SAMOHI — With hopes of improving efficiency and lowering costs, the Santa Monica High School Vikings combined its boys and girls cross-country teams, consolidating their coaching staff to one head coach this season, school officials said.

Tania Fischer is now the head coach of both the boys’ and girls’ long-distance teams. Previously, there had been two cross-country head coaches with Tom Volstedt coaching the girls and Fischer covering the boys.

For the last 13 years, Fischer has been coaching track and cross-country at Samohi and has led the boys’ teams to nine league titles. Because there have traditionally been two coaches for the sport, merging the two teams under one coach is a lot of work, she said, but it does have its benefits.

“The teams motivate each other to run faster and work harder. The girls especially don’t want to be slower than the boys,” said Fischer.

About 60 boys and 40 girls are on the squad this year and consist of six teams: freshman boys, sophomore boys, junior varsity boys, varsity boys, junior varsity girls and varsity girls.

Coach Fischer explained that while most students join a sport so that they can get out of taking PE class, the students who join cross-country are different.

“Running at least three miles a day takes a lot of discipline, and it takes a special kind of student to be able to do this. Most of these kids are very focused. You get a different kind of student with this sport.”

The team captains for this year are seniors Amanda Botfield and Nick Salizar. Both the boys’ and girls’ varsity teams have seven runners.

Three of the top runners on the girls team are freshmen — Tati Bedi, Rachel Kirkhofer, and Brooke Weiss — which is promising for the successes of future Viking cross-country teams.

“Our standards are getting higher,” Fischer said, “and in the next few years, I hope their times are even faster than our best varsity runners now.”

Notable runners on the boys’ team include juniors Andrew Capron, Arash Assar and Logan Weinberg.

The cross-country season began in September and the Vikings have competed in four meets so far this year. Most recently, the team ran in the 29th annual Central Park Invite in Huntington Beach on Oct. 4.

Most of the seniors were absent from the race due to SAT test-taking, said Fischer, but this didn’t stop the freshman teams from giving the race their all. Freshman Arden Lasalle finished sixth out of 234 runners with a time of 17 minutes and 37 seconds and freshman girls, Brooke Weiss and Alice Wasserman, placed in 13th and 16th place respectively out of 289 runners.

Both Fischer and Assistant Coach Barbara Parker agree that merging the two teams under one coach was a smart move.

“Running together in groups helps the students to push each other more,” Fischer said. “Our team is only going to get better the more we practice together.”


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