Knowing it was going to be a big year for the Mountain View High School cross country team, dozens of the school's other runners waited at the finish line this winter at the Central Coast Section championship in Monterey.
They painted themselves in black and yellow, the school's colors, waved signs and cheered as 14 varsity runners made Mountain View High history, winning CCS by 89 points and sending much of the team on to the state competition. Junior Garrett Rowe won the boys' race and senior Mary Reynolds placed second in the girls' competition.
"This is the best Mountain View team there has been in history," Rowe said.
The team's success did not end at CCS: The boys' team came in third at the state championships and the girls came in fourth. Rowe ran the 5-kilometer race in 15:03, making him the 13th fastest runner in the nation.
"We were just hoping he would be in the top half, and out of 200 he was 13th," said Evan Smith, the school's cross country coach. "We just have a lot of talent."
Months after the season ended, the athletes still are running up to seven days a week. They've started their track season and are now training for the mile- and two-mile races. Each day after school they meet at the bleachers to practice together, and have pasta parties before meets to load up on carbohydrates.
Rowe and Ian Myjer, another top runner, say the boys put 50 to 70 miles under their belt each week. Senior Kristine Talbot said the girls run between 30 and 40 miles a week.
"Running is not a sport for the weak of mind," Talbot said. "Someone who runs isn't going to be anyone who slacks off."
Talbot hopes to run next year at either Pepperdine or Santa Clara University, and many of the other runners say they're looking to compete at Ivy League schools. These practices and busy schedules, the runners say, help to keep them motivated and on top of their school work.
"It's been good for stress levels," Rowe said. "To go out and run."
When the runs get hard, Talbot said she just focuses on the finish line. "It's all about the return you get afterwards," she said.
In fact the runners have a tendency to work too hard, and Smith said he has to pay close attention. This fall, for the first time during his seven years at the school, two runners got stress fractures.
"Sometimes I need them to rest," Smith said. "With these kids, I need to pay attention to not have them overwork themselves."
Still, Smith says the high level of dedication makes him confident about the next school year, even though many of his top runners are heading off to college. The younger athletes look up to the older ones on the team, he said, and learn a good work ethic from them.
"They see these guys aren't just surviving on talent," Smith said. "They want to win."
Three of the top girls are seniors, but Smith said the team has "some younger runners who fill in quite nicely."
As for the boys' team, with Rowe and Myjer coming back next year, Smith said, "The sky's the limit."