Grit. That’s the daily reminder that MVHS’ head coach of cross country and track and field Kirk Flatow gives his athletes at practice. But even when MVHS runners are not competing at the school level over the summer, many of them continue to demonstrate their grit through additional events.
Going beyond the summer training that Flatow typically recommends for cross country runners, athletes like sophomore Triya Roy and junior Aravind Meyyappan trained for and competed in half-marathons. Others — sophomores Kamyar Moradi and Kyle Tsujimoto, junior Andy Fang, seniors Jeffrey Xu and Jason Tsujimoto and MVHS class of 2017 alumni Aidan Gottlieb and Andy Ma — competed in a relay around Lake Tahoe, and senior Sabrina Hung competed at the Junior Olympic level steeplechase.
“I really think this is a great example of the team. I mean these guys really like what they’re doing,” Flatow said. “They’re not just doing it to check boxes. And they started for all different reasons … They joined cross country for whatever [reason]they did, and they continue to grow in their passion to the sport.”
For some students, walking up the stairs to their next class would be considered a tough workout, but not for sophomore Triya Roy and junior Aravind Meyyappan, who each run around 40 miles on a weekly basis.
Roy has enjoyed running alone or with friends from a young age, which is why she decided to join the cross country team her freshman year. Last year, her dad noticed her interest in running, so he proposed the idea of running a half marathon. Roy ran the half marathon at the San Francisco Marathon in 2016, and she trained for the same event this year.
On July 23, Roy’s race started near the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, continued through the Golden Gate Bridge and ended at Golden Gate Park. Last year, Roy ran the 13.1 mile race in a time of one hour and 47 minutes, and she was determined to break her record this year.
During her training process, Roy ran about five to six days per week ranging from five to 11 miles. Having already trained for her season, she didn’t need much additional training. She continued to push herself as she finished the race with a personal record of one hour and 42 minutes.
“The best part is you kinda run it with a bunch of people around you,” Roy said. “You’re just in this field of positive energy and that helps you propel through the last few miles of the race.”
Meanwhile in Chennai, India, Meyyappan was getting ready for his first overseas half marathon. Since entering high school, Meyyappan has always run 40 to 48 miles per week, so he didn’t have to add extra miles to his training. Meyyappan had previously trained for two other half marathons. His dad, an avid runner, was volunteering for a half marathon held in Chennai and encouraged Meyyappan and his sister to participate.
In contrast to the flat terrain that Roy ran on, Meyyappan ran on unevenly paved highways with the race starting at 4 a.m. July 8. Having run a half marathon in one hour and 30 minutes in the U.S., Meyyappan had goals to break his time in India, so he led the race much of the way as he continued to remain in the top 10. Having paced his run poorly, Meyyappan eventually ended his race at one hour 40 minutes, falling from the top 10 and leaving him disappointed.
“I really wanted to win — top three,” Meyyappan said.
Meyyappan may have not accomplished this during this half marathon, but he hopes to accomplish similar goals in the near future with continued practice.
Both Roy and Meyyappan hold big plans for their future as athletes.
“A marathon requires a lot of training and I don’t know if I’m ready to devote that much time [right now], but it’s certainly something I would envision myself doing in the next five to 10 years,” Roy said.
If I’m in town next year, I’ll definitely do the half marathon [again].”
Roy has plans to take part in a full marathon in a few years and overcome her weakness in cycling to take on a triathlon in the future.
As Roy and Meyyappan prepare for the current cross country season, they use experiences from their summer half marathons to continue their training momentum.
LAKE TAHOE RELAY
Seven runners. Seventy-two miles. A team of runners ranging from sophomores who had just completed their first year of cross country and track at the high school level, to MVHS alumni who graduated with the class of 2017, competed in the DeCelle Memorial Fifty-third Lake Tahoe Relay on June 10.
Senior Jason Tsujimoto first proposed this race to his friends about a month before school let out. Jason Tsujimoto had been looking for long distance relays for a few months, so when his dad showed him the Lake Tahoe Relay online and asked if he wanted to go with his brother and some friends, he was quick to agree.
Jason Tsujimoto’s parents accompanied the seven boys to Lake Tahoe where they stayed in a cabin. They reached on Friday morning for the race on Saturday, and in this day before the race, the boys were able to bond through cooking and discussing healthy eating habits.
Advertised as the “Oldest relay race in the U.S.,” the course winds around the lake. For the high school boys division, the first leg of the relay began at Tahoe Beach Retreat in South Lake Tahoe. However, each runner didn’t run the same fraction of the 72 miles; it depended on how steep each section of the course was.
First was Gottlieb, followed by Xu, Moradi, Jason Tsujimioto, Fang and Kyle Tsujimoto, and the relay was anchored by Ma.
This was their first time competing in the relay, but according to Jason, ideally it won’t be their last. With a sense of competition brewing, they hope to go back next year to compete against MVHS alumni, who plan on forming their own team of seven to compete against MVHS runners.
In addition to allowing these athletes to train for an event off-season, this experience has strengthened their teamwork. Jason Tsujimoto knows the cross country team has a great support system, but he thinks the extra bonding that comes out of running outside of the MVHS team events has beneficial impacts, both physically and mentally.
“I think when we’re all out there supporting each other more, it helps the runners better in the races,” Jason Tsujimoto said. “When everyone’s cheering for them, it helps give them a boost of energy when they run.”
She went home after a long day of track practice, and an email from hurdle coach Ray Cornell popped up. The email was about an opportunity to attend a race, one that she had expressed interest in due to her passion for long distance and hurdles. She had seen the race in action before, having watched it when she volunteered at De Anza College meets. The expression on each runner’s face was something she had never seen before. It was a feeling like no other, and she wanted to join.
Within a few minutes of receiving the coach’s email, senior Sabrina Hung accepted the request
Steeplechase is a combination of running, hurdling and hydrating. It was one of most intense experiences of her life.
Senior Sabrina Hung hurdles a steeple at De Anza College. In steeplechase, athletes have to clear steeples and water.
While training for this event, Hung had a regimen she would go through with her coach; they would warm up and do hurdles as well as steeplechase exercises. On other days, Hung would have hurdles on the track, and then practice running the 400 meter with hurdles in place. Coach Cornell would time her, and they would start again and again.
On the weekends, Hung would go out and do her own long runs in order to get herself back in shape. Hung described the training as rigorous, as she only had only one rest day before starting up training again. She would throw up during practices as well as feel faint and dizzy.
“Honestly, there were many times where I wanted to quit and it was just really hard because I was the only one in training,” Hung said. “But I felt that once I finish I will accomplish something that probably a lot of people can’t experience.”
On the day of the race at De Anza College, Hung remembers it being rather crowded, and she was shocked at the fact that there were so many children there. There were booths surrounding the track, selling food, shirts and more. The atmosphere was lively and Hung remembers being amused by discovering something known as “race walking,” where people just speed walked around the track, which helped ease her tension a bit. Throughout the day, Hung was amazed at the diversity of the runners.
Despite everything happening around her, Hung was gradually feeling more nervous as she watched the various events on the track. She checked in and started to warm up, all while anxiously awaiting her name. She was in the last event of the day; she heard her name being called to come up to the track, and Hung could feel her nerves sky rocket.
“[I] could feel myself being dehydrated already,” Hung said. “[I] got to the first steeple, I told myself, ‘Get through every steeple, don’t trip and get to the water jump too.’ For me, it was just like I want to finish this, I want to do something for myself and so it was very hard and challenging but I was very happy that I had finished it.”
Hung was qualified for the USATF Hershey National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championship in Kansas, but decided not to go because she didn’t feel mentally and physically prepared. With the cross country season starting up again, Hung feels that next time she will be more in shape for the championship.
“I would recommend it, [but]they would have to know this [is]not an easy challenge,” Hung said. “But if they are really up for the challenge to do it.”