El Estoque

Cross country: Team travels to Oregon for Nike Portland XC Invite

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Kalpana Gopalkrishnan

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Runners lap around the course at Portland Meadows. The race was on a horse track and included obstacles like hay bales. Photo used with permission by Kirk Flatow.

I n Portland, it was not only the friendlier people that surprised the cross country team, but also the course, which was located at Portland Meadows, a horse-racing venue. Instead of horses, cross country runners from around the nation competed in the middle of this flat horse track. To provide a challenge of elevation gain, the course included five man made hills, which the team deemed to be a “condensed hill.” To add to the strangeness, bales of hay were placed for runners to hurdle over in an obstacle-course like fashion.

Freshman Sarah Feng runs over a manmade hill. The course, located on a horse track, contained five of these hills consecutively during the race. Photo used with permission by Kirk Flatow.

Freshman Sarah Feng runs over a manmade hill. The course, located on a horse track, contained five of these hills consecutively during the race. Photo used with permission by Kirk Flatow.

Nonetheless, MVHS competed at the Nike Portland XC Invite on Saturday, Sept. 26 and welcomed the change.

“Nearly every face that you see is someone you have no idea who they are,” junior Kelly Bishop said, who placed 20th in her division. “There’s no consequences and no pressure. You’re just racing against a bunch of people you don’t know.”

The meet, previously known as the Nike Pre Nationals, brings in about 4200 athletes every year. Although comparatively small in turnout, the team compared the level of competition to a state meet, with elite runners from around the country concentrated at one course. Still the team performed exceptionally, with senior Brent Mogensen placing second in his division and many of the other eighteen Matadors achieving a personal record.


Photos used with permission by Kirk Flatow.

Coach Kirk Flatow, who had never been to an out-of-state meet with the team before this, orchestrated the planning steps beforehand.

“If I get an idea that I think would be really cool, it’s like an itch that I’ve got to scratch,” Flatow said. “And the idea of going out-of-state seemed like it would be a great thing, and it allowed me to scratch that itch.”

The team explored and indulged in junk food in downtown Portland after the race.

Coach Kirk Flatow races in an event held at Portland Meadows. Flatow was able to race in the early morning before the high school events began. Photo used with permission by Kirk Flatow.

Coach Kirk Flatow races in an event held at Portland Meadows. Flatow was able to race in the early morning before the high school events began. Photo used with permission by Kirk Flatow.

“When you’re traveling so far and it’s just to be there, you’re just having fun,” freshman Claire Chang said. “It was more laid back.”

Even Flatow participated in a locally run cross country series at Portland Meadows.

“I got smoked,” Flatow said. “But that’s the whole point, you can jump in and have that same experience.”

Flatow knows that he can find a race where his team will place first, and he can find a race where his team will place last. He wants his team to race against themselves and their own records. At the Nike Portland XC Invite, he encouraged his runners to focus on themselves rather than the competition.

“[Racing is] a chance to find out what you can get out of yourself,” Flatow said. “And maybe you’ll find something you didn’t know you had, in terms of willpower, in terms of persistence and in terms of ability to withstand pain.”