Catching up with Bellarmine seniors Galen and Nolan Topper

The Bellarmine cross country team finished in 3rd place at last year's Division I State final and is currently ranked as one of the top teams in the nation. Galen and Nolan Topper (above 3rd and 4th from the left) have been a big part of their varsity team and have just recently committed to competing for Stanford University next fall. We reached out to them and you can check out our interview with them here.

1) How did you guys get your start in running? What was your competitive experience before hs? What other sports did you both play?
We come from a family of runners, with our dad being an ultra-marathoner. He encouraged us to run early, so we ran on both my middle school and club teams. We ran under Coach Dena Evans for our middle school, and then Coach Tina Lount for Woodside Wildebeests. Until 9th grade, we were mostly running for fun, while playing soccer and basketball.

2) What was your freshman experience at Bellarmine in both sports? Highlights for both?
Nolan (above): Freshman year cross country was definitely an eye-opener. One of the most iconic moments was our first travel meet, to Mt. Sac. Our freshman team beat Great Oak's freshman unit, which was the highlight of that season (some of our fans were crying with joy). In track, my most memorable moment was at CCS in the 3200m, where I remember being the smallest guy on the starting line, standing next to Meika and Robert Miranda.
 Galen: Freshman year for me was up and down. I got off to a great start and was one of the top freshmen, then after my third race (WCAL I), I got Sever's disease, so I was out for about four months. I didn't really get back into running until track came along. My highlight for track was the Dublin Distance Fiesta, where I had a big PR.

3) Who were the older runners on the Bellarmine team that helped you both in your transition to high school running?

We benefited greatly from the strong running tradition at Bellarmine. Meika Beaudoin-Rosseau and Alex Scales were both great role models for me and for all of us. They set the standard for excellence and sportsmanship and set us on the path for running in college. But there were plenty of others, including leaders like Michael Nazari and Danny Leclair, who brought us into the Bellarmine running community.

4) Highlights for both during your sophomore seasons in both sports?
Nolan: In cross, the highlight was winning CCS as a team, as it was my first and only time being on that roster, as I had a cold last year. For track, it certainly was racing at CIF under the lights in the 3200m (on the photo to the left next to teammate Colin Peattie).
Galen: The highlight of the sophomore XC season was probably the CIF State XC meet. For track, Arcadia was a ton of fun, but I think my favorite moment was again the Dublin Distance Fiesta, where I got edged out by my teammate in the 3200m.

5) During the fall of junior year, Bellarmine had one of its best teams in school history. List some of the team's accomplishments. What did it mean to both of you for your team to break the team time record on the Crystal Springs course?
Setting the record at Crystal and winning WCAL Having 119 boys PR at Crystal for WCAL (up from 40 in 2018) 3rd at State to Great Oak and Jesuit Winning the De La Salle Invite 2nd at Mt. Sac to Great Oak Nolan: Setting the record at Crystal was an incredible feeling, and the weirdest thing was that all of us agreed after the race that we had fun while racing. I think that's part of the key to success. It meant a lot to us to set the record, but I think given the opportunity we can set it lower, so I don't want us to get complacent. Galen: There was a look of disbelief in everyone's face after that race. When Coach McCrystle told us that we had beat St. Francis' time, we were thrilled. When news came in that we not only beat that, but the course record, it was huge. Like Nolan, I think we have more this year to show for our team.

6) Your team finished in 3rd place in the Division 1 race which was 3rd team Bellarmine has finished on the podium. Now that you have had a chance to reflect on that accomplishment, what was the reaction of the team to podium once again in the state's toughest division?
Getting 3rd last year was in some ways a disappointment for us. Our goal has always been to win, and we had set our hopes on really competing with Great Oak, which we didn't do. All of us are hungry for more, as we think we can do better.

7) Tell us a bit about your coach, Patrick McCrystle, and what he has meant to both of you during your time at Bellarmine.
Nolan: Our coach has been a role model and leader for us, as much as he is a coach. Of course, he writes workouts and plans races, but he also inspires us with his words, shows incredible sportsmanship and dedication, and cares about all of us. I think that our varsity team and coach have a sense of mutual trust and faith. I haven't ever doubted his coaching, and he hasn't doubted my commitment.
 Galen (below): Coach McCrystle has probably the most important influence on my life for the past three and a half years. I think that his greatest strength and the most important thing he brings to the Bellarmine community is the sense of brotherhood that we have on the team. While managing a team often of more than 200 athletes, Coach continuously adapts his plans and training to best support his athletes' needs. I don't think that Nolan or I would have been nearly as good without the coaching of Coach McCrystle.

8) The last track and field and current cross country seasons have been either cancelled or postponed. How have you two dealt with that circumstance and what has kept you both motivated to continue to train?
It was hard to lose our racing seasons, but we have made do. It's been great to have each other to run with, as we never need to run alone. We've done a few time-trials and even one race in Arizona, which have kept us motivated. We continue to focus on the goal of winning our state title, when we finally get to have a season.

9) Favorite xc invitational? Favorite xc course? Favorite xc workout? Favorite track invitational? Favorite event? Favorite track workout? Favorite long run? Favorite pro athlete? Favorite free time activity?
Nolan (below):
XC invite: Mt. SAC
XC course: Woodward Park
XC workout: PGE at Rancho
Track invite: Arcadia
Event: 3200m (although I really like watching the 4x4)
Track workout: Ladder workouts at the Rose Garden
Long run: Sawyer Camp Trail
Pro athlete: DK Metcalf or Noah Lyles
Activity: Basketball

Galen: XC Invite: Foot Locker West
XC Course: Woodward Park
XC workout: Fartlek
 Track Invite: Dublin Distance Fiesta
Event: 1600m
Track workout: Interval workouts on the track
Long run: Sawyer camp

10) You have been recently committed to Stanford University. What does it mean to both of you that you will be attending that University and being able to continue your educational and running career there?
It's an honor and a great opportunity that we can attend Stanford. We're happy that we found a school that we can succeed academically and in cross country/track.

11) What are the advantages and perhaps disadvantages of being twins competing on the same team? Some advantages are that we always have someone to train with/race against who is about our skill level. We push each other to be more competitive. The downside is that there will always be a winner and a loser, but neither of us take it too hard when we lose.

12) Anything else you two would like to add.
Thanks for maintaining such a great resource for cross country with crosscountryexpress!