Audrey Suarez ’21 was so focused on her running pace that she missed a set of course markers. This elite runner made a wrong turn in the middle of her race. But hers was not the only obstacle.
The hills were taking a heavy toll on Cameron Gomez ’20. There were so many. She didn’t think she could push any harder.
And by mile three, Laura Arcia ’19 was in pain. She knew she had to kick it up for the team. She is varsity co-captain, after all. "But I was dying,” she said.
Yet our Cubs persevered and rose to stellar heights at the CIF State Cross Country Championships in Fresno last Saturday. Audrey won the Division IV title with a 17:44 time, making Mayfield history as our first ever state champion. The team placed seventh overall in a field of 25 schools with 209 runners.
Our impressive showing solidified Mayfield’s place as a powerhouse in the sport and secured our standing in a top-10 team spot for the fifth consecutive year.
“Theirs is a study of perseverance and grit,” said Athletic Director Steve Bergen. “Their commitment to the team has upheld the Cross Country legacy of Mayfield. These girls seized the opportunity to run in State and refused to take a step back.”
The team worked to overcome obstacles during a year of transition and team rebuilding. Several strong runners had graduated or opted not to run this year. Two coaching changes in one year made for some inconsistency in training.
“It was very much a roller-coaster year for the team,” Mr. Bergen said. “But they were remarkable and succeeded in what is the most difficult sport.”
Audrey’s lightning time came after recovering from a hip injury that kept her from running for three weeks mid-season. But she said she was ready physically and mentally for finals.
She led the race as she entered mile two. But as she focused on her pacing she lost sight of the course markers. She turned to the wrong side of the flagged path.
“I looked up and didn’t see any more flags and I realized I was running on the wrong side of the shute,” Audrey said. She had no choice but to double back to get on the right path. If she cut the course, she would be disqualified. She estimated the mistake cost her up to 10 seconds.
“But it snapped me back into an even harder race mode,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t hold back. I had to catch up. I really had to fight make the comeback.”
For Cameron, the hills of mile two seemed insurmountable—until she saw team co-captain Ellie Kiechler ‘19 run up near her. “Ellie helped push me forward and kept me going. I just felt so motivated by her presence.”
For Ellie, this would be the last race of her Cross Country career at Mayfield.
“Everything I’ve done for the past four years lead up to this final race with my teammates,” Ellie said. “I just let go and kicked it.”
As Laura Arcia ‘19 began to close in on final mile three, the pain of the hills wracked her body. Laura, the team newbee, had only discovered her passion for the sport 18 months ago and here she was running in the finals. How could she push herself farther?
Then she heard the voice of a cheering Mayfield parent.
“ ‘You’re doing great, you got your speed now use it!’ ” she recalled hearing at her lowest moment.
“Just hearing that support gave me the last boost,” Laura said.
As Audrey approached the final yards on a straight grassy path, she also heard raucous cheering. But it wasn’t coming from Mayfield fans. A large crowd was cheering for another runner.
“I thought she was on my heels and I didn’t know until the last five steps that I was going to win,” Audrey said.
Audrey finished four seconds ahead of second place runner Daniela Quintero of Harvard-Westlake and six seconds ahead of third place Skyler Wallace fo Sage Creek High School in San Diego.
Her victory photo signaling No. 1 will never be forgotten! And the skill, work and passion of Mayfield's 2019 Cross Country Team make us incredibly proud to be Cubs!
“We just never gave up,” Laura said. “We are strong.”