For the Canyon Crest Academy (CCA) girls cross country team, 2018 was shaping up as a rebuilding year. After winning their first-ever CIF Division I championship last fall, the Ravens were coming into this season with just one of the five runners who scored in the ’17 title race still on the roster. Well, with just over a month of the season remaining, it’s fair to say CCA’s “renovation” is coming along much more rapidly than a lot of people expected.
Sixth-year Coach Andy Corman’s squad was a solid third and the top San Diego finisher in the D-1 division at the Sept. 15 Mt. Carmel Invitational. They trailed first place Chaparral (Temecula) by just three points on the same Morley Field course that will host CIF in November. Then, the Ravens went to Orange County for the Dana Hills Invitational and claimed fifth against a stellar field. Corman took most of his crew across the country to his hometown of Rochester, NY for some high caliber seasoning at the McQuaid Invitational. Overall, the results have given Corman plenty of reasons to be encouraged.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that his one “veteran” from last year’s championship unit is junior Carlie Dorostkar. The 16-year-old Carmel Valley resident was fourth individually at both the CIF Cross Country and Track & Field Championships (3,200) as a sophomore and placed 25th in the CIF State Meet (D-I). She’s picked up right where she left off this season.
At the Mt. Carmel event, Dorostkar shaved nearly 35 seconds off her time from a year earlier (15:33.2 for 2.7 miles) while finishing second to La Costa Canyon standout Kristin Fahy. She followed that with 16:49.3 clocking at the three-mile Dana Hills race, capturing her first high school invitational crown.
With sophomore Elizabeth Emberger, junior Allison Rios and senior Eden Deng seeming to have established themselves in the 2-3-4 slots and another group of four-or-five battling for fifth position, Corman is happy with the way things are developing.
“Quite a few of our girls have posted personal bests in our early races and I like the fact that they are beginning to run better as a group,” said Corman. “They’re starting to close the gap not only amongst themselves but with the better runners.” While depth is clearly a pre-requisite for team success in cross country, Corman is well aware that Dorostkar’s presence at the top of the lineup is also a substantial factor.
“Carlie is the type of runner any coach would like to have on their team,” said Corman without prompting. “She’s talented, smart, hard-working and competitive
“She’s also very strong. She has a swimming background which I think helps in terms of both her strength and competitive nature. We have been able to increase her mileage this year and it feels like she’s putting all the pieces together. I expect that she’s going to do very well when we hit the championship portion of the schedule this year.”
The 5-foot-6 Dorostkar, who’s hoping her eighth grade twin sisters Sammi and Nikki will join her at CCA as freshmen next year, took time recently to talk about her switch from swimming to cross country, her progress and aspirations.
Q—How long were you a swimmer?
DOROSTKAR—I started swimming when I was seven and last competed when I was 15. I loved it, practiced a lot and spent many weekends at swim meets. The last five years, I swam for the same coach, Rob Mackle, at North Coast Aquatics. He always encouraged me to play/try lots of sports and thought I would be a good runner.
Q—When did you start running and ultimately, why the switch from swimming to running?
DOROSTKAR—I did Girls on the Run when I was 8. That’s when I ran my first 5K. From then on, I ran a 5K every so often without training, just for fun. I wanted to both swim and run in high school and I did in my freshman year.
I actually swam for CCA instead of competing in track as a freshman. It was not an easy choice for me to give up swimming, my team and my swim friends, for running. In my sophomore year, I felt that I needed to make a choice. I saw myself running in college as opposed to swimming, and wanted to focus on it more.
Q—What are the things you enjoy most about running?
DOROSTKAR—I enjoy being outdoors, being on different trails, challenging myself to go farther and faster. I like the camaraderie of running and talking with people and even when it’s hard, you’re in it together. And the adrenaline rush of being in a race is great!
Q—Were you successful right away in cross country?
DOROSTKAR—I was good enough to be on varsity right away. I was injured in the first few weeks of the season because my legs had a hard time adapting to the mileage and I got shin splints. I did fairly well during the regular season but I was surprised to place sixth at CIF finals and then had a strong state meet the following week.
Q—Do you remember any particularly significant moment in your progress as a cross country runner?
DOROSTKAR—My second race at Mt. SAC last year, I improved my time quite a bit from the year prior but what people wouldn’t know was that I felt terrible the whole race. It scared me because none of my races before had hurt as bad for as long. I learned that I needed to push myself even further in practice so that I would not experience that pain again.
Q—What do you like better, cross country or track & field? How do they relate to each other for you?
DOROSTKAR—I like cross country a lot more than track. It is more exciting and challenging as well as fun to compete as a team. Every week there is a new course to figure out. Track for me is more about form, speed and pace. Track has been helpful to improve my kick at the end of XC races, though. They both keep you in shape for the next season and it’s also great to have friends that train with you all year long.
Q—What goes through your mind when you’re competing in a cross country race?
DOROSTKAR—I try not to be in my head too much. I try to get a good pump up song to sing in my head during the race (something I did for countless laps in the pool!). One I use sometimes is Summertime Magic by Childish Gambino and Bank Account by 21 Savage is one of my training songs.
And I’m listening to who is being cheered for to hear to know if another runner is close behind me. I create a couple checkpoints on the course of where I’m going to make a move, or kick.
Q—What are some of the nuances of cross country running that the average person wouldn’t know about?
DOROSTKAR—Something I didn’t even know before I started was how much mileage you have to put in every week in order to run a relatively short race. When I tell my friends that I ran 13 miles in the morning, they are shocked. Also, for me, the skill of running down hill is as important as the skill of running up hill (and I’m still working on being better at it!)
Q—Besides just running, do you have any unique training techniques or tools?
DOROSTKAR—I still really like to swim. It helps aerobically and gives my legs a break. I’ve also learned I need to do a lot of stretching and when I have time, yoga.
Q—Why are you a better runner right now than you were last year at this time?
DOROSTKAR—My season has just started but I’m feeling stronger than last year. I think that I built a strong foundation over the summer and I’ve been more focused in practice. I’ve been doing more mileage at a faster pace.
Q--Were you expecting your recent individual win at the Dana Hills Invitational?
DOROSTKAR—I thought that I could break 17 minutes on the course but I wasn’t thinking that time would produce a win.
I didn’t think I went out fast enough so I had to catch up to the front. At the end of the first mile, I was in the lead which I wasn’t sure I was going to hold on to. I tried to break away on the turn into the parking lot with about three-quarters of a mile to go. I was able to open up enough so that I didn’t hear any footsteps behind me and once I got to the track for the last 500 meters, I started to lean forward, lift my knees more and lengthen my stride to finish strong for my first cross country invitational win.
Q—La Costa Canyon, led by senior star Kristin Fahy, is generally regarded as the top team in the section. Though they compete in Division II, is there a rivalry between the two teams?
DOROSTKAR—I wouldn’t say there’s a rivalry but would call it more of a “mutual strengthening of sorts.” I like running with Kristin. She pushes me and she knows what she’s doing out there because she’s had more experience than I have. Last year, when our team was up there with them, we were very excited. Running again them makes both of us stronger.
Q—How would you describe your coach, Andy Corman, and how has he impacted your progress?
DOROSTKAR—Coach Corman is very dedicated and passionate about everything running related and wants the team to succeed. He has helped me with many technical parts of running/training but has also given me the space to figure out my own races. He always asks what I think and although we always have a plan, he says, “during a race, what you think in the moment is probably right.”
Q—What were your feelings after CCA won last year’s CIF Division I Championship?
DOROSTKAR—I was elated that all of the hard work that we had put in together had paid off. It was Canyon Crest’s first girls’ CIF win and I was so happy to win with some of my closest friends. These girls had inspired me to love running so it was special to win with them.
Q—As the only returner from that CIF championship team, do you feel any pressure competitively or from a leadership standpoint?
DOROSTKAR—I don’t feel pressure on myself but I know we feel pressure as a team to live up to last year’s success. I am a captain but I share that role with four other girls. We feel some responsibility to pass along traditions and the CCA work ethic. We want to create a good team culture and cohesiveness.
Q—You still have another year to go after this one, but are you hoping/planning to run competitively in college?
DOROSTKAR—Yes! I am both planning and hoping to run in college. There are a lot of CCA girls that have gone on to run at D-I schools and I would like to carry on that tradition. I’m still figuring out what I’d like to study in college and what part of the country I’d like to be in.
Q—What do you enjoy doing outside of running and school?
DOROSTKAR—Outside of running and school I like to cook . . .and eat because I am always hungry from running all the time. I also enjoy traveling to see and experience new things. I’ve seen a lot of Western Europe and I think I want to visit Eastern Europe. My dad’s from Germany. I’m lucky to live in San Diego, though, because to me there is nothing better than spending the day at the beach.
Q—What are your team and individual goals for this season?
DOROSTKAR—I would like our team to qualify for state and will do whatever I can myself to make that happen. I think it’s going to mean a lot of hard practices and everyone staying healthy but I think we can do it. Personally, I’d like to PR on every course this season.
We have a few girls that are running cross country for the first time and I think they will improve a lot by the end of the season. We also have some returning runners who picked up their training over the summer. We are a tight knit and driven group that wants to achieve our goal.