Air Quality Interruptions Can't Keep Oakland Tech Star Down

Caroline Garrett will run in a fourth consecutive CIF-State Championship Meet. (Clark Kranz photo)

Caroline Garrett has things in perspective.

The Oakland Technical High School senior has had her training schedule leading up to the California Interscholastic Federation Championships disrupted, including the cancellation of the Oakland Athletic League Championships.

But she understands that disruption is a trifle in the big scheme of things.

"It's easy for us to be stressed out about it," she said. "But it's important that I just say that I'm very grateful I wasn't in a place affected by the fires. All of us up here in Northern California keep in mind the folks who lose their homes."

The Camp Fire in Paradise, California, has killed at least 83 people, with 563 people listed as missing and 13,503 homes destroyed. The fire sent smoke to the Bay Area, nearly 200 miles away, causing Air Quality Index readings well into the unhealthy range, leading to the postponement and cancellation of several high school postseason events.


The Central Coast Section postponed its cross country championships and ended up moving the meet south to Salinas from Belmont. The North Coast Section postponed its meet in Hayward to four days before this Saturday's State Meet and was only able to get five of its 10 division races in. The Academic Athletic Association (also known as the San Francisco section) canceled its meet after several postponements. And the OAL scrapped its championships after a couple of attempts at rescheduling.

That means that Garrett, the defending OAL champion and a top-10 finisher at State, will enter the CIF Championships on November 24 in Fresno having not raced since a regional meet on October 24. Her last event against top competition came October 15 at the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational (at left in Patrick Corsinita photo).

"Fortunately, I've been able to keep everything according to plan," she said. "Other than not racing."

The poor air quality also meant runners weren't allowed to go on their normal training runs outside.

"I've had access to a treadmill," Garrett said. "A combination of treadmill and getting out of town. We went to Monterrey. And then (November 19), me and some friends went down to Santa Cruz. Both of those places have been a lot cleaner than the Bay Area although they still have some smoke."

She said that the OAL meet was going to be a measuring stick for her.

"It's something I was going to be using to know where I was at," Garrett said. "I haven't raced since Mt. SAC. It was a pretty important part of my training going into State especially this year because our league meet was 10 days out from State which is perfect.

"At the same time, I'm a senior, I have raced a lot. A lot of the freshmen on our team will have more trouble because they haven't raced as much as me."

Garrett, bound for Wake Forest, is wrapping up a terrific career at Oakland Technical. She played soccer for 11 years and also played basketball, golf and tennis. Her parents ran and she tried it out but wasn't hooked as a child. Then, freshman year, some friends were coming out for cross country so she decided to try it.

"The summer before my freshman year, I did the summer training," she said. "It was hard. I had never done anything like that before. I wanted to quit a lot of times but I was like, 'I want to make it through one season.' I think my sophomore year, I realized I really thought I had a shot to do something cool in the sport."

She has definitely done something cool. Garrett is making her fourth appearance at the State Meet and is looking to improve her finish for the third consecutive year. As a freshman, she finished 64th in the Division I race, took 43rd the next year then 10th a year ago. She'll also be looking to better her time of 17 minutes, 52.2 seconds from last year on the 5,000-meter Woodward Park course.

"This year I think I'm in really good shape to be closer to 17:30 or 17:40," Garrett said. "It's hard to know with all of the air stuff. I think that's what I'm in shape for right now. We'll see what happens but I would be really thrilled with a PR, that's for sure."

This season, Oakland Tech has been re-classified as Division II. Garrett's time from 2017 ranks as the top returning time in the division.

"It's a little hard to know because we've always been Division I," Garrett said. "I just found out we were moved."

Garrett said she doesn't expect to change her strategy due to the changes in her preparation.

"It's important to be flexible about it," she said. "It's wrinkle in the plan. Pretty much every race plan for me is going as fast as I can. At the State Meet, it's more important with so many people.

"I would like to get back to the podium for sure. I just barely got there last year so a little higher up. I'm looking forward to being in the elite pack. It's a very talented group of girls and when it comes down to the finish, any one of us can be there."

Interview with Caroline Garrett after her race at Mt. SAC