Cross-country teams return after ‘longest summer ever’


SAN DIEGO – At long last, runners from Vista and Mission Vista high schools laced up Thursday for the first cross-country meet since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Vista High School senior Jesus Villarreal on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.

“It’s great,” Vista High School senior Jesus Villarreal said. “Especially because I’m a senior, not knowing if I’m going to have a season is a bummer but now that I know we’re actually going to have some races, it makes me excited for the season.”

Cross-country is one of only a few low-contact sports allowed in San Diego County while it’s in California’s most-restrictive purple reopening tier. Under the tier, track and field, golf, swimming and tennis also are allowed to resume. Other popular pastimes such as football, basketball and volleyball aren’t permitted until the county moves up into a less restrictive tier.

Few on either side Thursday knew exactly when they’d be able to compete again with pandemic restrictions blocking their paths to return.

But it didn’t stop them from training hard for when that day finally arrived.

“Cross-country is typically in the summertime we do a bunch of training and so we basically had the longest summer ever,” Vista Boys and Girls Cross-Country Coach Rob Putnam said.

Mission Vista senior Bella Longo said it was difficult to train alone in the beginning.

“It was a struggle until like June,” Longo said, “but then we got to see each other a little bit more and train together, which helped a lot.”

Runners took to the course and were allowed to take off face coverings while running. When they finished, coaches were observed telling them to put them back on and maintain as much social distance as possible.

Runners from Vista and Mission Vista high schools laced up Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, for the first cross-country meet since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

For all, it’s a different way of competing and most still are getting used to it.

Even so, students and coaches say they’re willing to do whatever it takes to finish their season while also staying safe.

“It’s week-by-week,” Mission Vista Coach Steve Peppard said. “We have a race each week, so today’s a win. We got to race and we’ll go into next week hoping that we get to continue to race.”

“We’re optimistic,” Putnam said. “We’ve had to be this long just to get the kids ready and keep them positive and having fun, so we’re going to keep being that way.”

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