CONCORD -- Hope Bergmark wanted a good first race. Bergmark, a junior a Pleasanton Amador Valley, got it at the De La Salle Nike Invitational on Saturday (September 21), winning the girls varsity race in 17 minutes, 55.9 seconds on the slightly tweaked three-mile course at Newhall Park in Concord.
Bergmark won by nearly 11 seconds over Los Altos freshman Lauren Soobrian.
"It is nice, there's a lot of super-fast girls out here," Bergmark said. "It was nice to get out here and get to race against all these girls."
Bergmark is the defending North Coast Section Division 1 champion. She then finished 13th in Division I at the California Interscholastic Federation Championships.
Bergmark's goals at the DSL Invitational were just to get a good race in rather than get a great time.
"Today, we just wanted to make sure we got out hard and not get stuck in the back of the pack," she said. "This race gets narrow early on. From there, we just put a really hard effort into the race (but) it's early on into the season so we wanted to make sure we didn't go too hard yet."
In a sense, it's just a training run for Bergmark.
"We trained right through this race," she said. "I just wanted to have a nice, solid, hard effort today. I wasn't really going into this race with too much pressure or anything. We just wanted to get some nice, VO2 Max running effort in and that's what we did."
VO2 Max refers to getting the maximum volume of oxygen into the lungs while competing. Cyclists often talk about it.
It was a warm morning in Concord with temperatures in the 80s, usually a little higher than runners like, but Bergmark said she wasn't phased.
"It was cooler in the morning but then it started to heat up," Bergmark said. "I didn't mind too much. It didn't seem to bother me during my race. I was glad it wasn't too cold when we started so our muscles were nice and warm."
As a State Meet veteran, Bergmark's goals are pretty simple:
"I mostly just want to make sure I'm staying healthy throughout the season," she said. "I've had a lot of issues with injury in past seasons. So staying healthy and being able to race throughout the whole season without going out because of injuries is really important to me. And really improving as each race goes by making sure that when postseason, state comes around, I'll be ready to race hard."
Bergmark led a nice group of Dons to a third-place finish in the team competition with 154 points. Sophomore Ella McCarthy was 12th overall (11th in scoring) in 19:23.4. Pleasant Hill College Park won the team competition with 117 points, led by Aiyana Lawler, a sophomore, who finished fifth overall in 18:47.0. San Ramon Doughtery Valley was second with 132 points.
Senior Kalea Fong of Oakland Bishop O'Dowd won the junior varsity race in 20:26.4. Dougherty Valley dominated the team scoring with five of the next six finishers. Puja Oak (2nd, 20:54.5), Leah Abraham (3rd, 21:27.6), Holli Chow (5th, 21:45.4), Sahana Dhillon (6th, 21:53.2) and Shirin Wadhwa (7th, 22:03.8). The Wildcats finished with 23 points, well in front of Concord Clayon Valley (73).
In the frosh-soph competition, Lauren Yee of Lafayette Acalanes won by over 16 seconds. The sophomore crossed the line (on the short course) in 12:44.8. Campolindo freshman Ellie Buckley was next in 13:01.5.
Yee said she had a similar strategy to Bergmark -- get out early.
"I was just trying to get a good start so I could get in the first group," Yee said. "Last year I did this, so I knew there was going to be a hill. I was trying to keep up with the group and then I passed them right before the hill. I knew that once I passed them on the hill, it's all downhill so I could get a great space in between."
Yee said it was her first victory in a race in high school and was very excited about that. Also, Acalanes was one of the schools that didn't get to compete in last year's NCS championships because of wildfires in Northern California that ended the NCS meet before all of the divisions could run. She said she was hoping to get top 10 in her league this year and make it to the NCS meet.
Larkspur Redwood won the team competition with 42 points, edging out Campolindo (57).