Skyler Wallace runs in front with sister Stormy (7304) just behind at last year's CIF-San Diego Section Championships Division IV race at Morley Field in Balboa Park. (Credit: Clark Kranz)
CARLSBAD -- The year was 1992 and the San Diego Section was agog over the exploits of Fallbrook's Milena Glusac, who would go on to capture the Division I state cross country title.
But it would be a sensational year for the section girls as Escondido High's Michelle Cox would steal some of Glusac's thunder by crossing the finish line first in the Division II race at the State Championships. (Contributed photo below of Cox running for Escondido in 1992)
Cox, now Michelle Wallace, is continuing to make an impression in state cross country as the mother of Sage Creek sisters Skyler and Stormy Wallace who collected a Division IV team title last year and are looking to repeat that accomplishment next month.
"We would go out for runs when they were babies -- we had to do something to run out their energy," said the mom. "I'm very proud of them -- they're my heroes.
"If they were running when I ran, they would beat me for sure. I don't think what I did motivates them, but they motivate me."
"We always ran together -- playing another sport wasn't even a consideration," said Skyler, a senior who has narrowed her college choices to three. "It's just been a part of our lives -- a good part."
Michelle is an assistant coach and her role this year figures to be a little more important since head coach Jacob Feiring acknowledged that he and his wife, Rachel, will be moving to Seattle after the season.
Feiring said after this weekend's Mt. SAC Invitational, he and Rachel will start looking for a place to live in Washington, where she got a job offer she couldn't turn down. Feiring said he'll entrust track coach Danny Kung, and Wallace, to oversee the workouts he prepares and will return for sure for the state championships and possibly even the section meet the week before.
He said Mt. SAC is a very important meet for the team.
"It's night and day how better we are but no one has seen it because we haven't had our seven best runners together since the first meet of the season," said Feiring. "We have five runners fighting for that No. 5 spot and I'll be looking very carefully who finishes well.
"The difference between this year's team and last is they've formed a bond, they're close. Skyler and Lavanya (Pandey) have provided senior leadership. After being injured before the last two seasons, Lavanya is healthy and is running out of her mind.
"Skyler is running extremely well and Stormy is past some mental barriers that often affect sophomores. They go from just running for fun to having some expectations. Those two are the backbone."
Stormy was sixth in the State Meet a year ago and now freshman sensation Malia Leupold has pretty much assumed the No. 4 spot.
The sisters do have state goals that don't have winning an individual title near the top.
"We are focused on setting the team time record for Division IV," said Skyler, who has run just one invitational (Woodbridge) heading into Mt. SAC. "And, we want to qualify for the Nike Nationals."
"Whatever I do, it's for the team," said Stormy. "Hopefully, I'll finish in the top five at State but I want to do what's best for the team."
You get the idea these are team-oriented individuals.
So, the team goal is to repeat their gold medal performance, this time running at least 10 seconds faster than last year's 94:04 to move to the top of the Division IV list ahead of current front-runner Santa Cruz's time of 93.55 in 2015.
Actually, they're hoping to destroy the record so they can be in line for a coveted guaranteed NXN spot from among all of the girls teams in the State Championships.
But make no mistake, Skyler, who was third a year ago, running 17:50 over the Woodward Park 5K course, would love to improve by two places since she was only 5.3 seconds behind winner Audrey Suarez of Mayfield (pictured) and 1.7 in arears of Harvard-Westlake's Daniela Quintero.
She's running considerably faster this year, both on the course and in practice. At Woodbridge, she was 12th -- seven places better than in 2018 -- with a 9.3-second improvement.
"There's always good girls at State," said Skyler. "I know Audrey Suarez finishes the season strong and I wouldn't mind being third again as long as we perform as well as we should as a team. I hope I'm better than last year, but team is part of cross country-an incredible part.
Stormy, meanwhile, says a top 5 finish would be OK with her, even if Skyler and vastly improved Pandey (15th last year) were in front of her.
"I'll just give my all again," said the 10th-grader. "Whatever, I'll be pleased."
Before you think she's given up beating Skyler for the first time somewhere in the future, she added, "This year I'm comparing my times with Skyler as a sophomore. I have them all in my head and I've run faster."
They're aware that Feiring (pictured with the Wallace girls in contributed image at right) is eventually leaving and that he doesn't want that to be a distraction.
"He's so motivational, he helps everyone through the toughest times," said Stormy. "He always has a catch-phrase and I have them engrained in my brain."
Skyler is just happy for the four years she's had with Feiring.
"I am so appreciative of the time I had with coach," she said. "We will definitely miss him."
But first is Mt. SAC and then, hopefully, another big run at Woodward Park Thanksgiving weekend.
Photos by DeAnna Turner, Steve Brand, Clark Kranz and Dan Tyree