M-A’s girls varsity cross country team has seen unprecedented success this year, becoming the first M-A girls’ cross country team to win Division 1 CCS Championships and qualify for the State Championship.

Annie Pflaum and Katie Lorenz after Woodbridge invitational

The team saw several wins leading up to their victory at CCS. They swept the Artichoke Invitational in Half Moon Bay, with M-A runners taking the top 5 spots. M-A is the first team to have swept Artichoke by such a landslide. Competing against the best teams in California at the Woodbridge Invitational, the team placed 5th out of 34 teams in their division. The weekend before CCS, the team also won the PAL Championship with a score of 19 points, 43 points better than the second-place team.

The team attributes its success in part due to their effort to collaborate both in and out of practice.

Senior Katie Lorenz said, “It’s really common for teams to make people do stuff on their own, like just going to practice and doing your own thing, and not staying together during workouts. But for us, we always really make a big effort to collaborate. We also do team bonding outside of practice, which I feel has allowed us to support each other.”

Sofia Melani at Artichoke Invitational

Junior Sofia Melani noted that the team’s closeness also promotes motivation. She said, “By being close off the course you have a lot of trust in your teammates and you also want them to do well too. During the race you motivate each other—if your teammate is falling back, you’ll tell your teammate to keep going. You’re not gonna be just passing a teammate to win against that teammate, you want your teammate to finish with you.”

At CCS last year, the team was disappointed when they missed qualifying for states in a tiebreaker. Several of the team members noted that their previous loss had increased the pressure they felt going into CCS, especially due to much of their previous competition being gone.

Before CCS, Lorenz said, “There’s kind of a lot of pressure because Los Altos and some of the other really fast teams were moved down to Division II. And so now that we’re still in Division I, there’s a lot of pressure to win because the previous competitors aren’t there anymore, really. Everyone’s expecting us to win and go to States.”

The team placed first this year at CCS in Division I with 19 points.

Tatum Olesen wins 8th place at State Championship

One of the team’s coaches, Eric Wilmurt, said, “Last year was very hard to swallow for everybody. Especially since they were, in our opinion, the faster team, but the points just didn’t work out in their favor at the finals, since there were only two teams that moved on to the state championships last year and they tied for second place in a very, very close race and lost the tie. They did not move on to the state championships as a team. Moving a team on to the state championships is something that hadn’t happened from Menlo-Atherton because we’re always in a very competitive division for CCS where it’s difficult to move on.” 

Following the team’s victory at CCS, the team competed in the California State Championship, where junior Tatum Olesen finished seventh. The team as a whole placed 8th.

On the team’s success this season, junior Annie Pflaum said, “Because we’re really close, it doesn’t feel like all work. We really enjoy being with each other and we’re willing to put the work in because we really like what we’re doing.”

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