On Friday, September 11, 2015, 38 out of about 95 athletes from the Villa Park Cross Country team left at eight in the morning to go to San Francisco for the Lowell Invitational Race the next day. The weather was cloudy and it was generally around 60°F the whole weekend. There were four coaches and seven parent chaperones. Villa Park’s four cross country coaches, including Coach Cale, Coach Phil, Coach Courtney, and Coach KT, made sure all the athletes were excited for the race. It was an eight hour drive from Villa Park to Embassy Suites in San Francisco. The racers, coaches, and chaperones took an air conditioned charter bus with five television sets, a bathroom for emergencies, music stereo, and outlets. On the way there, the athletes watched movies and sang karaoke. Coach Cale created a better, more interesting way to take role. He said the most important race this weekend would be counting off numbers. He assigned everyone a number, one through thirty-eight, and they had to count off (in order) as fast as they could. At the end of the weekend, their fastest time was 16.9 seconds.
After the eight hour bus ride, they arrived at the hotel and split up into many groups. The boys and girls were separated, boys on the fourth floor and girls on the fifth. Once they got their rooms and key cards, they dressed into their running clothes and met in front of the hotel for an evening run. Everyone but a few varsity kids ran about three miles. Varsity, if they wanted to, they could run a longer run which was around four miles. Once everyone returned from their run and finished stretching, they went to their rooms and took quick showers. Competitors dressed for a fancy dinner buffet in a reserved area of the hotel. The food that night was salad, chicken, fruit, pasta, meatballs, cookies, and cake. Once everyone was finished eating, the coaches informed the team what was going to happen over the course of the next two days.
The hotel the athletes stayed in had a pool, gift shop, cafe, reservation spots, 10 floors, four public elevators, and a big koi pond. Lights out for the runners was at ten o’clock the first day. At 10, the adults came around to each hotel room to make sure everyone was in their rooms then they taped up the door so they would know if anyone left in the night. If you broke the tape, severe consequences were to follow. No one ended up breaking the tape.
On Saturday morning, breakfast was served at seven o’clock. After breakfast, the team went to the bus and headed off to the meet. The team captain, Matt Stein, went around in the bus and gave the runners goals to strive for and some inspirational quotes to follow for the race. One of them included, “Everyone falls down. How are you going to pick yourself up?” When the team arrived at the race in Golden Gate Park, they found a good spot to set up the tent and the athletes walked the 2.9 mile course to get familiar where they were going to run later on. When they returned, the races started to begin. In order of grade, freshman started first, then sophomores and the JV races. Last but certainly not least, the varsity races finished off. There was a race every thirty minutes ending around two thirty. The boy’s JV race was split up into two separate races because there were too many racers. While the team was waiting for the races, Coach Cale taught the athletes an Ethiopian War Chant to give some encouragement. There were around forty teams from different schools that showed up to the meet. The race was hosted by Lowell High School in San Francisco.
The course was nice course, containing a mix of flat and hilly terrains. It was very pretty except for the many potholes in some of the grassy parts. Our Spartans did outstandingly well. JV boys placed second, JV girls fifth, varsity girls third and varsity boys fifth. Chris Bouy placed first out of the entire first set of JV boys, beating around 150 people in his race.
After all the races were completed, the bus drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and mostly everyone took pictures. The team went to Fisherman’s Wharf, a pier for tourists, to shop and eat. They arrived around five o’clock and split up into multiple groups once again. Anyone could be in any group they want as long as they had a chaperone accompanying them. Most groups went to the Boudin factory and restaurant, and for dessert afterward went to the Ghirardelli Factory for ice cream. There were many street performers and artists located around the pier to watch. The team had to meet back at the bus at eight o’clock to go back to the hotel. At the hotel, th exhasted racers hung around until lights out at eleven o’clock. Most of the team played multiple games like sardines, card games, spoons, and the disgusting jelly bean challenge. No one broke the tape.
On the morning of their departure, the team packed and had breakfast at seven o’clock. After breakfast, they boarded the bus and headed home. Movies and karaoke once again entertained them. At one of the stops, however, some people bought toy dart blasters from Walmart and shot people for fun on the bus. When the team arrived at VP, they unloaded and said their goodbyes and thank yous to their fellow athletes, the coaches, the chaperones, and the bus driver. The team had a wonderful time in San Francisco and definitely want to come back next year.