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The proof

Grizzlies runner is evidence of program’s progress

Posted: September 23, 2009 10:46 p.m.
Updated: September 24, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Golden Valley senior Seth Totten has become a league championship contender and the face of Grizzlies cross country.

 
Golden Valley cross country runner Seth Totten remembers lining up for his first league race in 2007, and he remembers it distinctly.

“It didn’t feel like we were supposed to be there,” he says. “It felt like the other teams were just letting us be there. We felt like outsiders.”

Anyone who competes in the same league as Saugus, Canyon and Hart might feel the same way.

The Golden Valley boys team elevated itself to that league last season.

Predicted by many to struggle in 2008, the Grizzlies finished 11th at the CIF State Division III meet.

Totten led the way with a fifth-place time of 15 minutes, 25 seconds.

In some respects, he also led the way for the birth of a program.

“It’s amazing how far it has come,” says Golden Valley co-head coach Rob Evans. “The program’s at this point because it has someone like Seth. He’s just an incredible competitor and he sets the tone for everything.”

Totten’s competitive nature is what led him to the cross country course in the first place.

He started out playing baseball as a freshman at Golden Valley, and his speed made him a natural base-stealer.

“I really wanted to set the Foothill League record for most stolen bases in a year,” Totten says. “In my logic, I figured that I need to run to steal bases, so I joined the cross country team.”

Totten’s first big test as a cross country runner came at the Woodbridge XC Classic in September 2007. He ran the race in 16:48.

After the season was over, he played baseball again, but he didn’t get along with the new coach and ultimately couldn’t play for him.

But running was still there.

“When I quit the baseball team, I said if I’m going to do this, I’m going to commit myself full-time,” Totten says.

It didn’t take long for him to realize he could compete for championships in cross country.

The realization came in late July 2008, when Golden Valley went to a running camp at Mammoth Mountain.

The team had to negotiate high altitudes and difficult courses.

“I had never run this much,” Totten says. “I was broken. I was beyond pain.”

But the coaches kept reminding the runners that what they were doing would help them down the road.

The message got through.

“I ran more and faster than I ever thought I was physically capable of,” Totten says. “I believed that I could compete, and I think the whole team had their own point of realization.”

Once each runner did, the Golden Valley boys raced their way to 11th place at the state meet.

Totten’s fifth-place performance came just three weeks after he finished second in the Foothill League, mere milliseconds behind Saugus’ Brandon Jauregui.

He’s poised to do greater things this year.

Totten’s time at Woodbridge last Saturday was 14:34 — an improvement of more than two minutes from his first effort.

His coach wasn’t surprised.

Since Totten spent most of the summer at leadership conferences and on family vacation, Evans gave him a list of workouts to do.

When Golden Valley went up to Mammoth in late July, Totten was in great shape and clearly had been doing all of them.

That approach, Evans says, is immeasurable for the program.

“When we took it over, kids would walk for four or five miles during practice,” he says. “We’d have to drive around and chase them and make sure they were running. Now they go out and run, and that’s really helped us turn the corner.”

What’s around that corner in 2009 remains to be seen.

But all of a sudden, it isn’t inconceivable to see Golden Valley lining up against the best runners in the league and the state.

Do the Grizzlies belong there?

“We do now,” Totten says, “and it’s a cool feeling.”

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