MileSplitCA Girls 2019 XC Runner of the Year
Carlie Dorostkar closes in on a State Division I championship at Woodward Park. (Credit: Patrick Corsinita)
When Canyon Crest's Carlie Dorostkar prepared for the 2019 cross country season, she went back to her roots.
The senior, who was selected the 2019 California Girls Runner of the Year by MileSplitCA, grew up as an age group swimmer. A good one, too, especially in her two best events, the 200-meter butterfly and the 400-meter individual medley.
She swam for her high school as a freshman but when her track times started dropping, she decided to abandon the daily pool workouts and monthly two-day long meets in favor of running.
And over the summer before her senior year, she made a major change.
"I went back to cross-training, eliminating the worthless mileage," said Dorostkar, knowing full-well many runners and coaches believe there's no such thing as "worthless mileage."
But even they agree excessive mileage can be counter-productive, often doing just the opposite of what is intended, eventually breaking down the runner and leaving them prone to injury.
So Dorostkar put in mileage in the pool, which saved her legs, as well as spending time in the gym. Of course, she continued to train with her cross country teammates.
Once the season started, she had a specific plan -- which meets to run, which ones to pass up -- with her focus being the state championships and beyond.
So when her teammates ran in their own invitational early in the season, she passed. As others were going week after week, she opened with a strong performance in the Mt. Carmel Invitational. She followed that a week later with a jaw-dropping 15:57.50 on the fast course at Dana Hills, a 3-mile time that would hold up as the fastest for that distance in the U.S. in 2019.
She was back on the course two weeks later for the Clovis Invitational on the 5K layout at Woodward Park in Fresno, the same course that's used for the CIF-State Championships in late November.
On this October day, Dorostkar placed fifth in 17:26.30, 33 seconds behind Buchanan's Corie Smith, whose 16:53.90 was at the time the ninth fastest time ever on the Woodward Park course.
"You know, I didn't run that poorly -- it was just that expectations were so high because of what I'd accomplished," said Dorostkar, 17, who has narrowed her choices down to two colleges.
That result also motivated her as the invitational season came to a close. She was fine finishing second in the Mt. SAC team sweepstakes, losing only to Arizona's Lauren Ping.
Next up -- the San Diego Section Division I championships.
Exuding confidence, she scorched the Balboa Park championship course, winning by 80 seconds over teammate Elizabeth Emberger in 16:28.8 over 3 miles.
After the race, though, she saved her celebration for when she was told the Ravens team had qualified for the state championships. She sprinted over to the finish line to hug her teammates, two of whom are her freshman twin sisters, Nikki and Sammi.
Although she was one of the favorites heading to Fresno's Woodward Park for the State Championships, she certainly wasn't the prohibitive choice like 2018 MileSplitCA Girls Runner of the Year Kristin Fahy (La Costa Canyon/SD) had been. Not with the likes of Buchanan's Smith, who had already dusted her in the Clovis meet and knew every rock and tree on the course.
But those fresh legs, saved from over-pounding by swimming and gym workouts, were primed for this race.
"The first mile was fast but I felt comfortable," said Dorostkar. "I could hear people encouraging me. At the second mile I told myself, 'I can win this!' I was listening to the crowd because you don't turn around to look and I knew how I was doing.
"That's a big difference from swimming. There, you just race. You can look side to side, but you never really know how you're doing. If you slow down, no one can tell you to pick it up."
Over the last mile, Dorostkar had control of the race and as she approached the finish line, spectators could see why. Her time of 16:45.4 was 15 seconds ahead of Smith, who in turn was 38 seconds ahead of the next runner, posting the second-fastest time of the meet.
Carlie's time was also equal to the fourth fastest time ever run over the 5-kilometer course.
"That surprised me," said Dorostkar, who was quickly invited to the Nike Nationals where she finished sixth, and again was the top California runner. "Nike Nationals were all that I thought they would be and more. When I was in the ninth grade, teammates joked about qualifying for Nike Nationals, but it was really cool."
Among those behind her: Ping and Smith.
True to her word, Dorostkar took two weeks off before slowly starting to train for track season where her only goal at this point is to improve on her 3200 PR of 10:26.15.
"I want to build on my base and go out and have fun," said Dorostkar, not even mentioning the year-old San Diego Section record of 10:11.38 set by Fahy a year ago.
And sometime soon, she will make up her mind where she'll spend the next four years, majoring in Human Biology, Physiology and Public Health.
Oh, she'll do a little running too.
"I actually think the longer distance (college women run 6-kilometers, 3.7 miles) will be even better for me," said Dorostkar, before heading out to cross-train.
Girls Runners of the Year by Class
Senior -- Carlie Dorostkar, Canyon Crest Academy (SD)
Junior -- Harper McClain, St. Helena (NC)
Sophomore -- Alexander Klos, Vista del Lago (SJ)
Freshman -- Lauren Soobrian, Los Altos (CC)