Reason for Running: Athletes Aspire to Personal Goals

cross country 2016“Personal best” is, well, “personal,” and can vary substantially among individuals. For the 2016 Mount Madonna School (MMS) cross country team, the idea of personal best meant setting and working to achieve self-identified training and competition goals.

“I encouraged each athlete to set self-goals right from the start,” explained MMS cross country coach Nick Cabassa. “Then, as the season progressed, one of our main focuses for each person was to beat and improve a previous record. For some the improvement might be to surpass a previous time, while for others, including myself, it might be to run a mile without stopping.”

Cabassa, who also teaches fourth grade and is a competitive tennis player, acknowledged that although he hadn’t done a lot of running in recent years, he was really interested in taking on this coaching opportunity.

cross country 2016“Running is good cross training for my tennis playing, and I am very excited to have the chance to coach our cross country team this year. We have strong student interest in this sport, and needed someone to step up and mentor the team, and maintaining an active cross country program will help grow the sports brand that is Mount Madonna.”

Senior Isaac Harris, who has competed on the Hawks’ squad for two years, said training with his teammates is a “nice respite” following the busy school day.

“I really like running,” Harris said. “It’s a good workout. We don’t go out to win, but to enjoy running together. While I really enjoy the energy and focus of the meets and running as part of a big group, running for me is mostly a personal thing, and I do it for my own benefit.”

Sophomore Noah Kaplan agreed:

cross country 2016“When I run, I can push myself as hard or far as I want to go. At our meets, everyone on the team tries to run and keep up with the lead runners in the beginning, but as the race progresses, it’s okay to settle in and run strong at a pace and intensity that is manageable for you. I really like this balance – some athletic, physical conditioning to offset all of the tough academics of the school day.”

Student athletes at MMS do take their academics seriously, and earlier this month the MMS girls’ cross country squad was acknowledged by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) with the “2016-17 Fall Season Scholastic Championship Team Award, for having the highest collective grade point average (GPA), 3.909, among all Central Coast Section (CCS) D-V cross country teams, and the second-highest GPA among all CCS cross country teams.

cross country 2016These awards were instituted by the CCS Board of Managers in 1985 as a way to recognize the top five teams with the highest collective grade-point average in their respective sport during that season of competition.

“Being a part of the cross country team has been one of the best parts of my Mount Madonna experience,” shared senior Caroline Smith. “It has shown me that what’s important is not coming first all of the time, but trying your best and being happy with everything you’ve done. I’ve been able to use this in my life now while I apply for college. I know that getting into the best, most prestigious college is not what’s important. What’s important is that I try my best as I finish high school and know that wherever I end up, I’m going to be happy.

“Being named as scholastic champions is amazing,” she went on. “It feels great to be recognized in the cross country world. I am especially grateful that we were awarded the title two years in a row as it shows that as a team, we take our education seriously and we not only work hard as runners, but also as students.”

cross country 2016For the second year in a row, senior Cat Ching qualified to compete at CCS, a significant achievement; however, this year she was unable to compete due to illness.

The 2016 Mount Madonna cross country team members are: Braeden Will, Jeremy Curland and Maverick Bettencourt, ninth grade; Noah Kaplan, tenth grade; Carl Ward, Elias Moreno and Sanjana Kulkarni, eleventh grade; and Caroline Smith, Cat Ching, Isaac Harris and Param Walker, grade twelve.

Although the Hawks don’t yet have a reputation for being highly competitive on the cross country trails, Harris said the team is never chided about their finishes by other athletes.

cross country 2016“We’ve never had any problem races,” he said. “Just the fact that we’re out there and we’re running, and we’re doing our own thing, that’s enough; that’s worthy of respect.”

Photos by Carla Gomez


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, Director of Marketing & Communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 355 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a community of learners dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.