Being a cross-country runner is kind of cool in the East Bay Athletic League.
Long gone are the days when a few lonely souls would gather for a grueling team workout.
Today, cross country is more like the bustling iPhone section of the store and less like the quiet refrigerator department.
Consider this: Monte Vista has 143 participants -- 143! -- on the boys and girls squads combined.
That's some serious sweat equity, and it can be found throughout the league. De La Salle routinely has around 80 runners, and San Ramon Valley's numbers match up well with Monte Vista's.
"It is crazy," Monte Vista coach Mike Davis said of the huge participation numbers. "It's hard running six miles in 80-degree heat (in summer workouts)."
Davis remembers being among 17 members on his high school team.
Why do they all run?
Well, intense competition in the EBAL and North Coast Section helps drive the numbers. Plus, the area has strong youth cross country programs. Students have also turned to cross country to pad their college resumes by adding an activity.
The EBAL's best and brightest were on display at the Monte Vista Invitational Sept. 4, to kick off the season.
Predictably, along with all the local dedication has come excellence.
Ten EBAL boys runners cracked the top 15 in the NCS Division I race last season, in which De La Salle repeated as team champion. In Division II boys, San Ramon Valley, which
In Division I girls, Granada repeated as NCS team champion in 2011 and placed eighth at state. Amador Valley was second at NCS, Monte Vista fourth and Livermore fifth. Amador Valley's Jena Pianan, now a senior, was the individual champion and placed fifth at state.
The league also boasts standout returners, San Ramon Valley's Christine Bayliss and Granada's Maryann Gong.
De La Salle looks like the EBAL boys favorite, but Amador Valley and San Ramon Valley could be right on their heels. The mighty Matadors' girls program takes a hit with the loss of graduates Carina Novell, Kelsey Giradelli and Alyssa Horning.
Amador Valley has an imposing pack of five boys returners -- Connor McCarthy, Peter Schlachte, Jacob Schlachte, Kevin Huey, and Dan Arthur.
The Monte Vista girls are showing promise led by senior returner Katharine Smiley, who missed qualifying for the state meet by one place last year in Division I. Another Mustangs senior, Amy Ingram, looks to return to the state as an individual after making it as a freshman. Mustangs freshman Brooke Starn shows great promise.
SOPHOMORE HOOK-UP: The Foothill football team dropped a tough 41-28 decision to talented Freedom last week, but Foothill (1-1) did provide a glimpse of the future. Quarterback Kyle Kearns completed a beautiful 60-yard touchdown pass to fellow sophomore Isaiah Langley in the second quarter.
Falcons senior defensive back Zach Wilhite showed resilience after getting beat by speedy Devontae Young on a touchdown pass in the third quarter. Wilhite received cheers from Falcons supporters when he disrupted pass plays in the end zone on Freedom's next two possessions.
LIVERMORE EXCELS: Kudos to the Livermore schools, Granada and Livermore, for being a combined 4-0 in nonleague football action. California (2-0) and Monte Vista (2-0) are also off to fine starts, but the Cowboys and Matadors represent a nice early season story.
Granada, after completing nonleague play this week against Skyline (0-0), gets a bye week before hosting De La Salle on Sept. 21. Good luck with that.
GRIP IT AND RIP IT: Team GRIP junior golfers from the GRIP Academy at Las Positas Golf Course will represent the state in the PGA Junior League World Series (Sept. 15-16) in Illinois. The Las Positas squad finished 6-0 in league play and defeated Sacramento league teams to become the Northern California champion. Then Team GRIP won the PGA Regional title in Los Angeles.
Local Team GRIP members include Travis Mitchell of Alamo; Brendan Hopkins and Jared Khoo of Danville; Hayden Hui of Dublin; and Alex Chin, Drew Kim, Michael Shaw, and Noah Woolsey of Pleasanton.
Contact Matt Schwab at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at schwab_matt.