Santa Cruz XC Challenge August 19, 2023

What a difference a year makes. As the SPARTANS continue to age toward that final “Your Finished Line,” injuries continue to sap the remaining remnants of the SPARTAN senior harriers:
Sal is out with a possible season-ending IT band injury;
Leroy is out with ongoing back issues;
Art continues to struggle with debilitating hip pain;
Kurt can’t shake a hamstring injury that morphed into sciatica;
Lino’s 81-year-old legs demand a rest;
Albert continues to hobble his way back from a lengthy foot ailment;
Brian may possibly only run Golden Gate as the wear-and-tear of last year’s XC circuit             was just too punishing;
Steve, hopefully, may gently be back for a few runs after a long injury layoff;
Pat’s status as this goes to print is still “uncertain.”
However, we still have a healthy and strong-running pair with Nick and Don, and we’re still able to coax enough of the walking-wounded to field a team. So off to Santa Cruz for the 22nd Annual SCTC Cross County Challenge the SPARTANS went.

The Santa Cruz XC Challenge is the traditional opening to the PA/USATF XC season–– and it is not a gentle opening. Even getting to the starting line is a challenge as it requires an uphill, half-mile trek from the parking lot to the small meadow where the race will end (which is about 200m from where the race will begin). The race itself is a 4.15 mile, roly-poly, two-loop romp through the redwood trees above the UCSC campus. There are two significant hills––the first coming at the start!––which, of course, must be climbed twice on the two-looper run. The harriers are further challenged by rocky, root mined sections all along the meandering fire trail. But we were blessed with the ocean-kissed air of a cool, grey Santa Cruz morning, and, of course, once again reuniting with competing harriers, such as Bill Brusher, Julius Ratti, and former SPARTANS Norm Cornwell and Jeff Hongo. In addition, SPARTAN Sal Martinez, though unable to run, surprised us by going to his home course to cheer on, and prop up, his fellow SPARTANS.

Once again, Nick led the SPARTAN pack (string?) gliding through the course with impressive ease, even though he made a quick pit stop by running to our encampment to quench his thirst before beginning the second loop (so SPARTANesque). Kurt faded in the second loop, but like Art and Albert, persevered to the end. After checking to assure that each still had a pulse, the SPARTANS limped back to the distant parking lot to lick wounds and tell tales. Perhaps not a great run, but definitely a great day….


The SPARTANS watched in awe as Gillian Meeks crushed the competition in the women’s race with a blistering 25:23. Gillian runs for what I think may be a new team on the circuit (?): SRA Elite (Sacramento Running Association). The club must be small as they only brought seven harriers: two women who placed 1 and 3, and five men in the Open Division who gave the Hoka Aggies some good competition. The Hoka Aggies won the Open, placing 1 (Sean Davidson 21:47), 2, 10, 11, 12; SRA Elite was second placing 3, 4,12, 22, 29. Who are those guys? But perhaps the most impressive display of dominance was by the West Valley Track Club, led by David Cisewski (22:47), WVTC took the top 10 spots in the Men’s Masters!

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