Two more reflections today with 2 of the best runners in Division IV, Sammy Hamilton of Half Moon Bay and Dan Maxwell of St. Mary's Berkeley. Sammy finished 2nd in race #39 with a time of 18:27 (time was in the top 10 of Northern CA runners). Dan won race #26 with a time of 16:15 as his St. Mary's Berkeley teammates shared in his victory by claiming the first place team title as well.
1) Was this your first experience at Mt. SAC? If not, how many years have you attended the meet?
Sammy: This was my third year racing at Mt. Sac.; my fourth experience will be racing at Footlocker this December.
Dan: Yes, this was my first experience at Mt. SAC.
2) Transportation to the meet, drive or fly?
Sammy: Our annual trips have been completed by plane; however, it is possible that we might take a road trip next year.
Dan: We flew. The one hour flight was much more attractive than the seven hour drive!
3) Best part of the Mt. SAC Invitational?
Sammy: The best part of the Mt. Sac Invitational is the meet in its entirety. It is one thing to be racing in the advertised "largest cross-country meet in the world", but challenging yourself against the conditions of the meet- namely the heat and the hills- comes as a great experience every year. The atmosphere is very lively and has a certain energy because of its prestige.
Dan: The moment when my team stood on the podium, all wearing medals around our neck.
4) What is the toughest part of the course?
Sammy: In my opinion, the toughest part of the course is the back section following "Poop Out", just over the two mile mark. It is the most secluded part of the course in which if one is not careful, one can lose focus and "fall asleep", so to speak.
Dan: Ironically, I think the start was among the toughest parts of the course. Even though there were absolutely no hills in the beginning, there were over 200 runners squeezed on a 50 ft. starting line. Any wrong move within the first 100 yards could result in a fall with possible injuries. On top of that, the start was on merciless asphalt pavement. It was very important to stay alert and somewhat aggressive.
5) Describe the course for runners who have never run on it.
Sammy: I see Mt. Sac as an "ideal" cross-country course. It is complete with flat sections on dirt, switchbacks, rolling hills, steep hills, and gradual inclines. The camaraderie is very important. Many races are going on at once, and they are often displayed on a big-screen in the warm-up section. The course is lined with many people, and spectators are also able to see the outlines or runners advancing up the hill, which is very neat.
Dan: The course simply consists of three loops. The first loop, which you run twice, is completely flat. The second loop consists of steep switchbacks, reaching the highest hill of the course. The course then continues on to the third loop, which starts with the short, but steep, "Poop-Out Hill". There is one more hill with a gradual climb called the "Reservoir Hill". Once your at the top of this hill, there are only 800m to go until the finish line.
6) What was your strategy before the race?
Sammy: My strategy was to establish a position up front early on in the race, and run to win. Although I finished second, it was an overall improvement from last year's third and a PR.
Dan: When there are hills, my strategy is to save nothing for the last. It is too big of a risk to hold back in the beginning, in anticipation of catching up in the end.
7) How will competing at Mt. SAC help you with your future cross country races this season?
Sammy: Competing at Mt. Sac is a good precursor for the upcoming meets because the competition level in the varsity sweepstakes race is pretty high; in addition, Mt. Sac never fails to remind athletes to hydrate throughout the day....
Dan: Mt. SAC was a preview of the competition that I, along with my team, will be facing at the state meet. It was an opportunity to compare results between different teams and individuals, this late into the season.
8) Did you get to do any fun activities while down there?
Sammy: I personally enjoy the Mt. Sac Invitational because it serves as a great team bonding experience. We spend three days as team doing virtually everything together. Every year we follow up a the meet by staying at a hotel and going to Disneyland, which is sometimes more of challenge than the meet itself..
Dan: Other than playing ping-pong in our hotel room for hours, we took a campus tour of the Claremont Colleges.
Thank you both. Best of luck with the rest of your seasons.