The first-place La Quinta High School girls’ cross country team is again vying for the Desert Valley League championship, and while they have the league’s top runner in Marisa Rodriguez, they need more than one to win meets.
That’s where junior Sandra Flores comes in. She finished second in the first DVL meet last month, just behind Rodriguez — her best time was 18 minutes and 13 seconds at Woodbridge — and is playing an integral role in keeping the Blackhawks on top of the league.
The Desert Sun spoke to Flores recently about her thoughts on the sport and how the three-year varsity runner became interested in it.
QUESTION: How did you first get started running cross country?
ANSWER: I’ve always liked running, but going into high school I just wanted to do a sport, so I thought I might as well try running. And so I tried it and realized I was good at it, so I just kind of stayed with it.
Is No. 2 the highest you’ve been on the team?
I was No. 2 freshman year, 3 sophomore year, and now I’m No. 2 again.
What’s it like running on a team that’s had such strong top runners the last several years?
It’s good because we all kind of work together to be where we are.
Does it make you faster, do you think?
I definitely think so; I think that having (No. 1 runner) Marisa (Rodriguez), especially, up there – she definitely pushes me a lot.
What are your goals for the season?
I just want to stay second the whole way until the end of the season, and (get my) time probably just sub-18, really. I thought I’d be there by now, but I haven’t quite hit it.
What is the team’s goal this year?
Just to stay where we are (in first place in the DVL) and keep all of our runners healthy with no injuries.
What do you like to do when you’re not running cross country?
Running’s my life, so that just takes over everything but all of us girls have a really close bond, so we all hang out together and stuff.
Do you run on the side together too?
(Team practice) is pretty much the only practice that we do together.
What did you think about the Palm Springs High School cross country runner who went out for a run and was attacked? Do you still go running around the block sometimes?
Yeah, I usually go out running on Sundays and that’s really scary. My dad follows me now. He’s like, “You’re not running by yourself.”
Is that something you’d ever considered before?
No. You don’t really think it’s going to happen to you until it happens to someone and you’re like, “Oh, dang, that could’ve been me.”