Benefield: SRJC cross country runners 'not going to let this fire beat us'
Santa Rosa Junior College cross country runner Miranda Huntsinger is the Bear Cubs’ resident climate scientist.
It’s Huntsinger, a sophomore who prepped at Maria Carrillo, who teammates turn to for weather predictions, air quality index readings and suggestions on where, and when, to work out. Her services are in high demand these days.
With the Kincade fire still burning and air quality across the North Bay in flux daily, it’s Huntsinger who is called on to scope out the best places and times to get runs in before the Big 8 Cross Country Championship Friday in Modesto.
“Other people were thinking about it, but I guess I’m the one worrying about it,” she said.
“There are a lot of people on our team who do have asthma and respiratory issues,” she said. “We want to make sure that everyone is healthy and fit.”
These have been chaotic days. Classes at SRJC were canceled through the week. A good number of runners were evacuated from their homes. And all of this came down in the days leading up to the postseason.
Huntsinger was evacuated from her Santa Rosa home. She stayed at an unfinished condo in Rohnert Park this week. The Ramirez twins, Jackie and Evelin (and their three dogs), were evacuated from Forestville and have been sleeping at a friend’s house.
“Everyone is all over the map,” Huntsinger said. “A lot of people had to move out, some of the team lives in Windsor, Healdsburg, Sebastopol. We kept each other updated where we were going.”
Although from the outside looking in, cross country seems like a solitary venture, the Bear Cubs insist it is extraordinarily team-centric. Especially when times are tough — like now. No school, no official practice, no real road map leading into their conference championship.
David Wellman, the team’s coach, wasn’t allowed to mandate practice or even really direct their workouts remotely. He’d catch up with what they were doing via text photos of Bear Cubs doing what they could do wherever they would do it.
He also told them to have confidence that their hard work will pay off now — no matter what.
“The basic message is, we have done all the work through the season. At this point the goal is just to stay consistent and not worry. We have had such a solid season of work and all of that will add up,” he said. “As long as we are active this week in any way, whether that is in a pool or bike or treadmill, we have to be able to rely on that the work is already done.”
But when you are sleeping on someone else’s couch, it can be hard to rally.
“To be honest, I didn’t really want to run,” Jackie Ramirez, an El Molino grad, said of the early days of evacuation. “I wasn’t down to run, with lack of sleep …”
That’s where just a couple of teammates ready to run can change the whole tenor of the workout.
“The group that stayed was pretty motivated,” she said. “We know we have to keep pushing and we have keep running. It’s just a matter of finding a good place to run.”