Elizabeth King is a long way from home.
Her family made a move of more than 2,000 miles from Jasper, Ga., to Southern California four years ago. To this day, there are things that the Ocean View High sophomore misses about the place she used to live, especially the snow.
“It was definitely a smaller town, and everything was kind of separated from each other,” King said of Jasper. “We lived out in the country. Moving out here and having everything within walking distance is different.”
Clearly, King has fond memories of home, but luckily, the Ocean View girls’ cross-country program has made the transition easier for her.
“The environment of the team is definitely like a family,” King added. “Hearing this as an outsider, it just kind of seemed silly to say that it’s like a family.
“Actually being a part of it, it definitely feels like it. If I didn’t have them, I think I would miss Georgia too much.”
King said her family had not traditionally taken on sports in a serious manner, but that changed when her older brother, Joshua, began running competitively. He joined the boys’ cross-country team at Ocean View, and King heard tales of the closeness of the program.
As a junior last season, he was a contributing member in helping the Ocean View boys reach the CIF State cross-country championships for the second straight year.
Ocean View’s girls have been shooting for the same goal, but they are attempting to do so without a senior on the varsity team.
When King came into the fold, Natalie Miller, who is now a junior, was one she looked up to. Miller had the knowledge of the various courses, and she imparted tips for attacking races to her new teammates.
The young Seahawks have improved as the season has gone on. Ocean View finished third as a team in both Golden West League cluster meets this season.
In the Golden West League finals at Central Park in Huntington Beach on Nov. 6, the Seahawks placed second behind Segerstrom 31-56.
“I think once we got girls coming out in the beginning of the season, they just kind of needed to get a feel for it and all of that,” Miller said. “Over the season, it’s been a pleasure to see them develop into these true varsity runners.
“It’s just been awesome to see all of their progress. I think going into CIF, they have a lot of confidence because throughout the season, we’ve all improved so much together.”
King, herself, also moved up. After finishing as the runner-up in the league cluster meets, she won the league finals race in a personal-best time of 18 minutes 53.6 seconds.
Ocean View had not had an individual league champion since Kaylynn Gallo in 2001.
A preseason trip to Big Bear led to a change in mentality for King, which she credits for her success this season. Mental toughness helped her overcome a fear of burning out.
“Pretty much overall, I just told myself that I can do it and to just trust in the training that I had,” King said. “I could physically do it, but I was just holding myself back and thinking that maybe I can’t.
“I would always just tell myself, ‘You can do this. You know you can.’”
Seahawks coach Hugo Avina said it is not uncommon for an upperclassman to take a spot on the varsity team for granted. He guards against that by assuring everyone in the program that they have value to the team.
“Everyone has the same opportunities, so don’t be afraid or don’t hold yourself back to take someone’s spot, even if you’re an underclassman,” Avina said. “Usually, upperclassmen get entitlement, and I want to make it fair to everyone. Just because you’re a junior or a senior, you’ve got to earn it. You’ve got to earn it through hard work.”
Ocean View appeared in the CIF Southern Section Division 4 rankings as recently as Oct. 28, making the Seahawks a strong candidate to advance out of the Division 4 preliminaries on Saturday at the Riverside City Cross-Country Course.
Before the season, King figured that she would still be running in the middle of the pack for the Seahawks. After winning an individual league championship, she sees no reason why her team should not push to go as far as it can.
“I really hope the team makes it [to state] this year,” King said. “I think we have a good chance of making it to state, definitely [CIF] finals, but hopefully state, too.”
Avina agrees with the sense of urgency that King expressed.
“It’s a young team, and it’s a process,” Avina said. “We are looking to make things happen now, but if it doesn’t happen, then it’s always a learning process and exciting to know that all of these girls are going to come back bigger, better, [and] stronger for next year.”
Born: Dec. 24, 2003
Hometown: Jasper, Ga.
Height: 5 feet 3
Weight: 110 pounds
Coach: Hugo Avina
Favorite food: Lasagna
Favorite movie: “The Blind Side”
Favorite athletic moment: King finished first in the Golden West League finals at Central Park in Huntington Beach, becoming the first Seahawk to win an individual league title since 2001.
Week in review: King set a personal record in running 18:53.6 to win the Golden West League finals. She finished in the top two in all three league meets this season.
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