Grace Lathrop and Austin Vasquez break school records for cross country

Grace Lathrop and Austin Vasquez break school records for cross country

The cross country team cheers on Grace Lathrop as she speeds through the finish line at the Capital Cross Challenge meet on Aug. 30. She has beat her personal best time and the former school record time by one second, setting a new record of 18:32 for the 5K race in the women’s division.

Lathrop on the women’s varsity team, as well as Austin Vasquez on the men’s varsity team, have recently become school record holders for their sport. 

The cross country coach Jerry Dodge, who has coached the team for five years, has encouraged these athletes to achieve their personal bests. 

“For Grace to all of a sudden hit a personal best like she did was massive. She ran the best race of her high school career. I thought she would break 19, but to actually break the record of 18:33, that was a pretty big surprise,” Dodge said.

Although she has just broken this record for the first time, Lathrop has been running for nearly seven years.

“I’ve been [running cross country] since third grade and I absolutely love it. First, I was good at it since the beginning, and I’m super competitive. So, I always wanted to encourage myself to do it, and it’s just a fun sport. It’s a unique one too because not everybody does it,” Lathrop said. 

Vasquez has an extensive background in running as well, and has already beaten two school records this season for the 4K and 5K. He has been training hard and preparing in order to beat these records.

“For the 4K I got 12:10 and for the 5K I got 15:17. It felt really good going that fast. I wasn’t really thinking about the record, it was about improving myself for that time. I’ve always been good at [running cross country] since freshman year and middle school,” Vasquez said.

Both teams did well at the Capital Cross Challenge meet. This was the meet that Lathrop and Vasquez broke the previous records. 

“Austin has been training on pace to break that record, and we kind of knew he would break the record at Capital Cross. The record was 15:37 and we figured he could break 15:30, but to go 15:17 was a big surprise; he really flew,” Dodge said.

Although Lathrop broke the 5K record individually, she is still close with her teammates.

“Every year we have a Donner camp, so it’s when all the cross country kids come over the summer and go to Donner [Lake] and just do a week of running. So one of my favorite memories is from Donner, and also last week when I got to see my coach and all of my friends at the finish line cheering me on,” Lathrop said.

The team has been working throughout the season, and Vasquez is sure that they will have a chance to make it to state, and furthermore, improve from previous years.

“We’re doing really well. I think we’re definitely going to be placing top five in state this year for D2. Last year we didn’t do too good, I mean we did good for top 10 but we were hoping to do better, so this year we think we’re going to do really well,” Vasquez said.

Even after this great accomplishment, Lathrop is not going to be giving up her position at the top. She’s already setting new goals to push herself and to reach her full potential.

“[I want] to keep breaking school records, having fun with my friends, getting better overall, and hopefully making it to state,” Lathrop said.

Although these two have already worked hard to beat their goals, they have other goals that they want to accomplish. As the state meet approaches, they have to continue to be prepared and perform their best. 

“We just up our mileage and do harder workouts just to get us closer to where we want to be,” Lathrop said.

Not only have Lathrop and Vasquez been preparing for state, but so has Dodge.

“Ultimately, our goal is for our top runners to lead our teams to the section finals and to state. It is a long process, that we started in June and we use track season to train. It is a months and years long process, and so it’s not so much getting ready for state, it’s all of the work we’ve done to get to this point. Most of the work here has been done, we’re just maintaining it at this point, and it comes down to being fresh psychologically and physically for those big meets in November,” Dodge said.

As for the rest of the season, Vasquez and Lathrop will continue to set personal goals for themselves, as well as for their team. Although the individual accomplishments are important, they are also leaders on their teams.

Dodge said, “Grace and Austin stood out and they deserve those accolades, but really what we have is the two fastest teams in [Whitney] history. Obviously Austin and Grace are a big reason why, because they run fast, but our team time and our team score. There’s never been a Whitney team, either on the boys varsity side or the girls varsity side that has done what they’re doing this year. So that’s why I would like to emphasize the team, even though individual achievement is a big part of it.”