Several Riverbank High School cross country runners will be lacing up their running shoes this weekend … but they will be doing it in Hawaii, not a local race venue.
For the third time in the past four years, a contingent of Bruins, along with coaches and chaperones, will travel to the Iolani Invitational on the island of Oahu, said coach Monte Wood.
“We did do a lot of fundraising, we raised about $15,000 over the course of seven, eight months, a lot of different fundraisers, that will pay for the hotel, van rentals, a lot of the different things we will do while there, our travel expenses,” Wood explained.
The group traveling is scheduled to leave today – Sept. 16 – and return late Monday night, Sept. 21. It will be a whirlwind trip, but the students will pack in plenty, said Wood, from running the race to sightseeing to visiting historical monuments.
“There’s so much history in Oahu, and the kids get to see Pearl Harbor,” Wood said. “It’s a great experience for them, and a reward.”
Many of the students haven’t had the opportunity to travel and, with this trip, they get a chance to run a prestigious event and visit the state of Hawaii.
Four years ago, the trip was made for the first time and then, it was in honor and recognition of a top three finish in state cross country for the Lady Bruins. Now, said Wood, it is designed as a way to honor the hard work of those runners who are putting in the extra time and effort, especially those who commit to an ‘off season’ workout regime and help keep Riverbank a statewide powerhouse in the sport of cross country.
Wood said the trip has the backing of the school district and school board, and this year there are 15 varsity athletes going.
“It’s mostly seniors this time,” he noted. “We have nine girls and six boys.”
Among the chaperones are Wood, coach Robbie Searway, assistant coach Sam Gong, longtime program supporters Dick and Jennifer Hodges, Karen Beliera and Wood’s wife Rebecca, who is a pediatric nurse.
“We will have 15 varsity athletes running, we have to determine that in advance, and that is the challenge,” Wood explained. “With all the fundraising to do, they (participants) have to be a potential varsity athlete, really committed to the program.”
Seniors Kim Ruvalcaba and Ruben Paredez are seniors that went previously, their sophomore year, and junior Joslyn Beliera is also making the trip for a second time, having gone when she was a freshman.
The actual race, at Kualoa Ranch, will be on Saturday, Sept. 19.
“That’s where some of the scenes for the original ‘Jurassic Park’ movie were filmed, there’s a lush mountain on one side, ocean on the other,” Wood said.
The green of the mountain is especially striking, he said, given California’s lingering drought and familiar drab, brown landscape.
Several teams from California will travel to compete in the three-mile race, along with runners from Washington, Arizona, Oregon and beyond.
Laguna Beach, a top three team in Division 4, is among those going from California.
“Iolani is a private school in Honolulu,” added Wood.
And while the Bruins have always raced well in the event, the coach said it is the cultural experience and the lessons they learn along the way that bring the most benefit.
“Last time, what really affected them was they saw so many homeless people in Honolulu,” he explained. “We were on our way back (to the airport) and they saw a person digging in garbage for food, they collected a bunch of food in a bag and took it out to him.”
The Riverbank contingent is due to fly out of Oakland.