History of Lynbrook Cross-Country

LYNBROOK CROSS COUNTRY by Verne Thornberg (thru '83), Hank Lawson (thru 2009)
Lynbrook opened in 1965, and Cross Country started with just one boy,
coached by Verne Thornberg. Although we did very well in those early days,
we were always in the shadow of Homestead High School, who were the National
USA champions two years in a row. Finally, Lynbrook broke on top with its
first League Championship Varsity team in 1972. In 1974, Lynbrook not only
won the League Championship again, but finished 6th in the National USA
Postal Competition. In 1977, Lynbrook had for the tenth year in a row,
a runner who broke 4:30 for a mile run. Starting in 1978, Lynbrook entered
a down cycle like often happens to everyone. Hopefully 1981 was the end
of this down cycle and the beginning of a strong upturn. Even with a few
rather thin years, the Boys' Varsity team record in the League Championships
has been good. The current standings through the 1993 season is 130 wins
and only 77 losses, and this has happened in a very strong league.

It took another 12 years before Lynbrook saw another League Championship
title (1986). It then happened again in 1991 led by Freshman phenom Jason
Balkman. In 1992, Lynbrook saw its first State Champion when Sophomore
Jason Balkman won the Division III state title at Fresno's Woodward Park.
Balkman came back in '94 to win the State Championship in Division I with
the fastest time of the day over the same Woodward Park course. That year,
Balkman also won the Foot Locker Western Regional Championship and was
favored to win the National Championship title but was unable to attend
due to a previously scheduled commitment. Balkman still holds three
course records on the St. Francis/Foothill JC course, and all four school
records on the Crystal Springs course (14:54 best), as well as the track
school record in the 2 mile.

Although girls started running distances in the early 1970s, Lynbrook
had its first girls' team in 1978. Again we started with two girls, but
"beat the bushes" and had a team before the year was over. Lynbrook
just happened to have the top three distance runners in the area (Cathy
Dammelmaier 17:34 at Crystal Springs), but they were running with an
AAU team, thus could not run for the school. In the toughest girls league
in the Central Coast Section (CCS), we have improved every year; however,
our opponents have also. We are getting a little closer to the top each
year. We have never beaten St. Francis or finished last.  (Note: We will 
never beat SF in our League since SF changed leagues in 2002.)  The dynasty
is beginning.  In 2002, the Lynbrook girls sent their first Team (Boys or Girls) to the
State XC Finals by finishing 3rd in CCS and gaining an At-Large berth.

Lynbrook's State Qualifiers for Cross Country over the years are:

'91 - Balkman, Jason (Fr) 15:37 4th
'92 - Balkman, Jason (So) 15:38 1st
'93 - Hovancik, Stephanie (Sr) 19:33 33rd
      Balkman, Jason (Jr) 16:26 49th
'94 - Balkman, Jason (Sr) 15:15 1st
'95 - Wu, Amie (Jr) 21:49 116th
'96 - Neeves, Paul (Sr) 17:41 135th
'02 - Aya Wakabayashi (Jr, 20:07.8 101st), Zohreh Akhavan (Fr, 20:26.7 117th), 
      Sasoon Kim (Jr, 21:24.6 159th), Christina Liao (Fr, 21:28.6 163rd),
      Aga Goslicka (Jr, 22:12.0 179th), Kate Bossange (Sr, 21:15.4 152nd),
      Francine Lee (Sr, 20:54.8 137th)
'03 - Huang, MayC (Fr) 19:16.3 49th
      Wakabayashi, Aya (Sr) 19:50.7 79th
'04 - Huang, MayC (So) 19:30 49th
'07 - Tang, Lauren (Fr) 19:56 93rd
'08 - Signore, Luca (Jr) 16:18 65th
      Huang, Cindy (So) 19:27 74th
'09 - Signore, Luca (Sr) 15:26.4 11th
'10 - Huang, Cindy (Sr) 19:29 83rd
'11 - Silverman, Shaelyn (Jr) 19:50 84th
'12 - Robison, Justin (Fr) 17:03.6 133rd

A lot has happened since the above paragraph was written, some 10+ years
ago. We have had League Champions and State meet qualifiers. We've had
no teams entered, and enough for a JV team. We sometimes run thin on
depth, with injuries or sickness our biggest nightmare. But we are not
alone. Other teams in the league have felt the highs and lows of girls
participating in this unique sport.   In 2009 the F/S Girls division was added
and Lynbrook made history by winning the first ever League Championships
for this division.

Cross Country at Lynbrook High School has always had a place for three
types of runners. First, we are looking for the runner who likes distance
running. Next, we are looking for the middle distance runner (880-miler
type) who wants to run Cross Country in order to strengthen themselves
for the track season. Third, we are always looking for the smaller type
of person who had participated little in athletics before but has the desire
to do well. With strength and maturity, they all of a sudden run "wild"
about their junior year. Lynbrook has had its share of this type of runner,
one who went un-noticed in junior high, but then became the section leader
as an upperclassmen at Lynbrook.

Cross Country is a sport where everyone runs approximately three miles
over hills and/or level ground. It is a sport where one can improve greatly
over a period of time. Most of the good distance runners of the world today
are over 25 years of age, whereas in swimming, the swimmers of that age
are generally long over the hill. One of the greatest problems that a freshman
has to face is the fear of running three miles. As a senior, many runners
think it is nothing to run 8 to 10 miles at a time. In order to do that
however, it takes a slow build up. No one can run 8 to 10 miles without
careful training over a period of time. That is why it is important to
run before the season starts in September so that your legs and lungs will
be in good shape. It is interesting to note that the American idea of distance
running has changed in the past few years. During the 1950s, the Americans
had no long distance runners of note. Today, the USA is doing well in both
men's and women's distance running. What a change ... you can see a different
attitude everywhere as the entire western part of Santa Clara County can
be seen running the neighborhood streets any time of day or year.

Cross Country is a sport where everyone participates. It is also a sport 
where the small student has as good a chance
for success as does the larger runner. Cross Country is not an easy sport
and perhaps "desire and dedication" plays a greater role than
in any other sport; certainly size isn't important. We hope we can get
more runners out this year than in the past, as that has been our greatest
problem --- team depth. We have generally had a very good runner each year,
but have just been too thin to compete with the top teams in the section.

Interesting that the above comments seem to still hold true, except in 2002.
Lynbrook has the athletes but we seem unable to get them all to come out
for the team.  Although 2002 saw its biggest team turnout ever with 63
runners competeing at the DAL League Finals (61 was the previous high in 2000).
In 2009 we saw a team of 82 runners and seem to continue to grow.

Here are some notes, especially for freshman going out for Cross Country.
We normally practice every day including Friday here at Lynbrook. We are
forbidden to practice (coach and runners together) on Sundays,
or holidays; however, there is nothing that says that one can't go out
for a run on these days by yourself or with a group of teammates. We work
basically on a varied schedule. One day hard and the next day easy, as
high school runners are too young physically to run hard too many days
in a row. Everyone needs a rest and a change of pace. Freshmen will take
a PE class in addition to their running. It is expected that one will get
dressed and out to practice quickly so that the entire team can practice
together. The schedule will not be finalized until September.

We compete in the DAL half of the SCVAL, but it hasn't always been
that way. In the beginning ('73), there were 14 schools in the SCVAL, they

Los Altos
Santa Clara
Monta Vista
Mt. View

In 1974 the SCVAL split into 2 divisions, DAL and El Camino. In 1976
Saratoga moved from the WVAL to the DAL. Sunnyvale High closed its doors
in 1981 (or was it '82?) and St. Francis joined the women in 1981 (or was
it '82?). Los Gatos joins the DAL in 1988. The DAL is comprised of: Lynbrook
Cupertino Fremont Monta Vista Los Gatos Homestead Saratoga St. Francis
(Female only) In 1992 the DAL & WVAL ran a combined League meet for
one year only.  Then in 2002 St Francis left the DAL to join the WCAL.

Cross Country practice begins 2 weeks prior to the first day of school
with meets starting in mid-September. The season ends about Veteran's Day
(November 11th) unless the teams have qualified for the section finals
or beyond. In order to run Cross Country or participate in any sport at
the high school level, one must have a physical exam and medical insurance
on record with the school. Please see that this is completed early. Once
the physical card and insurance card are taken care of, they are good for
the entire school year. You have two priorities, school and Cross Country.

In order to run miles, one needs a comfortable, well supported pair
of running shoes. Please note I didn't say expensive. As you develop into
a runner, then perhaps an expensive pair can be purchased. Comfort and
support comes first in my books. We train on the roads, in the foothills
and on grass at local parks. We never run round the track as this is Cross
Country and the two sports, Track and Cross Country, are far different.

Oh yes, and for those of you that don't know me ... I'm Hank Lawson
and I've been coaching X-C at Lynbrook since 1994 and retired in 2009. Before 
that, I coached at Gunn High School from '88 - '92 and ran there from '69 - '73. 
In between, I ran for De Anza JC, San Diego State, founded and coached the Hewlett-Packard
Track Team in the SF Bay Area, worked and ran for Runner's World Magazine
and my last stint was running/coaching at Maxtor Corporation. I'm very
involved in Community Theater along with being a sound engineer at my kids
school plays. Oh yes, I'm a programmer in my spare time, which also pays
the bills. I still run and race competitively and plan to run with you
all this fall (at least until I retire).