A GOOD DAY TO BE JOHN, A GOOD DAY TO BE KING
OCEANSIDE: “It was a good day to be named John” said King cross country coach Jim Griesinger after the meet was over.
He was speaking to the assembled King cross country team as he praised three of their own: Johnny Weaver, John Gathuu and John Wangari.
The three harriers had exceptional races and headlined what was a good meet for a school named after Martin Luther King.
The meet was the So Cal Invitational, hosted by El Camino High school. On a true cross country course of trails and hills over 5K, the meet was a low-key affair of mainly San Diego Section school but it afforded King the opportunity to rest out some normal varsity runners and open up opportunities for younger kids to race at a different level. They took advantage of it.
John Gathuu, was put into his first varsity race of his career and he excelled. The precocious freshman scampered through the rolling layout in the Varsity #6-#7 race and went on to win it outright in what would be King’s 5th best time of the day. John Wangari, Gathuu’s cousin and also a freshman, led the frosh-soph race almost from the start and also went on to win the race. The two earned some Asics swag for their effort. Johnny Weaver, an 11th grader, had perhaps his best race of his career, nearly matching his PR for 5K, which was set on a flat course two weeks ago. A patient approach had him chasing the leader in the first mile, only to emerge in the lead of the JV race with a mile to go. He held on for a fun second place finish.
Bohdin Rush and Julian Morgan also got their first taste of varsity race experience and held their own with strength and poise. Austin Fortenberry had his best race of the season while Francisco Zavaleta raced well again, placing 7th fastest of all runners on the day.
It was a sister act in the varsity 6-7 race, as Emily and Ashlyn Richmond toed the line on varsity for the first time and (fun!) did it in a two-woman team race. Side by side the siblings ran for the first two before Emily edged away from her little sister over the last mile.
The freshmen boys have won every invitational they’ve contested this year, and they can add another to that pile, along as an asterisk goes next to it. They won the freshmen races at the Cow Run, Mt. Carmel and the Desert Twilight in Arizona and, in a sense, they “won” again on Saturday at So Cal.
The asterisk comes in that the race was billed a “novice” race, primarily run by 9th graders. However older “novices” were allowed in the field but of the 127 finishers, fewer than 10 were outside the class of 2023. Wangari led the way for the Wolves, followed by Damien Zemanek who had a really fine race, then Jack Slavin with Scotty Biddle finishing as King’s 4th scorer. The anchor of the team was David Bedoya who is (gasp!) a sophomore, BUT … he is a rookie … so does that count?
We’re going to say yes. The freshmen are still undefeated!*
Joanie Green who is quietly putting together a really fine senior year. She set the pace for the Wolves in the Varsity 1-3 race along with Jocelynn Stevenson and Camille Bradford. Jenna Bernath also put down a solid race in the varsity 4-5 race but it was the return of junior Victoria Gonzalez that was a pleasant surprise as she’s missed much of the season with injury. Fellow junior, Shelby Grossi had her best race of the season.
Not everyone can be named John, and not everyone can win or place high in a race like the John, John, and John did on Saturday. But even for those with different names, all had the same name on the front of their jersey and at the end of the day, that name did pretty good too.