Head coach Greg Garzon has grown St. Ed’s cross country program to a state of popularity and prominence never seen before he arrived four years ago. This year he has 35 boys and girls on the team with a new assistant coach introducing a batch of training ideas to help the runners slog through days of relentless heat and humidity.
“[Garzon] is very easy to get along with and our philosophies kind of fit,” Carolyn De Palma told us. “He is very open to any suggestions that I’ve had. It’s just been a pleasure working with him and the team. It’s impressive to see how many kids came out for cross country this year.”
De Palma grew up in New Jersey, went to college in Pennsylvania, and was living in Manhattan before moving to Florida in 2015. She was a cross country runner in high school and a lacrosse player in college. Getting involved in coaching was an “automatic” goal when she got here and that was achieved last year as an assistant with the girls middle school lacrosse team. Expanding to cross country this year was a natural with her background in that sport.
“I’ve brought in the idea of interval training a little bit more,” De Palma explained. “I believe in the past it’s just been a case of getting your distance miles in — which obviously has its merits in cross country. A shorter distance works on their speed and gets them out of their comfort zone. It gives them a little more ownership of their times.
“I’ve also been trying to differentiate in practice between our more elite athletes and the other runners out there just to have fun and work on physical fitness with their friends. I also understand that it’s very easy to lose runners in this heat, so at least once a week I try to add some fun workouts and things they haven’t seen in a while.
“The kids come to me after every race regardless of where they place, or where they are on the team, looking for their times. To me that is amazing because they just want to improve and see what they can do better the next time.”
As for those elite runners, De Palma identified senior Allan Ross and junior Tomas Botero as the leaders for the boys. The pair finished 1-2 in a tri meet at home last week. Ross clocked in for 5K at 17:23 and Botero at 18:32. Ross was a state qualifier last year, finishing 35th with a time of 17:33.
Sophomore Elise Mallon and senior Tea Tee are the top runners thus far on girls chart. They finished 2-3 at the meet last week.
De Palma has been working with Mallon to get her times under the 24-minute range.
So what motivates high school kids to go out for a practice run of up to five miles in 90-degree heat after a full day in the classroom? For at least two of them, it all began at home.
“I used to live in Colorado where both of my parents were big runners,” senior Ben Oakes said. “My dad was a distance runner and my mom runs every day in the morning. In middle school I really started to enjoy running. Over the years I’ve gotten more involved in structured running with a school team.
“I came to St. Ed’s in ninth grade and the first person I met was Mr. Garzon. I’ve been on the team ever since and I love it.”
Elise Mallon has been at St. Ed’s since pre-K. She had a similar pair of role models when it came to running. “My parents run every day and when I was in fourth grade I wanted to run like them. I looked up to them and eventually developed a passion for it. I’ve been running cross country for the school since sixth grade.
“I’ve always been really competitive. My goal is to stay ahead of as many people as I can, but there’s also an aspect to compete against myself. I time myself every time I run, so competition is really a mixture of both.”