By Karen Billing
Fresh off his Division 1 CIF cross country championship, Torrey Pines senior Tal Braude proved he is the fastest runner in the state, winning the State Cross Country 5K (3.1 miles) Championships in Fresno on Nov. 30. He won the championship with a time of 15:02.
Tal now sets his sights on nationals, in which he will have a slight home field advantage — The Foot Locker National Cross Country Championship will be held at Balboa Park on Dec. 14.
“I think that course is one of my best,” Tal said of the Morley Field 3.1-mile course with a beast of a hill up Upas Street. “It’s definitely one of the harder courses because of the hill on it. But I like it and because I get to race it a lot I’ve gotten really familiar with the course.”
His goal for nationals? “Try to win it,” Tal says simply.
Tal didn’t start competing in running until he was a freshman and this has been his best season yet. He placed 11th in the CIF championships last year and has come back this season firing harder than ever.
“I was a lot more driven this year, I wanted to redeem myself and do better this year,” Tal said, who was derailed by a case of mononucleosis his junior year. “This year I’ve been trying to stay healthy.”
Tal has been eating healthier and while he didn’t step up his 50-miles-a-week mileage, he picked up the intensity of those miles.
The result has been a swift season for Tal. He posted the third fastest high school time ever in 66 years on the Mt. Sac course at the Mt. Sac Invitational on Oct. 26 with a time of 14:27 before winning the overall cross country championship CIF Division 1 at Balboa Park.
“I kind of ran away with it,” Tal said of his Division 1 win. “Coach wanted me to take out the leader at a fast pace for the first mile and stay a couple steps ahead. After the first mile you hit the hill and I took the downhill really hard and I was by myself for the rest of the race. I ended up finishing with a good 30-second gap.”
Tal was part of the CIF Division 1 winning TPHS boys team and the Falcon girls also won the Division 1 championship.
“This year has been really rough for the team, we had a lot of injury and sickness,” Tal said. “I’m just really happy that we managed to pull it together for CIF and make it to the state championships. I’m really proud of our team and I’m really happy to be its captain.”