After success of club, running group evolves into team and wins first meet


Zoey Botnick

DASH: Members of the running club ran by the Peterson Museum at Wilshire and Fairfax Oct. 27.

By Shayna Becker, Staff Writer

Shalhevet’s running club, founded late last spring to help people run in a relaxed, non-competitive environment, has now evolved into a popular competitive team at Shalhevet.

The idea for the team grew out of the success of the running club, created last May by college counselor Ms. Lisa Gruenbaum. Ms. Gruenbaum wanted students and staff to be able to run together for health and fun. It met after school on Fridays, and still does.

“We just chill together on a Friday afternoon,” said history teacher Dr. Keith Harris, a member of the running club. “It’s low stress.”

But when school started this fall, the Athletic Department announced the formation of a cross-country team.  Twenty-nine students attended an information session and 14 joined the team, which practices four times a week and competes against other schools.

The cross-country Firehawks won their first meet, a two-mile race against Summit View – Westside at Rancho Park Oct. 17, by a score of 29-26. Sophomore Tobey Lee took first place with the fastest time of 15:38.

“The outlook for the team is looking good as long as the people who participate are committed,” said Athletic Director Ryan Coleman.

According to Coach Coleman, the team was formed after “a few parents and students” told him that they had an interest in starting a cross-country team.

“Our league did not have cross country as a sport,” he said. “I pitched it to the other athletic directors in our league and a couple of them actually had similar interest.”

Shalhevet is leading the new cross-country section of its CIF league. The other coaches, he said, “said we could add it as a sport as long as I wanted to head the sport and be the commissioner of that sport for our league. So there we are.”

The Firehawk team is coached by John Holcomb, a longtime Los Angeles runner who Coach Coleman said has led the Cal Coast cross-country club for around 29 years and trained world class athletes as well as beginners.

Practices are held four times a week, Coach Coleman said, and team members can also attend the running club but that doesn’t count as one of their practices.

Team members run Sundays at 7:30 a.m., and after school anywhere from 5 p.m. to as late as 9 p.m., said sophomore team member Josh Lewis.  And competitiveness is a big part of it.

“Feeling like I’m lagging behind someone is not a good feeling,” said sophomore team member Sheyna Schusterman. “You always want to be at the top of your game, and if I know that the person next to me is faster, than I am always self-conscious that I have to try and run way more fast — just because I have to be faster than the person next to me.”

Meanwhile, the running club continues, with stress-free, low requirement runs taking place every Friday after school. Three members of the cross country team run on Fridays, according to Maya Schapira, member of the running club and cross country team.

Ms. Gruenbaum said she created the running club as an easy, free and fun way to be active and promote self-care.

“I knew we did not have any running, track and field, or cross country team,” Ms. Gruenbaum said. “I grew up in public school and [those sports were] just like a norm.  You don’t need equipment, you don’t need field space really to just go run. So I thought this would be pretty easy to get going.”

According to sophomore Maya Schapira, students joined the running club for an environment to run, have fun, and be with friends.

“I like to run, and being with my friends who like it too makes me enjoy it a lot more,” said Maya, who is in the club and now also on the team.

Whether both the club and the team will endure long-term remains to be seen.

“I think if people really want to run they will join cross-country, and they will be too busy for the running club,” said Josh Lewis. “Running club was never super serious, it was mostly people just going out for a run.”

But Maya said she would do both.

“People would take cross country seriously and be like [the running club] is an extra practice,” said Maya, who belongs to both. “I am able to go and this will help me for future runs, which I am planning on doing.”