Three at a time they ascended the podium at Beaumont High to receive their awards.
They were given first, second and third-place medals and patches to affix to their letterman’s jackets.
One of the athletes claiming honors at the Citrus Belt League track and field finals was Beaumont’s Hannah Butterfield. She’s a tall underclassman with a smooth stride.
I asked her what she likes about running.
“Everything,” Butterfield said. “I like the people the most. They’re all so nice compared to other sports and they’re all so generous. And I like the feeling of getting faster and beating your [personal records]. It boosts my confidence.”
Back in 1979, possibly before Butterfield’s parents Brian and Robin were born, I ran the San Francisco Marathon. My fire was stoked by the running boom of the 1970s. The boom was ignited in 1972 when American Frank Shorter won the Olympic marathon. He was the first United States runner since 1908 to do so.
I guess we were impressionable. When Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match in 1973 at the Houston Astrodome, we also took up tennis.
But when it came to running, I was strictly a middle-of-the-pack plodder. These kids nabbing medals in Beaumont last Thursday are thoroughbreds. Like Yucaipa High’s Elizabeth Betten. She won the 300 hurdles and ran on the Thunderbirds’ second-place 400 relay and winning 1,600-meter relay teams.
“I like that it’s a competitive sport and that not only is it an individual race but a team race that depends on you,” Betten said of the relays. “Some days are hard and that’s OK. You’re not going to PR every day.”
Yucaipa’s Cali Good won third place in the 800 meters. The bronze medal hanging around her neck was proof.
“I really like it,” Good said of her chosen sport. “It’s good stress relief. I love to run fast. Track is my favorite season.”
Citrus Valley’s 100-meter champ Lindsey Chau is best known for her soccer exploits. She leaves in the fall to play soccer at the University of San Francisco. This is her first year running track.
“It’s very different,” she said. “It’s definitely individualistic, but there’s also a team component to it. I really enjoy coming out every day and putting in the work.”
Like Butterfield, 800-meter boys’ champ Christopher Ontiveros Jr. of Citrus Valley relishes the social aspect. He enjoys the process as much as the finish.
“The best part is the people you meet on the journey,” he said. “You get to meet people who have the same goals as you and who try just as hard as you do.”
Ontiveros also appreciates knowing his parents, Christopher and Angie, are in the stands rooting for him.
Running is not for the faint of heart, though. Ontiveros displayed that when he collapsed at the end of his race and had to be helped to his feet.
“It ain’t easy,” the soft-spoken junior said. “It’s tough. But the payoff is huge.”
John Murphy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PrepDawg2.