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Campolindo's Cross Country Champions

Hard work, determination led the girls team to the state championship and Aidan Goltra to the boys individual title

Aidan Goltra and Brighie Leach with the rest of Brighie's teammates on the Campolindo High girls varsity cross country team
Aidan Goltra and Brighie Leach with the rest of Brighie's teammates on the Campolindo High girls varsity cross country team
Campolindo High cross country standouts Aidan Goltra and Brighie Leach agree there is no shortcut to being a championship runner.

"It's a very honest sport," said Goltra. "It tests you in the most purest and simplest form."

"What you put in, you get out," adds Leach.

That attitude and determination led Goltra to victory in the Division III state championship race two weeks ago in Fresno. It was the second year in a row Goltra has won the individual title and it helped the boys' varsity team to a fourth place finish.

Leach finished second in the girls' Division III race, leading her team to the state championship.

Their victory was a model of team strength. Behind Leach was Mary Orders in 14th place, Rachel Johnson in 15th, Sarah Cella in 25th and Haley Shipway in 27th. Their combined score of 83 was well ahead of the second place team.

Leach said she and her teammates have been talking about and working toward that state championship since June.

"We wanted it really badly," she said.

For Goltra, it was the second time he'd won the California championship race by less than one second. 

This year, he had two other runners right on his heels as he sprinted toward the finish line. He said he'd tried to lose the two competitors in the 5-kilometer race with a kilometer to go, but he couldn't shake them.

So, he had to outkick them, concentrating every second down the stretch.

"I was focusing on making every step count," he said.

Goltra has been running since third grade. He started his high school career at Las Lomas High in Walnut Creek, transferring to Campolindo after this sophomore year.

He said it was his long-term view and patience that helped him improve every year.

He also credited the tough workouts Campolindo High School Cross Country Coach Chuck Woolridge puts the teams through.

The girls and boys squads run the same workouts. The road runs are generally 4 to 8 miles. The teams also do two timed interval workouts per week as well as three morning runs. In addition, there is tempo work and hill charges.

Leach started running as a freshman at Campolindo. She said she joined the team because she'd transferred from Stanley Middle School in Lafayette and didn't know a lot of students at her new school. She wanted to make new friends and cross country seemed like a natural fit since she'd played a lot of soccer.

Leach believes she has succeeded as a runner because she's self-motivated and a bit of a perfectionist.

"I don't let myself off the hook," she said.

She enjoys both the individual and team components of cross country.

"I like the team aspect," she said. "You're competing individually, but in the end everyone comes together."

Goltra will graduate in June and isn't sure yet where he'll go to college. He knows he'll run wherever he goes.

Leach is a junior and will return to Campolindo next fall.

Woolridge had high praise for the athletes he coached this season.

He said Goltra is a "true student" of his sport and is one of the most poised and confident athlete he's ever observed.

"He has the rare ability to remain 'present' and in control in the biggest races," said Woolridge. "His state championships are as much the result of his calm mental execution as they are a result of his diligent training and outstanding talent."

He also praised Goltra's commitment to his team.

"Aidan is a wonderful teammate.  He is friendly and approachable, and a big reason why so many athletes on our campus choose to participate in our sport," said Woolridge.  "He is invested in the achievement of his teammates as much as he is in his own accomplishments.  He has been an outstanding role model for younger athletes."

Woolridge said Leahy, as a freshman, got to run as a teammate of Carrie Verdon, a two-time state champion.

"Brighie was careful to recognize the example Carrie set," said Woolridge, "and came to understand the commitment and effort that was required to ascend to the top of the sport."

He added the junior is "extremely coach-able and loyal to her team."

"Her success has been extremely gratifying for me," said Woolridge. "I know how committed she is to improve.  She has made the most of every opportunity, overcome injuries and setbacks, and never faltering in her pursuit of athletic success.  It is the same attitude she demonstrates in every facet of her life. She is one of the most respected students on our campus."

Woolridge said the girls' varsity team was an incredibly cohesive unit.

"These girls made a promise to one another back in the spring and held each other accountable through six months of training," said Woolridge. "The level of fitness they achieved as a group was like nothing I have observed in my 20 years of coaching."

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