Youth was an important factor for the Harbor Teacher High School Monarchs Cross Country team for the 2015-2016 season.
This season was Head Coach Fatima Iqbal-Zubair’s first season leading Cross Country at Harbor Teacher. The cross-country team had seen much success by going undefeated in all league meets this season and becoming Ocean League Champions, according to Zubair.
“In the league championship, which was the beginning of [November] we actually got a double,” said Zubair. “Girls and boys both won so we won a double league championship.”
This year was the first time in school history the cross-country team earned a league championship for both boys and girls. Both teams also came in second place for the CIF Division III finals, according to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF)
In the Ocean League Section championship, five runners clinched top 10 spots, with Marcos Cazares coming in third place. The Monarchs boys came in first, only scoring 25 points. For the girls, four runners reached top-10 status with Mayela Medina in second place, according to the CIF.
Freshmen played a key role in the team’s success, said Zubair. One of them was Rachel Oyeyemi, who came in 10th place for the Ocean League championship meet, reported CIF. Zubair describes Oyeyemi as a “quiet, fierce runner” who has been consistent with training.
“That’s shown in her running,” said Zubair. “The biggest thing with Rachel is that she has the biggest [personal record] of anyone this season.”
Oyeyemi earned a personal record of three minutes during one meet, an extraordinary feat in cross country, noted Zubair.
“It’s like cutting a minute off a mile each mile,” said Zubair. “I think that gave her confidence.”
Kayla Navarro is another standout freshman who came in fifth in the Ocean League Championship Meet, according to the CIF.
“She was ready to go and was ready to start training and she’s been a standout,” said Zubair. “She’s had really big [personal records] every race.”
Zubair mentioned that Navarro is confident, assertive, and goal-oriented. Navarro once told Zubair that she wanted the team to reach the CIF state competition.
“No girl has ever told me that on the team, even the upperclassmen,” said Zubair. “She has that vision, which is amazing to me as a coach.”
Anne Tsai came in 15th place in the Ocean League Championship meet; she has been persistent with training, according Zubair.
“She made the top 7,” said Zubair. “She’s a sixth or seventh runner as a freshmen.”
Zubair believes that overall comprehensive fitness is an important factor for a great runner. The team practiced five days a week; on the week of meets, they practiced four days. The team worked on body resistance conditioning and core conditioning three times a week.
The boys cross-country team are six-time League Championship winners and the girls are four-time League Championship winners, according to the CIF.