A Pinto cross country runner's memories of competing at the highest level in the state meet a couple months ago will surely be helpful as he looks to repeat the feat in his senior year next fall.
Eli Dunnaway, a junior at California High School, was the only runner for the Pintos to compete Nov. 5 at the Class 3 cross country state meet.
Dunnaway got there because of a strong performance in the Class 3 District 4 meet. He ultimately finished in 14th place at the district meet with a time of 19:34.50, earning all-district honors for cross country for his effort. Dunnaway went on to finish in 146th place at the Class 3 State meet with a time of 20:23.00.
Dunnaway said running at the state meet was a different experience than what he's been used to at other meets.
"It was the biggest cross country meet I have ever been a part of," Dunnaway said. "All the runners are faster and it was very cool."
When he learned that he qualified for the state meet, Dunnaway said he was definitely surprised.
"That race, I was not really planning on going to state," Dunnaway said. "I just had a good race and I was definitely happy and it was a good experience."
Dunnaway said being the only member of the team competing in the state race was kind of hard. The usual push of support from his teammates running along with him in races wasn't there.
"Me and my team, we kind of pace each other and help each other through the race and so being the only one there made the race a lot harder," Dunnaway said.
Dunnaway said he started running cross country during his freshman year. He decided to give cross country a try after playing football in middle school and realizing he did not enjoy the sport that much.
"I wanted to stay kind of in shape and I just started running, initially as a side hobby to keep in shape, and I really enjoyed it so I kept going," Dunnaway said.
When it comes to running, Dunnaway said he finds running therapeutic and he also enjoys the team aspects of the sport.
"To just kind of run away from life almost, and I definitely like the team," Dunnaway said. "There is a teamwork aspect to running that I really enjoy."
For him personally, Dunnaway said his most recent season was a pretty good one; along with qualifying for state, Dunnaway said his times improved throughout the season.
For next year, Dunnaway said it's a goal to keep improving. One other big goal is to help bring the rest of the team to state, as well.
"I think that would be awesome," Dunnaway said.