Five years ago, the Santa Maria High School Cross Country team couldn’t reach 30 student-athletes. Fast-forward to now, the Saints are the defending league champions for the first time in school history.
“I remember our freshman year, we were like sixth or seventh place in league, and then the next year we got fourth, and then we got first, and hopefully first again this year,” said John Barajas, a senior on the Santa Maria Cross Country team. “So, just seeing the growth and speed and size really stands out. ”
“The first year was brutal. The first year was tough, a lot of tears, from me and from them, and we just got a little better, and littler better, and a little better,” said Brian Wallace, Santa Maria Cross Country head coach.
Coach Wallace took over the program three years ago and grew the team from 30 to 130. After leading the Saints to its first league title last year, the success carried forward. The boys are currently first in league while the girls are in second. The key to the team’s success is practice.
“Wallace always talks about coming to practice everyday and to make it our number one priority. We can see the improvements we’ve been doing and it’s due to just practice, running everyday, and just coming to practice basically,” said Luz Genaro, a senior on the Santa Maria Cross Country team.
The team also mentions that they’ve created long-lasting friendships with their teammates.
“I feel like the best part of being in cross country is the friendship we have because nobody really likes running, but the friends make it way better,” Jedric Callado explained, a junior on the Santa Maria Cross Country team. “The long runs, it gets easier, because they push you on, you persevere with them, and you go through tough times.”
The boys recently took first place at the Ocean League Mid-season Invite where six runners placed in the top seven. The girls took second place.
“They come to meets knowing they’re going to do well as to opposed to wondering what’s going to happen. They’re hard working kids who are willing to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” Wallace said.
“They’re the ones that are going to.. They’re the ones who watch you suffer and they support you and push to be stronger,” said Doris Nogales, a junior on the Santa Maria Cross Country team.