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For members of the Los Alamos High School Cross Country team, autumn is all about running.
Beginning the first week of August, team members start practicing and getting in shape everyday, running about three to four miles each session.
Rob and Kathy Hipwood have been head coaches of the boys and girls teams since 1994. Eight other assistant coaches help to make sure the team is practicing well and helping the runners to progress throughout the season.
“The team has been doing great, both boys and girls. We are very pleased with the race performances from varsity to C team. The teams have been racing very consistently. So we think it’s been a very successful season so far,” Rob said.
Cross Country teams are usually fairly large at Los Alamos High School, but Kathy noted the LAHS Toppers’ team is made up of 97 runners this season.
“This is the biggest team, not by a lot, because it’s been consistently in the 80s over the past 19 years,” she said.
The runners are divided into varsity, junior varsity and C teams. The varsity and junior varsity runners practice a little more, including running at 6 a.m., before school begins.
The entire team travels throughout the state, competing with other high school teams. The varsity and junior varsity team will compete in the state competition and the varsity team also has a few more away meets, traveling to regional competitions.
When asked about the goals for this season, Kathy said, “As far as performance level goals, definitely state championship. It’s not going to be easy, but it remains a possibility. Both teams have that in the back of their heads always. And also for the team to be close and have fun,” she continued.
The Hipwoods said the overall goal is for individuals to improve their running times from week to week, season to season, throughout their career.
For a lot of students, cross country seems to run in the family.
Jennifer Mooday is a senior who has been running for six years. Mooday said, “I like the team aspect and the coaches are really great, that’s my favorite part. The meets are very fun, I like the competition.”
She commented that cross country is hard, but putting in the work makes it a little easier. “But it’s always going to be hard if I want to be good,” she said. Mooday also said her mother ran in high school and that her mom made her join the team at first, but then she came to love it. She does track and field in the spring and said that cross country definitely helps to make you stronger for each season.
Sophomore John Valdiviez said his dad and uncles ran cross country and his mother did track and field in high school. Valdiviez has been running cross country for three years.
“The meets are very fun and very competitive,” he said. Although, he wanted to play football, he was too small, but found he has a talent for running. He also participates in track and field in the spring.
“My dad and step-mom both ran cross country and I got interested in eighth grade,” sophomore Rigel Baron said. Baron said in some aspects cross country is very difficult but the fun of running makes up for the challenges.
The runners said practicing every day is essential to keeping in good running and racing shape. The team can be seen running all over town in the afternoon and once in a while, they cross-train at the aquatic center. Trail running is also a big part of training, so the team runs in the canyons and at the ski hill for practice.
The coaches pointed out that training at this high elevation might give a competitive advantage to Los Alamos runners, when traveling to lower elevations to race.
The Hipwoods said there is a misconception that cross country is an individual sport. “When you are a part of it or when you’re on it, you realize it really is a team sport,” they said. The coaches said they are excited for the last few weeks of the season.
The Los Alamos Invitational was Oct. 26 and the state meet is in two weeks.