Andrew Cobourn knows he has a long way to go entering his sophomore cross country season at California State University, Chico.
Then again, the 2012 Douglas High School graduate couldn’t be more excited as he comes off a strong summer of training. Cobourn, in all likelihood, has never been in better shape.
That was evident by his recent runner-up finish at the highly-challenging Squaw Valley Mountain Run, where he completed the 3.6-mile distance — and 2,000-foot vertical climb — in a time of 29 minutes, 43 seconds. He only trailed the winner, J.P. Donovan, by 15 seconds on a course where dipping below 30 minutes is considered a significant achievement.
“So far, I’d say I’m really excited for my cross country season,” Cobourn said. “I’ve been on a training program and putting the miles in.”
Some of those miles have been logged on training runs at Lake Tahoe, where he has worked this summer at Sand Harbor as a life guard. And his supervisor just happens to be Donovan, a three-time Squaw Valley race winner.
“We did train together a bunch this summer and he showed me a lot of the trails up there,” Cobourn said. “It’s definitely a friendly rivalry since he’s my boss.”
Cobourn was leading with just a quarter-mile to go at Squaw Valley, however, he was unable to hold off Donovan over the sandy and uphill stretch run.
“I just didn’t have enough gas left in the tank at the end,” Cobourn said. “J.P. is such a natural athlete. The last quarter-mile is pretty sandy; he said if he was close at the end, he would get me in the sand.”
Cobourn did come away with one nice consolation. His time was a personal record on the course by more than a minute. He also ran 53:42 on June 8 in the Bay Area at the challenging Dipsea Race, 7.5-mile trail from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach — a three-minute improvement from his effort in that race in 2013.
Add to that the personal best time of 15:10.53 for 5,000 meters he ran in April on the track for Chico State, and it’s easy to see why Cobourn is upbeat about the coming cross country season.
Then again, Chico State features a highly competitive cross country program that expects to be extra strong this fall. The Wildcats have won 12 straight California Collegiate Athletic Association titles and h15 consecutive top-10 finishes at the NCAA Division II Championships, and now feature a bumper crop of incoming community college and high school recruits.
“The team is so stacked,” Cobourn said. “I’m trying to work myself into the top seven, or even top 10. My real goal is to be in the top seven. It may not happen this year, but that’s the goal I’m working toward. I just want to move up and make contributions to the team.”
Sadie Gastelum, another 2012 Douglas grad, also returns to Chico State after a stellar redshirt freshman season in 2013, as she ran for the Wildcats at the NCAA nationals, placed 26th at the West Region Championships and 18th at the conference meet. She ran a personal best of 22:39.91 for 6 kilometers at the University of Washington’s Sundogger Invitational. Chico State is also the seven-time defending CCAA champion.
The Wildcats open their season on Sept. 27 at two meets, at the Stanford Invitational and the Willow Hills Open in Folsom, Calif.