By Matthew Snyder
The Lowell High School boys and girls cross country teams continued their extended runs of dominance in the Academic Athletic Association on Wednesday afternoon at Golden Gate Park’s Polo Fields, winning both varsity team championships by a healthy margin.
Lowell’s boys and girls varsity teams have each won nine of the past 10 AAA titles, with only Lincoln managing to break the streak. The Mustangs won the boys title in 2003 and the girls championship in 2009.
The Lowell girls team score of 18 on Wednesday – the Cardinals’ top five finished first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth – was the program’s lowest total since 2003, when they finished with 15.
The Cardinals would not be denied a slice of history as well. Lowell freshman phenom Kristen Leung etched her name in AAA lore by becoming just the second freshman ever to win the girls varsity race.
“It’s a big honor to win,” Leung said. “I’ve never really ran cross country before and my skill has just really surprised me, and I’m just really thankful to have all this.”
Leung, who had no formal running experience before this year, led from the start and finished the 3.1-mile course in a time of 21 minutes, 53 seconds.
“She was a big surprise for us this year,” said Lowell head coach Mike Prutz. “All of a sudden she started beating all of our seniors, and I was like, ‘Who is this?’”
Senior Max Niehaus paced Lowell in the boys race. Niehaus led for the first half of the race and finished in fourth place (18:09). Lowell runners then finished fifth through 10th, earning a team score of 30 — 25 points ahead of Mission, which finished with a team score of 55.
Preutz attributed the program’s decade-long run of dominance to sheer manpower.
“There’s always going to be some great runner if you have enough kids coming out for the team and this year we had 96 kids come out for the team,” Prutz said. “It’s all about numbers.”
Three of Lowell’s top seven boys finishers were also seniors, including two of their top three.
“They’ve been training as a team for awhile,” Prutz said. “We normally have a big mix [of other years], but this year we have a good group of seniors, so they’ve really gelled.”
Mission senior Jeremie Showa, the top returning finisher from last year’s race, earned the individual boys title with a time of 17:36.
A budding triathlete, Showa credited his off-season training, which featured an emphasis on hill workouts around the Mission campus, with helping improve his strength as a runner.
“I’ve never really had a kick, but I had one this year,” Showa said. “I was always a pace person and for three years I practiced my speed work.”
Mission head coach Hossien Koch said that Showa is extremely self-motivated and has boosted his in-season mileage by going on long weekend runs. On Friday, Showa decided to run 12 miles on his own.
Showa is one of three individual runners from the boys varsity event (Lincoln senior Daniel Gray and Mission sophomore Abdulaziz Mohamed, who finished second and third respectively, are the others) to qualify for the CIF State meet in Fresno on Nov. 24. Individuals must finish in the top 10 to qualify, while all the members of the winning teams qualify.
Washington junior Amy Luong (third) and Lincoln junior Laura Richardson (ninth) qualified from the girls race.