Submitted by Donald Qualls
On 11-19-11, in Walnut Ca., the 2011 CIF- Ford Southern Section Cross Country Finals were held. This race included all of Southern California’s best High School runners, and would determine who would represent Southern California and their respective schools, in the State Finals to be held on 11-26-11 in Clovis Ca. The Southern Section is considered one of the toughest Sections in the Nation to move on, as this section of the State, routinely and consistently produces a good portion, of the Nations fastest high school runners.
Enter Mammoth High School. With out enough runners for a boys team, and hardly enough for a girls team, the eight member squad traveled to the most competitive large cross country invitationals they could find. From their worst member, to their first member, they were a team and persevered and amazingly won together. During the CIF process, the girls numbers fell below five, and the teams season looked as if it might be cut short. The CIF process is made very hard for individuals to move on. Individuals must finish at the top of all races to continue on. But very hard was just another obstacle for this tiny team with a huge heart.
Two members of the eight person team survived the CIF process as individuals and made it to the CIF finals. Freshman Jody Meads and Junior Toby Qualls. On 11-19-11 when the gun sounded, what was to follow, was absolutely unbelievable and for Mammoth, may never happen again.
Jody Meads was the first to run. Standing barely five feet a couple inches, and maybe ninety something pounds, she stood alone in a sea of 120 runners. To get this far had been a miracle. Only two months earlier, on Sept. 9th, she had entered her first high school race ever for Mammoth in Zephyr Cove, Nv. She was entered in the Frosh-Soph JV race and finished 5th out of 31 runners! Now only 9 weeks later, she represented the fastest Div 5 Varsity Southern Section girls left in the State, and had to finish near the top of these girls, one more time, to be one of about 125 girls, to be invited to State Finals.
Meads refused to be eliminated. As her family, coaches, and team mate Qualls watched, she raced out to the front of the pack. Meads finished 7th over all, with a outstanding time of 18:59, on the Mt Sac Course. (Meads and Qualls both had to finish top 20, and top five individual to move on as individual runners). No girls ran faster than 18:04. Meads not only moved on, she medaled as she finished in the top ten runners! Should Meads run this fast again, she has an excellent chance to medal at the State Championships and be ranked in the top twelve girls of the State, Div. 5. Unbelievable. On top of that, Meads beat League Champion, Senior Emily Kennedy by a minute and seven seconds. Kennedy is ranked top twelve state by dye stat, and Meads has never previously beaten her.
Mammoth Junior Toby Qualls ran minutes after the finish of Meads race. For 2011, the boys Div 5 section is the strongest and fastest the State has ever produced. Qualls who is currently ranked by ESPN DYE STAT as the number 5 runner in Div 5 boys, State of California, and was the number one finisher in the previous CIF pre lim races, made it look easy. He cruised to a third place finish, in a great time of 15:27, on the Mt. Sac Course. Qualls also medaled, and is now preparing for the State Finals. Qualls is trying to save something for the State Finals and up coming Foot Locker Nationals. And now, with luck, he will have some company for the first time, as his team mate, Jody Meads, joins him on a date with the State.
How could two State Final Runners, come off one tiny team? It takes at least three things to make a great runner. Genetics, coaches, and the will of the athlete to train, all play a huge role. Mammoth can thank it’s coaches Scott Luke and assistant coach Rob Friedl for their time and effort in this team. They should also thank Professional coach, Andrew Kastor, who has volunteered his time and knowledge to the athletes. And a great big thanks to the individuals who donate their time and money, necessary in todays economy, to help the athletic departments work.
Head coach Scott Luke stated, “Witnessing Jody’s season evolve has been an incredible experience. Seeing her level of commitment and focus, helping her learn how to train and watching her figure out how to race has been incredibly motivating for Andrew, Rob, and I”. “She is definitely getting stronger and smarter each week and has set personal bests the last four races”. “What a wonderful season”. “As far as Toby is concerned, he is one of the smartest runners in the state. His whole life centers around academics and running and it shows. Toby trains like a professional, is 100% focused, and incredibly disciplined in both the classroom and his training and racing”. “I believe Toby’s best race is still ahead of him this season. I think Toby was actually a little off at CIF Finals, he just didn’t seem to be clicking like normal and yet still finished 3rd overall. He is ranked 5th in the State, but it would not surprise me one bit to see Toby dominate the field and win the State Championship this week”.
“Regardless of Saturdays outcome at the state meet, both of these Huskies have had tremendous seasons and have represented their school and community in tremendous fashion”.