Abby Paulson and Sofia Barreras, seen here finishing first and second in the BVAL's West Valley Division meet on Oct. 13, have led the Live Oak High girls cross country team to another solid season. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Abby Paulson and Sofia Barreras simply enjoy being out on a good run. When they finish 1-2 in a cross country race—as was the case in a Blossom Valley League meet on Oct. 13—it makes their experience all the more rewarding. 

“What I like about cross country is you can put yourself into a different mindset,” said Barreras, a Live Oak High sophomore who finished 19th in the Central Coast Section Track and Field Semifinals in the 400 meter run last spring. “The courses are usually dirt and have a lot of hills with different scenery, which is a lot different than just doing a monotonous motion of going around a track all the time.” 

Paulson, a senior, said running is therapeutic in that it allows her to get away from life’s daily stressors.

“Running is a very nice outlet for me,” she said. “I enjoy cross country because it’s an individual sport, but also a team sport at the same time.”

In the aforementioned third league meet at Montgomery Hill in the foothills of San Jose, Paulson took first place in 21 minutes, 30 seconds, and Barreras was right behind in 21:32 on the 3.0-mile course. The two enjoyed the race as they stuck together from start to finish. 

“That was definitely one of my best races of the season,” Paulson said. “Me and Sofia were kind of working off each other the whole time.”

Paulson and Barreras have thoroughly enjoyed the team dynamic this season. In some practices, the entire group will stay together in a pack during a workout, building camaraderie in the process.  

“That’s when everyone usually starts talking about their day and we’ll get into really random conversations that side tracks our mind from running, so it’s nice to let go in that aspect,” Barreras said. 

Even though Paulson and Barreras have an intrinsic motivation for running, it helps when they can partner up on a practice run or race.

“It’s nice to have a training partner because we can build off each other,” Paulson said. 

Barreras echoed similar sentiments: “We pace each other well and it’s nice having some inside information from her at courses I haven’t run at yet and be able to get some advice from her.”

When workouts or races get hard, Paulson focuses on getting through the next 30-second increment and then keeps on repeating that mantra. 

“My coach is always telling us you can do anything in life for 30 seconds, so I keep on going and pushing through it,” she said. “And I just enjoy running so much I really wouldn’t want to quit.”

Barreras couldn’t run cross country last year due to Covid and all the sports being condensed into two mini seasons. However, she burst onto the scene with a tremendous track and field season, highlighted by the CCS Semis appearance. It looks to be a harbinger of even greater performances on the track and in cross country.

“Making it to CCS as a freshman was a really nice reward for all the hard work I put in,” Barreras said. “It told me I could make it pretty far if I put my mind to it.”

Paulson has a goal to go sub-20 minutes at Montgomery Hill; her personal-record there is 20:14. Barreras has made tremendous improvement from the beginning of the season and is optimistic in posting faster times as the season winds down. 

“I like to have different goals for every single season, meet or adding onto a list of goals every single meet because I’ve grown as a runner since the first meet (in September),” Barreras said. 

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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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