Oakwood sophomore Kate Marcotullio looks to make the state meet for the second year in a row.

Kate Marcotullio decided to run cross country last year as a freshman to stay in shape for soccer, the sport she has played since she was 5 or 6 years old. Her expectations were rather muted, as the Oakwood sophomore had never—and still doesn’t—think of herself as a pure runner. What transpired has been nothing short of a revelation for the sophomore standout. 

“When I won my first race last year, I was pretty shocked,” she said. “Then I won league and went to state. I didn’t think I could do that well.”

Marcotullio enters Saturday’s Central Coast Section Cross Country Championships at the Crystal Springs Course in Belmont with a legitimate chance for a top 5 finish and advance to the CIF State Championships for the second year in a row. A two-time league champion, Marcotullio has led the Oakwood girls to a spot in the section finals. Senior Jeb Goldman has done likewise leading the boys to a spot in the CCS Championships. 

In the Pacific Coast League Santa Lucia Division Finals two weeks ago, Marcotullio won the race in a personal-record (PR) 20 minutes, 19 seconds, outkicking runner-up Nellie Rubio-Pintor of Ceiba by two seconds. Maryam Moghaddami was Oakwood’s No. 2 scoring runner in 25:07, followed by Cassie King, Mara Roldan, Cerys Holter and Anna Prunicki. The boys runners that followed Goldman—who finished in sixth place in 18:21—included Peter Wen (19:03), Ellis Richardson (19:25), Andrew Cheng (19:30), A.J. Gastelum (20:44), Josh Lowe (21:37), and Robert Walker (22:11). Sammie Frazer has also run well for the girls team.

Karen Arnold, who is in her seventh season as the Oakwood coach, had 28 kids in the entire program this year, the most she’s ever had. Arnold credits assistant coach Eli Drabman for being integral to the program. The girls team continues to grow and has accomplished a lot in just its third year fielding a squad. It’s no coincidence that the Hawks have soared this season, with Arnold pointing to Marcotullio and Goldman as being steady runners who lead by example. Arnold raved about Marcotullio’s ability, work ethic and intangibles.

“Kate is an athlete, understands her body and is adept at doing athletic things,” Arnold said. “She has a natural ability and affinity for running, has a lovely gait and stride and is smart about racing. She’s dedicated to getting better and is extremely coachable, so she takes advice to heart and uses it to improve. She truly thinks about her racing and workouts to get to where she wants to be, and is a real asset to the team. in a positive way, she helps the rest of the girls and boys on the team to achieve at a high level.”

Marcotullio said the rescheduling of the event—it originally was supposed to take place last Saturday but was postponed twice due to the Northern California wildfires—has given her added time to hone her race strategy. 

“With the team we did a little overview of the course and looked at where the hills are going to be and where I need to push it a little more,” she said. “The course finishes a bit on an uphill so I know I have to sprint that uphill. I’ve been able to think about how my race is going to go and think through a little more. Whereas before I was a little stressed out, now I feel more prepared.”

Marcotullio has fond memories from last year’s CCS Championships, when she finished in 10th place in the Division V race to qualify for the state meet. Marcotullio has dropped her times since then, and a top three finish in Saturday’s race isn’t out of the question. Marcotullio chalks up her improvement to training year-round, as last year was her first season of cross country. 

“With (club) soccer and running all summer, I’ve basically been training all year,” she said. 

The year-round training helped Marcotullio enter this season stronger than ever, and the results showed. At the PCAL Santa Lucia Division Finals, Marcotullio outkicked the second-place finisher in the final 100 meters to take the championship.

Marcotullio grew up with two older brothers, Christopher and Matthew, the latter a senior at Oakwood. Marcotullio looked up to her brothers, who both did soccer and cross country. 

“I was always really competitive and always wanted to keep up with them and be just as good as they were,” she said. 

Marcotullio repeats a mantra whenever things get tough in training or in a race. Whenever Marcotullio scales a hill, she tells herself that it doesn’t hurt. 

“And then it doesn’t hurt as much,” she said. “I tell myself the sooner I finish, the sooner it will be over and I won’t hurt as bad. It encourages me to go faster.”

It shows.

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