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Cross country runners compete at state


Varsity Cross Country runners Madi Loff, Damian Gavilan and Charlotte Castelli competed in the 2019 CIF State Cross Country Championships in Fresno on November 30th.

The runners viewed this meet with extra importance. “It’s the biggest meet of the year that we go to. It’s the top schools and athletes in the state,” Loff said. 

Loff and Castelli departed at 4:45a.m. and competed in the Girls Division II 5000m (3.1 miles) race at 8:30a.m. Gavilan, the only member of the Boys Varsity Cross Country team who competed, ran at 1:00 PM in the Boys Division I 5000m race.

[cbtabs][cbtab title=”Damian Gavilan “]

Damian Gavilan, who placed tenth, (far right) stands with the nine other boys who placed top ten in the state.

Senior Damian Gavilan placed 10th in the state with a time of 15 minutes and 13 seconds in the Division I Boys 5000m race. Gavilan has spent his four years of high school on the cross country team and finished his third year of varsity in the fall 2019 season.


Senior Damian Gavilan, varsity cross country runner and captain of the men’s team.

Gavilan received many awards in the 2019 season, being named most valuable player and winning the Lions Club award for showing great character throughout the season. In addition to his awards, he led the Boys Varsity Cross Country team as team captain.

Gavilan’s practice leading up to the event didn’t differ from his normal routine. “Practice was just the ‘same old same old’ for me with a couple hard workouts throughout the week to get me ready for the race,” he said.

Though his training didn’t differ too much from the norm, his fighting spirit in his last cross country race of his high school career urged him toward the finish line. His strong will to perform in the race secured him his top 10 title.

“I remember coming across the last hundred meters of the race and my coach told me that I was 14th place and that I needed 10th for the medal, so I started going harder. The last twenty meters was when I passed someone, then I smiled and I was so happy because I knew I got 10th place,” Gavilan reflected.

Gavilan’s motivation this season was focused on furthering Paso’s image as a school with a high performing cross country program. He hoped that by performing well at the state championships he would cement his team’s competitive spirit in the eyes of rival schools and peers at Paso High.

“My motivation has probably been to upkeep the schools pride because we’ve won a lot of stuff over the years, but recently not as much. I want others to see that we still have people [who can compete and win in races],” Gavilan concluded.

[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Madi Loff”]With a time of 18 minutes and 57 seconds (her personal record), junior Madi Loff placed 70th in the state in her 5000m race. Loff participated in her third year of Girls Varsity Cross Country in this past Fall 2019 season; she was named team captain this year, as well as being named to the First Team All-League, a team composed of the top seven athletes league-wide.

Madi Loff (center) running during a race with teammate Charlotte Castelli (bottom right).

Loff has been a cross country athlete since the eighth grade, but was first able to show her talent in her first year of high school, when she recalls being “one of the top three runners that year.” Her sophomore year she was awarded most valuable player, which coupled with her talent and commitment to the team led to her being named team captain in her junior year.

“I don’t want to say I’m the backbone of the team, but I am the team captain and I make it my goal to make sure everyone cools down after races and does what they’re supposed to,” Loff said.

Loff’s favorite thing about cross country in her last three years has been her teammates and the competitions.

Junior Madi Loff, varsity cross country runner and captain of the women’s team.

“I love racing and I love the girls — I run with Grace Chamberlain, Jaiden Anguiano and Charlotte Castelli. Track makes me anxious, but I love running long distance in cross country. There’s more room for error,” Loff said.

Loff’s plans for running extend past high school as well. Her plans to run in college are fueled by an admiration for Paso High alumni who continued cross country in higher education.

“When they come home [from college to visit] — Madison Moore, Zachary Chamberlain and Gannon Chamberlain — it’s cool to see they’re still really dedicated and that they’re still running. The idea of running in college has always been a big motivator,” Loff stated.

Loff considered Stanford and the University of California, Los Angeles as two candidates for her future career in running, but preferred Stanford for their performance in races.

“I want to take it to the next level in college, straight to Stanford. It has a Division I cross country program. I was considering UCLA [Los Angeles] for a time but saw how Stanford dominated them in PAC-12 [the Pacific-12 Conference, twelve of the west coast’s top athletic colleges],” Loff concluded.

[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Charlotte Castelli”]Sophomore Charlotte Castelli’s 5000m race ended with a time of 18 minutes and 43 seconds; Castelli placed 47th in the state at the competition. The fall 2019 season was her second year on the Girls Varsity Cross Country team, and she was awarded most valuable player for the girls this year.

Charlotte Castelli (left) in the middle of a race, running neck-and-neck with her competitor

Castelli remarked on her improvement since freshman year and how she practiced to perform well at the state competition. Castelli’s time in the 2018 race was 20:40 as opposed to this year’s 18:43; her time as well as her place in the 2018 state competition were a shining example of her improvement since last year’s season.

“I did a lot of workouts, which were fun, and a lot of longer runs to prepare for the race. Last year I placed 147th and then this year I placed 47th, which is awesome,” Castelli said.

Castelli moved up 100 places this year as well as improving her time by nearly two minutes. Her talent and commitment to the sport, as well as being one of the two girls who attended the state competition, lead to her MVP title and improvements in her race. Castelli regards her biggest motivations as how she feels after racing and her commitment to her teammates.

“I just love just staying fit and feeling so good after runs. I love my team as well. The people on my team are some of my best friends, and it’s just so fun. I usually run with my sister, Mya Castelli, as well as Grace Chamberlain and Jaiden Anguiano, to name a few,” Castelli stated.

Sophomore Charlotte Castelli and Junior Mya Castelli both compete on the women’s cross country team.

Charlotte’s older sister, Mya, is in her junior year on Girls Junior Varsity Cross Country, but has been training with Charlotte for the past two years. After the competition, Mya spoke on her sister’s talent and commitment on the cross country team.

“Charlotte is the most dedicated person I know. She truly loves running and really enjoys being able to have all her hard work pay off at big races like the state competition,” Mya said[/cbtab][/cbtabs]

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