By ERIC WITTMERSHAUS
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Piner senior Luis Luna finished 30th but enjoyed the opportunity to run in Saturday’s Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships in San Diego.
“I was more relaxed than at state and at sections,” Luna said after the race. “I was a favorite to win at our section meet and ranked top five at state. Here at nationals, there wasn’t that much pressure.
“I just enjoyed it more.”
The national meet featured what was essentially a two-man race for first. Edward Cheserek of Newark, N.J., and Futsum Zeinasellassie of Indianapolis finished almost 30 seconds ahead of the third-place runner. Cheserek, a junior, was the top finisher with a time of 14:52.
Luna’s time was 16:01. He said he was slightly disappointed in his result.
“It could’ve been better. … I thought I could get a top 20, but it was fine,” he said.
Despite finishing back in the pack a ways, Luna was fifth among runners from the West region. At the regional race last weekend, he finished seventh.
“I knew that I had to be a little faster” to compete at the national level, he said.
“I was lucky that the leaders didn’t get out that fast (at the regional). … I was at the very back most of the race until the last mile when I passed a couple of guys. … I knew I wasn’t going to be able to … catch up to that many guys at this level. It’s not as easy.”
Although Luna’s cross-country season is over, he’ll run for Piner this spring in track. Luna said he felt good about what the Prospectors were able to accomplish as a team.
“I think we had a great season as a team and a good divisional season as well. We won NBL, got second at section and third at state. It was great to finish third at state.”
Piner’s track team is larger, and with so many athletes in so many events, Luna said he’ll miss the camaraderie with his teammates.
“I went down with three of my teammates for the West regional,” he said. “One of them drove, and we got a hotel room. It was a lot of fun, being there, knowing that it was our last cross-country meet together. … We’ll (all) be running track, but it’s a different atmosphere in cross-country.
“All the distance runners hang together; we know each other pretty well.”
Before training for track starts, Luna intends to take a little time off from running to clear his head.
“I think I’m mentally done with running at this point. I need a break to not run. I’m going to go home, do homework and just hang out … until my break ends.
“School will be easier because you’ll have time … to do homework instead of going home late and sleeping late.”
Eric Wittmershaus is The Press Democrat’s online sports editor. You can reach him at 521-5433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.