On the sunny morning of Sept. 11, The Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) cross country team joined over 300 fellow runners at Lake Casitas for the 2021 Ojai Invitational. It was a familiar sight for junior and senior athletes, the only difference from meets in previous years being the masks worn on the faces of spectators.
The Lake Casitas course is one that Foothill Tech runners become accustomed to over the course of their high-school athletic careers. Racers maneuver a difficult dirt and asphalt terrain, blotted by hills and switchbacks, with the beautiful view of the lake in the background, making it a challenging yet memorable course to run.
“The race is definitely a very challenging course,” Kiersten Falat ‘23 said, “with that came a lot of new experiences since a lot of us haven’t run on courses with hills before.”
For freshman and sophomore Dragons, it would be their first time experiencing a race at the location, as the COVID-19 pandemic had limited the 2020 season from being held at its full capacity.
The day kicked off with the girls’ combined 3-mile race. They ran through the blaring Ojai heat, with Rebecca Walker ‘24 being the first Dragon to cross the finish line in 11th place with a time of 21:07.71. Next to finish were Sofie Prieto ‘22 in 25th place (22:18.59) and Falat in 40th place (24:01.7). The steady start led the girls’ team to a fifth place finish.
Falat remarked on the accomplishment of the race, saying, “now that we have that under our belt, it’s gonna be good for the rest of the season because we’re all set and ready.”
As the girls cooled down, the boys’ combined 3-mile race took off, with Jonah Billings ‘23 crossing the finish line in 2nd place with a time of 16:55.96. The next runners to complete the race were Kai Bensen ‘23 in sixth place (17:30.05), Jacob Walker ‘22 in eighth place (17:37), Frank Stilwell ‘22 in 11th place (17:54.92) and Owen Teehee ‘22 in 13th place (18:17.92). The team secured a strong first place finish.
Later in the morning, Rumi Kastrup ‘25 took seventh place (13:11.93) in the girls’ 1.9 mile race. Soon after was the boys’ 1.9 mile race, and Daniel Kovalski ‘23 led the day’s final pack of Dragons to the finish with a time of 12:56.4, placing 45th.
With one successful meet undergone, the Dragons continued their season at the TCAA League Preview Meet on Sept. 17 at Camino Real Park.