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July 9, 2010 > MSJ girls cross country set for breakout year

MSJ girls cross country set for breakout year

By Kevin Yin

Mission San Jose High School's girls cross country team is primed for a breakthrough season.

Mission San Jose (MSJ) returns a strong core from last year's team which shared the Mission Valley Athletic League (MVAL) crown with Washington High School and finished sixth (out of 17 teams) at the North Coast Section (NCS) Championships.

This year's squad is led by a trio of accomplished runners in juniors Madison Hirsch and Erika Cherk, as well as senior Siwen Dickstein. All three runners had strong finishes at the 2009 NCS Championships, with Hirsch placing 10th (out of 119); Cherk placing 14th; and Dickstein placing 20th. In addition to being strong at the top, the team has serviceable depth in veteran juniors Shruti Merchant and Alison Lenci.

MSJ also expects an immediate impact from valuable contributions by a talented crop of newcomers, particularly sophomores Lindsey Dobyns, Gurubala Kotta and junior Sabina Kapur.

The team's bright prospects are the product of two years of steady improvement for the cross country team. In 2008, the squad made it to the NCS Championships for the first time since 2002, finishing 11th.

Now, after placing sixth last year, anticipation is building over what this team is capable of accomplishing. In a recent preseason poll taken on NCS cross country, the Mission team will enter the 2010 season ranked no. 6.

MSJ assistant coach John Hotchkiss doesn't feel the high expectations will be a burden on the team; quite the opposite. Hotchkiss' inclination is that the team will flourish in the spotlight.

"I think that high expectations just motivate people to raise their performance," Hotchkiss said. "I think it's a motivator; I don't think that it increases pressure. I think that everybody works harder, and if you set an ambitious goal, that teams tend to work up to it."

MSJ will prep for its highly-anticipated season beginning in mid-August.

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