The Santa Monica High girls cross-country team doesn’t have an easily discernable standout runner. And that’s fine by coach Tania Fischer.

That’s because this year the Vikings are hoping to beat out their competition by running as a pack.

“What’s so nice about this top five is that they run very close together,” Fischer said. “These girls are all together. I’m very confident that they’re going to do well. That’s how you win cross-country races.”

A group-focused approach will be crucial for Samohi as the team vies for a fourth-consecutive Ocean League championship and success beyond the regular season.

The Vikings’ campaign begins Sept. 5 with the Cool Breeze Invitational at El Prado Golf Course in Chino, and their conference opener is scheduled for Sept. 24 at Cheviot Hills Recreation Center in Los Angeles. Also among the highlights of the Vikings’ upcoming season is a trip to Oregon for the Nike Portland XC Invite, which will be held Sept. 26 and feature hundreds of runners from multiple states.

Those races will all serve as tune-ups for the league finals Nov. 5 at Hahn Park in the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles.

Fischer said she’s looking forward to coaching a cohesive group that is aiming to extend Samohi’s recent string of conference glory.

“I’ve always had one girl who was 30 or 40 seconds ahead,” she said. “This year, I have girls within five or 10 seconds, and they run as a pack. They’re excited that they have teammates who can keep up with them.”

Among the most experienced runners in the group is senior Kasia Krzyzanowski, who has been in the program since she started high school.

As a freshman in 2012, Krzyzanowski took fifth place in the standings as Samohi edged Beverly Hills by one point in the league finals. In her sophomore season, she led a 1-2-3 finish as the Vikings repeated as conference champions with an easy win over Culver City. And as a junior last year, she was one of five Samohi runners in the top 12 as the team outpaced El Segundo.

Other key members of the squad include senior Geneva Carter, juniors Zoe Tucker and Janaya Bruce and sophomore Anya Sturm. Carter, Tucker and Sturm all finished in the top 20 at last year’s league finals, while Bruce was sixth in the junior varsity race.

Fischer said the “team to look out for” is El Segundo, which cruised past Beverly Hills, Culver City, Lawndale and Hawthorne to place second at last year’s Ocean League championships.

But the Vikings’ quest for a berth to the CIF Southern Section finals could ultimately hinge on whether they’re able to stick to their collective strategy.

“They feel more confident when everyone’s running the same,” Fischer said. “It’s more of a group mentality. That’s what I’ve been trying to promote: ‘We can work together. All you girls are going to be together, and that’s how we’re going to win.’ It’s a different focus.”


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