Cross Country Spotlight

South Lakes Cross Country and Track & Field have been the most successful teams at the school in history. What gives so many of these students the skill and devotion to run? 


The boys Cross Country team won the district finals last year, as well as many years before. As of the 2022-23 season, Scott Raczko has taken over the role of coaching cross country in addition to being the head track coach. His success has been shown through athletes like Alan Webb, the current holder of the American national mile record. 


As a freshman, Manny Aguire-Martinez joined track as a way to prepare for the Spring soccer season. Now, as a junior, he has completed 7 track/cross country seasons. 


 “When I was in 9th grade, it was just to stay fit for soccer, but after I saw a lot of success in track I kept on doing it,” Manny explains. 


Now, he says, he is 100% “locked in.” Manny says that when he doesn’t improve as  much as he wants to, it only pushes him to go harder the next time.


“Usually I just get so mad for the following week until the next race that I’m just locked in for the next race,” He says. One thing he learned from his team and coaches is that you can’t mess around. 


“If you want to get good, you just have to want it.” The Junior details. Hour long runs and difficult workouts motivate the team, rather than turn them away. The athletes have learned to crave the growth that comes from hard work. 


Even with the sheer size of the team, which doesn’t make any cuts, Manny expressed how close he is with his teammates. It can be hard to develop a close bond with such a big team, but through endless post-practice dinners and hang-outs, the cross country team makes it work.  


Although last year was Catalina Simon’s first year competing as a runner for South Lakes, it was a successful one. Shaving off massive amounts of time in distance events almost every race directly shows how hard she works in practice every day. She grew up running with her parents, and, similarly to Manny, joined track in 9th grade to prepare for the Spring soccer season. Of course, when she started to bloom in the cross country world, she had to stick around. 


When asked about how to continue to excel after not improving in a race, Catalina detailed her positive mindset. 


“Sometimes it can be mentally hard, but I really focus on my training and I know that one race doesn’t define me as a person,” She explains. A technique that helps her is visualizing races days before they happen.  Simon says she routinely meets with her Dad before races to talk about what moves she should make and how to get ahead quickly. 


Unlike fast paced events, cross country requires flexibility. Runners have to adapt to where they are and plan the perfect time to power in front of their opponents, rather than continuously sprinting for their whole race. 


Coach Raczko doesn’t give many days off, his practices require hard work. Simon said she hates when they have early-morning practices before school, but all athletes do!


The skill of these athletes is a testament to their hard work and intense dedication to this sport. 

They continue to carry on the great legacy of South Lakes’ cross country program through their devotion.