well.”

The conference has a great importance for the runners, and a “holistic” effort is what will propel the men’s and women’s teams to execute the proper running tactics.

“As defending champions, I feel we need to prove we are one of top teams in the conference. Every team has weaknesses. The teams in the conference might have one or two really good runners, but their three, four or five are kind of back. There’s this huge gap. We have a real tight group, so if we hold on to that, we can go into this and surprise some people.”

Sophomore David Pleitez said, “At first, we had great individuals, but now, I see us as a great team. That is what we need to win. Not as individuals, we need a team.

“Our coach gave us a quote, ‘Make everyday your masterpiece,’ and that’s what we work on.”