Local runners are eager for cross country season to begin

| December 2, 2020 | 0 Comments

I wrestled in high school and college. It was no picnic. Cutting weight, the grueling practices, and competing with injuries made it extremely challenging. Distance running kept our cardio up, especially off-season.

In high school, I ran cross country during the fall to help prepare for the wrestling season. Some days we’d run 10-15 miles and finish with wind-sprints. Then, there was Handle Road hill in the Cleveland Metroparks. Ten trips up and down that beast clobbered even the toughest runners. Cross country was a grind, and I was always relieved with the arrival of winter and wrestling season.

The 2020 pandemic has affected all sports. Spring events were cancelled, and practices and competitions for the current school year have been curtailed. The California high school cross country season previously ran from late August to the final week of November.

This year the Los Angeles City Section can begin cross country competition after December 26. The CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) boys’ state meet takes place March 27, so many of the teams from California’s loftier elevations will be competing in brisk winter conditions.

Loyola running

LOYOLA junior Dylan Bissell competing in 2019. Behind Bissell is teammate Julian Guinane.

Loyola High School’s runners have already been practicing. Because of pandemic restrictions, head coach Lalo Diaz can meet with his team in person just three days a week. Before COVID, that number was 11 times per week, which included five mornings, after school Monday-to-Friday, and once on Saturday.

“Our kids are working out the rest of the week on their own,” Diaz said.

Loyola’s runners wear specialized watches that use an app called Strava to track and share their twice-a-day workouts. Diaz can monitor how far and fast each boy runs, which leaves no doubt as to who works hardest.

“Dylan Bissell made an incredible improvement over the past year,” said Diaz of the Loyola junior. “He went from being the 12th man to our top runner.”

On most teams, being the No. 12 man wouldn’t mean much, but consider this: Bissell was just a sophomore last season, and Loyola gets 60-65 boys out for cross country.


Tradition fuels Loyola cross country. Under Diaz, who is in his 34th year as head coach, the school has won six CIF state team titles and 21 consecutive Mission League titles.

Tradition also motivates Dylan Bissell. His older brother Shane ran cross country for Loyola, and Shane was a CIF Division I state champion. Shane ran the fastest time ever at the Riverside course during a CIF finals.

Two seniors — Arjun Vadgama and Zach Zambrano — will challenge Bissell for the top slot on Loyola’s varsity squad, and Diaz believes that’s a positive.

“The competition is good,” he said. “They push each other.”

Loyola’s first meet is the Great Cow Run in Cerritos on Jan. 9. That’s a 5K run, or 3.1 miles of chosen suffering.

I’ll take wrestling any day. Go Loyola Cubs!

By Jim Kalin

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Category: People

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