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Girls cross country athlete of the year: Amanda Gehrich, Tesoro
She had always been ahead of the curve.
From the time she was a freshman, Tesoro’s Amanda Gehrich had finished on the podium at the CIF Southern Section Cross Country Finals.
But the senior, who produced the U.S.-leading time (4:39) in the 1,600 meters at the state track meet last spring, went into her final cross country season chasing some elusive titles.
For her breakthrough in some of the year’s biggest meets, Gehrich has been selected the Register’s girls cross country athlete of the year.
Her first significant achievement came in the Orange County Championships, where Gehrich had never finished worse than seventh but she wanted to etch her name into the history book of the county’s annual showcase.
Gehrich took no chances in her final shot, beating the field by an astounding 27 seconds. Her time of 16:54 placed her in elite company, as she became just the seventh girl to run a sub-17-minute time at the meet.
“Before every season, I have my goals set out in my head,” Gehrich said. “O.C. champion was really on my mind.”
After becoming the first county champion in school history, Gehrich turned her attention to the CIF-SS Division 2 Finals. In her previous appearances, she had placed seventh twice and fourth as a junior.
Sound familiar? So would the end result.
Gehrich closed out her cross country career with Tesoro by winning her first CIF-SS title. The Titans ace ran a 17:24, defeating Claire Graves of Citrus Valley of Perris (17:28), who had beaten Gehrich the previous two years.
“I’m just really grateful that after these four years, I was able to (win),” she said. “It’s like this sense of pride. It’s an incredible feeling after working towards that for so long. It’s just awesome looking back and seeing how far I have come.”
Gehrich, who signed with Utah in November, went on to place third at the CIF State meet, setting a personal best in a 5,000-meter race with a time of 17:30.
Tesoro coach Pattie Fasola was so impressed with Gehrich’s focus and drive from the start that she decided to break with tradition, making the rising star a team captain in her sophomore year.
“We usually wouldn’t make a sophomore a captain,” Fasola said. “She brought a lot of things to the program, just leading by example. She has been so focused and serious about this sport from day one.
“I don’t think I have ever had anyone who has been so committed to the team and her goals for what she wants to do in a season. Ever.”
A three-time individual league champion, Gehrich has always appreciated the opportunity to be a positive influence for her team.
“I just think that it is really a privilege to be able to inspire the rest of my team to do great things,” she said. “Having them with me, I made so many really close friendships and bonds throughout the years.”