The lurching bus carrying Walnut High School's cross country team made a sharp bump over a hill awakening a dozing athlete who groaned, "we're here already?" The road then forked into two and a cheery blue surfboard pointed to the left road bearing the words: "Raging Waters". The path Walnut's bus took had no sign being better left unmentioned. However, in the minds of every cross country runner, each knew he would be running up the grueling three mile Boneli Park course in the scorching 96 degree temperature in the course of three hours.
Walnut High School cross country ran their first of the three San Antonio League (SAL) meets against South Hills, West Covina, Rowland, and Nogales High School amid a team ridden with sickness, new faces, and unpreparedness.
"They pretty much killed us," head coach Jim Polite said.
Walnut began their first Boneli Park SAL meet with a handful of runners who newly joined the team and had not practiced during summer camp in the freshman/sophomore division. Many of these athletes were unprepared for the unforgiving Bonelli course which is generally a loop around the park with two large hills—one of which runners have to run up twice.
"Right after the hill most people want to give up," said Walnut Junior Varsity (JV) runner Martin Lee. " You got to have some mental strength."
That is what Walnut lacked most—the "mental strength". Maybe it was the mocking lake lying besides the dirt stretch up to the first hill, or the omnipresent sun berating athletes as they ran that slowed runners down.
However after the meet, coach Polite talked about how missing out on practices and lack of effort would show up on runner's times.
"We were victims of our own practice," said Polite.
The Boneli Park course starts off with a grass stretch followed by a dirt path which bends around the edge of a lake to lead up to the first hill. Runners then go up another dirt hill on which many exhausted athletes walked over. Due to the hot weather, runners had to conserve their energy to make the climb up the hills.
"[I would have done better] if I had not hesitated saving energy for the hills," said Lee. "[Up the hill] I was like stop kicking sand in my eye, what happened to fair play?"
After the dirt trail, runners ran around an inclined asphalt path around the perimeter of the park to run up the second hill another time.
Although taking advantage of the stability of the asphalt loop was crucial in passing others, many Walnut runners were not able to step it up.
The first race began with the freshman/sophomore (Frosh/Soph) division at 4 p.m. followed by boys junior varsity (JV), girls junior varsity, girls varsity, and boys varsity.
The highest scoring division for Walnut was boys varsity which came in second with Jason Chavez and Ryan Yoshioka taking fourth and fifth place respectively. The freshman/sophomore division came in third with Issac Moreno and Lanny Khau coming in third and fourth respectively. Varsity Girls came in fourth with Megan Leu (sick at the time) in sixth place with a time of 20:43. Boys JV and Girls JV also came in fourth; the first Walnut runners were Yumi Terada and Bryant Chow both of whom got eleventh place in their races.
"I was a little disappointed in the lower divisions," said coach Polite.
"We didn't compete."
Coach Polite and assistant coach Keith Thompson later enforced a "motivation" rule making each runner do six minutes of continuous activity (push-ups, running in place) if he or she does not show up to practice.