Drake Nienow ‘19 and Rebecca Schultz ‘20 broke the boys and girls WHS cross country record at the Woodbridge Invitational on Sat., Sep. 15. Nienow broke Mikey Giguere’s ‘13 record of 15:01 by nine seconds, while Schultz broke Jeannine Rothman’s ‘90 record of 17:15 by one second.
“It definitely made me very happy,” said Nienow, who is also one of the team captains. “I feel very accomplished. I never thought I’d get to breaking the record; it just kind of happened as the race went along.”
Both athletes have had very steady progress this season and credit their success to their teammates and coaches.
“I think my training this season has been really consistent,” said Schultz. “I feel like my coaches and teammates have been really supportive, which has been really helpful. I’m more relaxed going into each race.”
Head coach Chad Scott and fellow athletes have also noticed Shultz’s and Nienow’s consistency and are proud of their achievements during the recent invitational. Their hard work includes coming to practices every day, waking up early and staying motivated to do well.
“[Schultz has] been working really hard over the summer,” said Ashley Gonzalez ‘20. “Every week she’s been PR-ing, and last week, when she broke the record, it was a shocker, because she [dropped] 40 seconds from one week to another … I’m really glad that she broke it … I’m so proud of her.”
Scott notes their feats are due to the dedication they have to this sport.
“It’s incredible,” said Scott. “It’s a testament to their extremely hard work, the effort that they give each day in practice and it’s incredibly rewarding for them to see the success of all of that hard work.”
Nienow’s teammates also look up to him as a mentor and an inspiration for their running.
“He’s a leader in my life, like several of the other older kids,” said Owen Kobett ‘21. “He helps to guide the younger kids along, and he’s helped build the varsity team that we have now. He is one of the reasons why we’re this good right now.”
However, like any true athlete, Nienow finds ways to improve himself as a runner.
“I definitely could have stuck with the leader a little bit longer. But, it was a record-breaking race. It was definitely the hardest I’ve run in a long time and the best I’ve felt in a long time.”
With a strong set of runners behind Schultz, Scott expects the girls to bring the Marmonte League championships back to WHS after placing second last year.
“The girls, right now, after winning the last two league meets, are poised to win their second league championships in three years,” said Scott.
The cross country team is looking to compete CIF State for both girls and boys teams after not being able to qualify for the competition together since 2004.
“We’ve heard the coaches saying that we could possibly stand on the podium for State,” said Gonzalez. “With all us trying to get to State, we’re also trying to break 19 and 18 [minutes], and I hope Rebecca can break 17 [minutes].”
Last year, both teams were able to compete at CIF finals, but now are hoping to improve upon that by qualifying for the State race in Fresno.
“[The girls] finished 12th last year at CIF finals, and I believe they are very much a state contending team. On the boys side, after not making CIF finals for three years, they placed 24th at CIF finals last year and got a taste of what the postseason is really like,” said Scott. “I think the guys are very hungry, and they work extremely well together, and very similar to the girls, I think they can be at the State Championships come November.”
With their record-breaking times happening early in the season, Nienow and Schultz have high prospects of improving upon themselves.
“I believe that both Drake and Rebecca possess an incredible amount of innate ability combined with a strong work ethic,” said Scott. “And given where we are in our training schedule, I believe they can match and better [those times] later on in the year.”