Underclassmen girls lead the way to victory in cross country over Drake and San Rafael while boys place second

Rays of sunshine pierce through the lush trees, illuminating the convoluted trail as Redwood girls’ varsity cross country runners raced around the bend. The course was lined with ecstatic parents and fans, greeting runners with wild cheers and shouts of encouragement. After minutes of anticipation, the tension dissolved amongst the crowd as the runners crossed the finish line, concluding their third meet of the year.

This past Thursday, Sept. 26, freshman Shyla Lensing led the team to a clear-cut victory over Drake and San Rafael High School at the Concrete Pipe Trail. After the team failed to place at their De La Salle meet last week, they redeemed themselves by sweeping the competition in their most recent meet.

Photo by Kent Goodman
Entering the final stretch of the race, freshman Shyla Lensing has made an immediate positive impact on the team

Lensing began with a slow start, trailing in third place through the first half of the race, but closed the first-place gap later in the course. During the final stretch, Lensing crossed the finish line with no other runners in sight. As a freshman and new addition to the team, Lensing has already proven herself to be a key component for Redwood. According to head coach Nicole Graydon, Lensing consistently brings a positive attitude in addition to her stellar race record. 

“Shyla was this little ray of sunshine who came out and took off…Right now Shyla is a completely carefree freshman who’s just here to race, so we don’t need anything else from her but to run,” Graydon said.

After Lensing finished first place, enthusiastic parents and fans cheered wildly as sophomore and co-captain Helena Janku, freshman Audrey Maclean and sophomore Lauren Duncan rounded out the top five runners for all schools.

Prior to the girls’ performance, the boys’ cross country team ran a tight race and was just shy of first place. However, junior and captain Hudson Grace shined through the congestion of the 83 runners at the meet. Grace captured the attention of the entire race, whose strong start evolved into a colossal lead. Maintaining his lead throughout the duration of the entire race, Grace finished his meet with a time of 15:37.

Grace believes the team’s success is derived from the unity of being together outside of scheduled practices.

Photo by Kent Goodman
Going neck to neck with Drake opponent, Senior and captain Sahil Kapila tries to break away

“We’re all doing our pre-race together and even during the race, we try to stick together as much as we can as a team because that is extremely important in terms of having success…A lot of our unity comes from the days that we run on the weekends. We’ll get up early and run, then go eat breakfast together,” Grace said.

According to Janku, losing key seniors Liam Anderson and Neva Legallet from last year has affected the team, but the current runners have been able to overcome this challenge.

We did lose a lot of leadership. We lost two captains and [coach] Laura[Schmitt], but people really picked up the slack. When there was room to step up, people did, and that’s what this sport is all about,” Janku said. “So far, it has translated really well. The team is doing awesome, way better than anyone could have ever expected.”

Both teams’ next Marin County Athletic League cross country meet is against Terra Linda and Tamalpais at the China Camp course on Thursday, Oct. 17.