CARLSBAD — The future of cross-country running is ahead of schedule.
A trio of Carlsbad high school runners are tearing up the courses and blowing up expectations as they dominate the varsity division.
On Thursday, Carlsbad High School’s Hannah Hartwell and La Costa Canyon’s Kristen Fahy and Jessica Riedman collided head on in their first race against each other at the North County Conference Avocado West League cluster at Guajome Park in Oceanside.
Fahy took third place overall with a time of 18:35.05 followed by Hartwell in fourth (18:49.05) and Riedman in fifth (18:59.94).
While CHS competes in Division I and LCC in Division 2, the trio, humbly, admitted they each have their sights set on a CIF section championship.
“She always beats me and is really good,” Hartwell said of Fahy. “I’m going to try and stay with her the first couple miles.”
“I try to just focus on myself and what I’m trying to accomplish and try not to focus too much on other competitors,” Fahy added. “Honestly, they help me more than hurt me.”
Each has had a remarkable rise to the top of the ranks, although their journey came in different forms.
Fahy, 15, comes from a running family and has the fastest time of the trio, with a time of 17 minutes, 3.9 seconds over three miles, which is ninth best in the state for a sophomore. At 2.75 miles, she is the top tenth grader in the state with a mark of 15:41 followed by Hartwell (16:07.9) in second and Riedman (16:27.4) in fifth.
As for San Diego County, Fahy only trails teammate McKenna Brown (17:02.9), a junior, over three miles, while Hartwell ranks fifth and Riedman 13th.
Short in stature, Fahy runs with speed and understands when and how to make her move. Despite her individual talent, Fahy was quick to credit her teammates and coach for her success.
“I definitely started the season off pretty strong. I didn’t expect this,” she said. “We all push each other really hard with the workouts and races. Experience is good to have coming into my sophomore year.”
Hartwell, meanwhile, has cut her three-mile time down by more than 1 minute this season, running a 17:29.6 at the Dana Hills Nike Invitational last weekend.
She began running for fun in middle school and had a respectable showing at the state meet last year placing 80th.
This year, however, she logged more miles in the offseason, which increased her endurance and has led to her to become a legitimate threat to win the CIF San Diego Division 1 section. In addition, Hartwell is adding a weight lifting program to her workouts, which she said will benefit her as the season progresses.
“I did more mileage this summer because I knew what I was doing this summer so I could run on my own,” the 15-year-old explained. “Last year, I didn’t know where I was at the beginning of the season. I’m a lot more confident than I was last year.”
Riedman’s accomplishments may be the most impressive as she never ran more than two miles before being recruited by coach Bill Vice after her freshman track campaign.
She said nerves and fear where obstacles to overcome as she began training. As each day progressed, though, her confidence grew and she began blowing past the field.
“I had to ask somebody in the race the other day how much longer we had because I didn’t know when to kick,” Riedman laughingly said. “I’m so glad I’m on this team because I trust my teammates. All the courses are brand new to me. Now I’m getting more used to it.”
Fahy and Riedman are part of one of the state’s powerhouse programs under Vice at LCC, which has helped with their ascent. The Mavericks girls are the five-time defending CIF San Diego Division 2 champs, were state runner-up 2010-12 and 2015 and finished fourth in 2013.
But for his two runners, Vice said they have the talent, attitude and desire to be great.
“She’s getting bigger and stronger,” Vice said of Fahy. “Both her and Jessica are the type of kids you want to coach. Kristen, her development is forward. My big thing is, I can’t screw it up.
“She’s a known commodity,” Vice said of Riedman. “She was just a phenom as a freshman. She ran a 5:02 1,600 (meters) … just incredible. I think she realized this is her sport.”
As for Hartwell, first-year coach Bob Yehling said she also has the ability to match her peers across the city. While Hartwell has honed her skills in how to run a course, when to attack and set her pace, the one tool still sharpening is her kick.
“She’s a great pace runner and sets a pace and doesn’t deviate,” Yehling said. “That’s a big advantage for her. She’s still working on her speed. I think some of it is growing from a freshman to a sophomore … I think that’s the first part. The second part is she knows how to win.”