San Pedro and POLA Prep Girls Cross-Country Preview: Running For More Glory
San Pedro High School girls cross-country teammates: (clockwise from top left) Bronwyn Bunnell, Violet Tipich, Dana Cameron. Isabel Hegge. Danielle Nunez (photo: Jamaal K. Street)
When people talk about high school sports, everyone likes pointing towards football, basketball, baseball and softball, and in many cases, volleyball and soccer as well. Cross-country is normally the last sport many want to talk about, but not in this city full of dedicated, fearless and devoted runners, especially in the realm of girls cross-country.
San Pedro High girls cross-country graced the cover of the January 2013 issue of San Pedro Today after they claimed their ninth CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division I title, and second straight in succession, but what many may not realize is that nearby, the Port of Los Angeles High girls cross-country team won their first CIF-LACS Division III title, and now they come in to the 2014 season as the defending two-time champions. Both are expected to make long runs at another title.
San Pedro’s quartet of seniors Danielle Nunez, Dana Cameron, Isabel Hegge and Violet Tipich, along with junior Bronwyn Bunnell, all have high hopes as they go after championship No.10.
“Right now we are hoping to get another City title and that would be the icing on a fantastic four seasons,” Nunez says. “It’s bittersweet knowing this will be our last season together so it just fuels the fire even more to make it our best.”
Nunez, Cameron, Hegge, Tipich and Bunnell have all been a part of those previous two championships and all share a common bond with POLA’s team: the often treacherous terrain of running every meet at the Peck Park Canyon Trails, especially at one particular part of the trail.
“The Triple Hill, the infamously grueling part of our course,” Cameron says. “I believe it helps us prepare for hills at City though (at Pierce College in Woodland Hills), because if you can run Triple, you can make it through pretty much anything.”
Tipich didn’t think too long to remember her most favorite race with her fellow ‘Fab 5’ members. “My most memorable race would be the 2012 City finals my sophomore year when we beat our rivals (Palisades),” she recalls.
Bruce Thomson, the San Pedro boys/girls cross-country coach has established a dynasty since 1999, as the girls team has won nine City titles, and the boys team, who won City last season, has claimed six City crowns. The girls were third in City last year, but Bunnell fractured her ankle warming up at City Prelims, which left the Pirates shorthanded. Nunez and Cameron were both first team All-City and Tipich was 2nd team. The Pirates are currently ranked second in City behind defending champs Palisades.
“I am very proud to be a part of this amazing team,” Hegge says. “They are my family and I couldn’t imagine high school without them. I love being able to represent San Pedro every time I run and I know we’ve made our hometown proud with the successes we have had in the past.”
As for POLA, they make the move up from Division III to Division II this season, and have lost most of their experience from each of their two City titles, and previous coach Maria Pettyjohn, leaving assistant coach Nicole Gant to take over the reigns as coach.
“This year, we’re a little bit smaller from the last couple of seasons,” Gant says of the 2014 team. “But this group is way more dedicated. Every time we run and I find them, they definitely get quicker and quicker.”
However, the Polar Bears do return Natalie Rivas, Daisy Torres and Gabby Paras, who have four City titles between them. Torres is the lone returning member of both of POLA’s titles, while Rivas and Paras won their first crown in 2013.
“We do have a shot this year,” Torres says on POLA’s possibility of winning a third straight title. “We may have limited runners but we are all committed in our practices leading up to this season.”
“It’s been an honor to be a part of this,” Rivas says of the recent success of POLA sports as of late, with the baseball team recently winning their first CIF-LACS Division III title in June, along with the softball team’s three titles in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
POLA competes in the Crosstown League and have been the true standard-bearer that Paras and the rest of the team plans to continue.
“Our legacies of these past two seasons have been really strong,” Paras says. “We’ve had two amazing teams with amazing runners, and we all put our best efforts out at Peck Park as we run and on to CIF. We plan on continuing our legacy.”
Not to be left out is Mary Star, as their girls cross-country team features two-sport athletes Anna Stefanou (soccer) and Lexie Geich (softball). Stefanou is the top runner of the Stars as she has won the majority of her races thus far this season.