Before the arrival of head coaches Michael Davidson and Michael Granville, the Palo Alto High School cross country team was widely known for having relaxed and untiring practices.
Junior Zach Baumgarten decided to join the team his freshman year because it did not require much commitment and the practices were not very intense.
“I decided to run freshman year since I was looking for a low commitment fall sport,” Baumgarten said. “It seemed to be a better alternative to basketball conditioning since I got a prep.”
However, when Davidson and Granville were hired before the 2016 cross country season, they made it clear that they expected nothing less than maximum effort from every member of the cross country team and that they would begin having more rigorous practices.
As a result, many former members like Baumgarten decided not to participate in the sport.
“I decided not to run my sophomore year, since the coaches wanted a more intense and rigorous program,” Baumgarten said. “The coach seemed extremely knowledgeable and friendly, however it just did not match the level of commitment I was looking for.”
Despite the lost members and the smaller team, the Vikings performed better last year and they had many runners who placed well in the Central Coast Section meet. Thanks to the revamped practice schedule, the Vikings performed extremely well last year and placed second overall in the Central Coast Section Finals with graduated senior Kent Slaney, Naveen Pai, Spencer Morganfeld and Ben Beaudry and current junior Henry Saul all finishing in the top 20 in the race.
The boys team finished second overall in the Central Coast Section meet and runners Kent Slaney, Naveen Pai, Henry Saul, Spencer Morganfeld and Ben Beaudry all finished in the top 20.
The girls team also performed well by placing fifth overall with sophomore Miranda Jimenez and senior Julia Doubson both finishing in the top 20.
With Davidson and Granville having a year under their belts, they are looking to turn it up another notch this year by challenging their runners to have even more rigorous practices.
According to junior John Tayeri, this starts with having harder practices with more challenging runs and workouts.
“Practice has definitely become much harder,” Tayeri said. “Our workouts are very tough and leave us sore.”
Tayeri is coming off a top 30 finish in the Monterey Bay Invitational meet and says new exercises will continue to improve the team.
“We are really taking our recoveries this year seriously so we can run faster in the workouts and the race,” Tayeri said. “We are also doing a lot more abdominal work and other muscle group work after our runs which is definitely helping.”
Junior Maya Wilson said there have been new exercises and workouts that Davidson and Granville have introduced which have definitely helped the team perform at a higher level.
“We do our daily Granville core and Davidson has us do a lot of hill training and speed workouts,” Wilson said. “In our last meet at Crystal Springs, both varsity girls and junior varsity girls placed first as a team.”
According to Wilson, Davidson and Granville have also made other minor tweaks which have united the team.
“Since Granville and Davidson became our coaches, the boys and girls teams have been combined,” Wilson said. “Now it feels a lot more like we are one team since we practice together and have the same coaches.”
Using these new training methods and exercises, the team will look to improve in each meet this year, including the upcoming Santa Clara Valley Athletic League championship meet at Crystal Springs on October 31.