Dublin High Cross Country Varsity Boys Sail Into the History Books After Strong Finish at State Championships
DUBLIN, CA–On November 26, the Dublin High School Cross Country team made history at the California Interscholastic State Championships at Woodward Park, Fresno. Their 4th place finish in the Division II race was the highest ever for a DHS team, and an NCS team (after Petaluma’s 2nd place in 2007). The incredible and historic season, which culminated with this 4th place finish, moved Dublin Cross Country’s state ranking from 56th at the beginning of the season to a remarkable 11th. Senior Anirudh Surapaneni led the team with an exceptional performance, placing 6th with a time of 15:26; he was supported by teammates Gaurav Phanse (27th – 15:53), Adrian Schroeder (28th – 15:53), Loic Scomparin (30th – 15:54), Hunter Lampi (115th – 16:34), Christopher Middleton-Pearson (132nd – 16:49), and Kyle Morrison (154th – 16:59).
I recently had the chance to sit down with one of the most successful cross country teams in the history of Dublin High School, to get to know more about how they came to achieve this kind of success, and what they’ve learnt from this experience and from each other.
Neha Harpanhalli: First of all, congratulations to all of you on your remarkable achievement this season. What kind of training did it take to come this far?
Anirudh Surapaneni: “Compared to last year, the training has gotten significantly more difficult. We’ve started putting in more mileage throughout the years. A typical week for a freshman may be around 20 to 30 miles, whereas, for a senior runner, it could be as much as 70. Every week we have a long run (which can range anywhere from 8 – 14 miles) and we have two workouts a week. We also implemented more strength training into our program about twice a week. This whole process helped us get to where we are and we think it’s been really instrumental in how far we’ve come.”
Harpanhalli: What set apart this year’s team from all other teams you have worked with?
Trevor Chapman: “Two years ago, I was a freshman on the team when the varsity runners went to states. There was definitely a big difference in the attitude between this team and that team. This year’s team was just much, much more competitive.”
Matthew Koay: “I think our team mentality has changed so much this year. Last year, we thought we were pretty much guaranteed a place in the top three at NCS and get a spot at states and I remember what it felt like to be so close and fall short. This year, even when we thought we could sweep NCS, we remembered that we couldn’t get too cocky.”
Kyle Morrison: “Yeah, we were so much more driven this year to our ultimate goal.”
Rafael Gamboa: “Or it just could have been that we got faster. Since we started training much harder, our younger guys especially started getting a lot faster.”
Harpanhalli: How do you motivate each other and mentally prepare before a meet?
Anirudh: “Prior to a meet, we state our goals to each other, and we hold each other accountable. If somebody has a bad race, or somebody doesn’t step up, going into future meets, we know what changes we need to make for that person, and for the team as a whole.”
Nathaniel Colunga: “As the captain, I usually give everyone a speech before the race, just so that they’re mentally focused on what they have to do…There’s definitely a lot of mental preparation before the race to make sure we are in the right state of mind and execute what we’ve been practicing.”
Harpanhalli: Was cross country or track the only sport that you were ever interested in/participated in?
Anirudh: “Growing up, I used to play soccer and basketball. At first, you don’t really think about running as a team sport, but cross country really is. It’s so important that you have everyone working together to race their best and support their teammates. We all work together as one unit, even though we’re running as individuals.”
Rafael: “I was mostly always track and cross country, which I joined in middle school. It’s really the only sport I’ve taken quite seriously.”
Gaurav Phanse: “In elementary and middle school, I took soccer quite seriously. Since I played midfield, my coach just made me run the whole time during the game; I think that really helped me build a good base towards running in high school.”
Trevor: “Growing up, I was a baseball guy until fifth grade. After that, I really liked soccer and running…it became a bit of a dilemma for me about which one to choose. And up until sophomore year, I was still on the fence. And then…I kind of just chose running because I felt I was better at that.”
Christopher Middleton-Pearson: “I’ve been running all my life. None of this is really new to me…high school is new to me, but running really isn’t.”
Nathaniel Colunga: “When I started high school, running was the sport I was attracted to the most, because in football, basketball, and soccer, you can piggyback some of your failures on others, but in running, there’s no one to blame. It’s one of the only sports where you can see whether your training is making a difference.”
Anthony Casasos: “I did karate for seven years, before I got into running in high school. The family aspect really brought me in; it was a place where I was welcomed by everybody. Even though I wasn’t the best, I knew success was still possible.”
Matthew Koay: “I grew up in a family that was really basketball-oriented. So I picked up basketball in third grade, but didn’t really enjoy it that much. I started running in high school. We runners have our own individual reasons why we run.”
Loic Scomparin: “I’ve never really ran competitively until high school. Kyle tried to get me to join the cross country team in freshman year, I didn’t do it because I didn’t really know what it was. So when I joined track, I really began to enjoy everything. Everyone holds each other accountable, and helps each other succeed; this season being my first season of cross country, I think it’s the same as track if not even better.”
Kyle Morrison: “I always was encouraged to play all sports; I played football, basketball, baseball. I had a rough baseball season at the end of my eighth grade, so I decided to join the cross country team in freshman year. There was just something different about it…a drive to win and support each other.”
Hunter Lampi: “I did seasons of basketball, 8 years of baseball, and a lot of soccer. I even joined bowling and did a couple years of that….I joined cross country, hoping that it would condition me more for soccer. I just enjoyed running more because of the satisfaction that it gave me after putting all this time and effort into it.”
Adrian Schroeder: “[Joining track and cross country]…it’s the best decision I ever made.”
Harpanhalli: What has been the role of coaches in your success?
Adrian: “When you first join the team and you see Coach [Williams]….he speaks in such a commanding voice that it forces you to listen. He has this saying after a race, that “if Jesus Christ himself comes down from the line, you ask Coach first if you can go talk to him.” If he believes in you and says you can win, you know you have the potential….you will win. That faith he had in me is what honestly made me the athlete I am today.”
Anirudh: “I’ve been running for nearly four years…and Coach Williams has been there every step of the way. I feel like I’ve matured a lot more….Coach has taught us to take things more seriously, to work hard, and to really give in effort when we can. He wants you to succeed, and he believes in your ability to succeed.”
Nathaniel: “While Coach Williams is the authority figure and makes sure we’re all doing our best in running, Coach Kleinow and Coach Vidrio are there to talk about academics or our emotional state, since we’re super stressed with school all the time. I think that’s just as important as our head coach; making sure we’re all mentally okay so we can run our best.”
Loic: “I remember the first time I saw Coach Williams, he kind of scared me. During track, I could see how hard I was being pushed in comparison to my middle school coaches. He pushed us far enough to where we could start taking charge of ourselves. The assistant coaches also take charge of things like organization and planning, and being on time (I know Coach Kleinow in particular is notorious for that, ‘Be on time to practice!’)”
Kyle: “Coach Vidrio, Coach Kleinow, and Coach Williams are the best coaches I’ve had…they instill in us the drive and determination to get us to the best place we can possibly reach, and the sheer time they put into it.”
Harpanhalli: What has been your greatest support system in continuing to pursue cross country?
Anthony: “The team has been the biggest support system. It just feels so good to line up with your teammates, and see everyone cheering during the race. They’re the reason why I stay on this team. I don’t just run for myself, I run for them too. I run to make them proud of me.”
Harpanhalli: Tell me one thing that you have learned from your teammates throughout the season.
Gaurav: “The main thing I learned from my teammates was perseverance and never giving up. Last year, I always had Adrian around to push me (we were about the same speed). This year, Adrian got a lot faster, and he left me in the dust, and I really had no one to be competitive against, but I knew if I just kept my head in the game, I would do well. And I eventually got faster.”
Trevor: “I learned true friendship. Just having people who care about you and want you to be the best that you can be.”
Anirudh: “For the past two years, I’ve worked to establish myself as the number one runner. Going into this season, I’ve lost a couple of times to another teammate of mine. Things don’t always go your way…it’s up to you how you learn from these situations.”
Rafael: “I learned how much every person on the team matters; even if they’re not like, an Anirudh or a varsity athlete. There are always ways you can contribute to the team.”
Adrian: “My teammates have taught me that it’s okay to be myself, to be as extravagant as I am.”
Anthony: “How to have fun, how to embrace how weird we all are. Cross country is really competitive, and sometimes we can get caught up. It’s really important that we all just have fun at practice and bond together.”
Matthew: “My teammates really taught me just to be more accepting. Being captain of such a diverse group, I learned more about everyone and their contributions to the team.”
Loic: “I learned how hard we can push each other, but all the members also support each other.”
Kyle: “I’ve just learned to never give up.”