Cambrian: Sports

Coast Union cross country standouts on track for a successful run

Jez Lawson had what by any measure was a very eventful and successful freshman year at Coast Union in 2013: He was named “Defensive Player of the Year” on the varsity basketball team and given the MVP award on the cross country team.

Sophomore Gigi Stoothoff also had a fruitful freshman year, competing well on the cross country team and simultaneously playing on the varsity volleyball team.

Both runners sat down Friday, along with cross country coaches Ayen Johnston and Jim Hurley, to talk about training and other aspects of this sport in which very few students participate.

Asked how much running he is doing in the summer, Lawson said he only goes out maybe once a week, but he also plays a lot of basketball and surfs often, so he has stayed in shape and believes he is ready for the fall competition.

But a distance runner doesn’t train during the offseason can struggle to get back into the groove, Lawson explained. “You can feel it in your lungs; it’s like you’re being held back, and you get tired really fast if you haven’t trained.”

Lawson said when winter basketball season arrives, it is “really nice” to have the “extra endurance” he gains from cross country.

Stoothoff has been running up hills on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve three or four days a week this summer, which will serve her well for her dual role as cross country and varsity volleyball participant this fall.

It is rare that a student athlete will go out for two sports simultaneously, but the cross country coaches fully approve, and the volleyball coach, Pam Kenyon, welcomes Stoothoff’s ambitious agenda.

“We are very proud to have such a great runner at Coast,” Kenyon said in a text message. Last season, Stoothoff’s presence on the cross country team created “no conflict with the volleyball program” and “we expect to have Gigi be successful in both sports.”

As to summer training issues, Coach Hurley said running “eight to 10” miles at any speed is great training, but when cross country season arrives, “you may only run five to six miles, but the intensity (speed) goes up.”

Speaking of intensity, Lawson considers himself “a very competitive person,” and his goals for this fall are to achieve All-County status (as he did last year), and to “qualify for CIF playoffs.”

Stoothoff is striving to improve in both volleyball and in cross country. In particular, she would like to do better at the Morro Bay Cross Country Invitational (set for Sept. 13) than she did last year, when she came in 11th — a strong finish considering she was competing against upwards of 150 girls from across California.

The first race for Coast Union’s cross country team will be early on the morning before the Pinedorado parade, Saturday, Aug. 30.