X-Country Story–DO NOT POST

Seth Nidever

Coach Bob Covey knows why this men’s cross country season hasn’t been as successful as the last.

It’s no mystery. Four of his top five runners did not return, three due to ineligibility and one, his best runner, because of personal issues.

With those runners, last year’s team placed second out of 13 in the league championships and went on to place ninth in the state meet.

This year, the team will be doing well just to make the Southern California Regional Championships in November.

To do that, the team must place in the top six in the league championships on Oct. 31. That is a reasonable goal, but the odds of placing in the top ten at the regional championships–and thereby qualifying for the state meet–are slim to nonexistent.

BC is currently ranked fifth out of 13 teams in its league, which includes strong L.A.-area programs like Glendale, Moorpark and Ventura.

Covey’s top two runners, Nick Cramer and Eric Boyles, have a shot at qualifying for the state meet as individuals, but they will have to improve in the next three weeks to make that a realistic possibility.

Competitively speaking, it’s less than Covey had hoped for. Stress fractures, eligibility issues and personal problems have taken their toll. Still, the runners who remain on the team are remarkable for their outstanding work ethic and academic commitment.

“I couldn’t be happier with this team,” Covey said. “These are great kids, great young men.”

A spot on the team roster is not for the faint of heart.

Because of varying afternoon schedules, the nine teammates meet before the crack of dawn for their daily workouts. Matt Velasquez arrives from Shafter, Ramiro and Augustine Hernandez from McFarland, the rest from in-town.

“We train at 6 a.m. They’re there, ready to go,” said Covey.

After a two-to three-mile warm-up, the real work begins.

Recently, they did 20 400-meter runs at a 75-second pace, the rough equivalent of running five miles at five-minute-per-mile speed.

After a cool-down and maybe 10 runs to the top of Memorial Stadium, they hustle off the early-morning classes.

On their own, Covey’s gluttons for punishment go on long-distance evening runs to build up endurance for the four-mile courses they cover in competition.

In an average week, they rack up 65 to 70 total miles.

For Cramer and Boyles, this training regimen produces race times in the 22-to 23- minute range. Most of the team trails in a couple of minutes later.

No matter what their times, everybody gets to run (the top five team finishers actually earn points).

Covey said this inclusiveness sets cross country apart from other team sports like football or basketball.

“Cross country is a funny [team] sport in that regard,” he said.