No longer just the fastest cross country runner in the desert, Indio High School’s David Luna has left his stamp on the region, officially becoming the fastest runner in the county’s CIF history, and the second-fastest runner in the state this year.
Now he will take on the nation.
The high school senior flew to Portland, Ore., on Thursday to compete in Saturday’s Nike Cross Nationals, the de facto national championship competition for cross country runners and teams, after being invited by virtue of his second-place finish at the CIF state championship last Saturday.
“I’ve never been to Oregon before. It’s pretty exciting,” Luna said. “I am expecting it to be a crazy-fast race and I’m just trying to stay focused, and I’m just training hard to see what I can do.”
The 5k course is known for its mud and ruggedness, and unlike most cross country races, is spectator friendly, featuring a 3,000-seat grandstand.
“It’s a true cross country course — there’s hay bales you have to jump over and mud puddles, it’s a really crazy course,” he said, “so at the end, everyone’s all muddy and dirty — I’m excited for that though.”
While he isn’t doing anything too intense or different while training for the defining event, he isn’t taking it easy either.
“He’s been in peak shape for two weeks now,” his coach, Santiago Briones, said. “He (continued) to work out (throughout the week) and we just want to make sure that he maintains his fitness level.”
That peak shape got Luna his second-place finish at the CIF state championship last Saturday, just one second short of winner Aidan Goltra of Campolindo (Moraga).
Goltra had been following Luna all race and charged ahead in the last stretch, but the Rajah said he isn’t heartbroken about it.
“The whole race I led and (Goltra and Austin Tamagno of Brea Olinda) both drafted me for the whole race until right at the end,” Luna said. “Aiden, he barely pulled through for the win by one second.
“He took the lead with about 400 meters to go. The last 400 meters we were barreling out until the end and he just barely got me by a step.”
He barely got Tamagno too, who tied Luna for second place with times of 15:03.