Like it or not, cross country is a sport, and Foothill has some students that are pretty dang good at it.
Few can accomplish what Jared Rodriguez ’17 and Lauren Kearney ’19 did this cross country season. The two runners led the boys’ and girls’ teams respectively to state titles for Division IV. In order to participate in the state meet at Fresno, Foothill needed a strong performance in the CIF Southern Section Finals.
Rodriguez finished second in his race and the boys team finished with three top-10 runners overall, propelling the team to a first place finish in the meet. The girls team didn’t fail to impress as they took second in the meet with Kearney grabbed fifth place in the race.
Kearney was proud of the team’s performance and “loves how close we are.” She has been running track since kindergarten, but began running cross country in sixth grade because she “wanted to do something with a team” and at Foothill she feels that the team atmosphere is so strong because “everyone matters.”
Rodriguez fell in love with the sport at the start of his sophomore year and enjoys cross country because “anyone can come out regardless if [they’re] big, small, tall, or short,”
Considering it’s only his third year running, Coach Jason Dinkler doesn’t think that Rodriguez has “even touched his potential, as far as his athletic ability.”
“Physically, he’s kind of a beast,” Dinkler said with a chuckle.
Dinkler described Rodriguez as somebody whose teammates “rely on him to be somebody who’s going to work as hard or harder than everybody else.”
Fellow runner Henry Pick 19’ attested to Rodriguez’s work ethic saying that “he helps pull [Pick] along.” Pick was also instrumental to the program’s success as he finished eighth in the state meet. He said that Rodriguez helps make his teammates better “through words and his sheer speed.”
After standout team and individual performances, Foothill topped themselves by winning state for boys and girls. Rodriguez again placed second and Kearney outperformed her previous race by finishing fourth. While this was the last race for Rodriguez in his high school career, this merely marked the halfway point for Kearney, a sophomore.
Dinkler is excited that Foothill “gets to have [Kearney] for two more years” and believes that she has the potential to be a state champion in the coming seasons. Dinkler also divulged that her “humility while being very talented is pretty special.”
Rodriguez is looking forward to running in college and says he “would never want to let running go.”
While Kearney has a couple years to make decisions about her future, she would like to run in college and maybe even professionally some day.
Both runners said that a common misconception about cross country is that it’s not a sport, but it’s safe to say there are few who can run as far and as fast as these athletes. Rodriguez pointed out that “running is an olympic sport” and Kearney echoed that “cross country is important [to Foothill] because we make up a large portion of the school.”
Both boys and girls teams have high expectations for next year and will be ready to make some noise once again. Kearney and Rodriguez have bright futures ahead of them, and Foothill is lucky enough to have front-row seats and enjoy the show.