Young runners step up to improve Oak Ridge teams

By: Matt Long
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Reaghan Emrick and Brandon Williams are young, talented runners and have played a big role in helping the Oak Ridge cross country teams reach Saturday’s CIF state cross country championship. Emrick, a freshman, is the varsity girls’ No. 2 runner and as a freshman has shown she’s got potential to have a great future in the sport. Williams, a sophomore running cross country for the first time, came out for the team three weeks late and quickly moved up to the varsity team after only two races. Oak Ridge coach Rob Fairley is thrilled to have both athletes on the team and recognized their talent early on. “Reaghan joined us during the summer workouts and right away you could see she was very advanced for her age,” Fairley said. “She could handle the long runs with the varsity girls and you could see that she’s blessed with great endurance. She’s a racer and a competitor. “Brandon ran varsity at Stanford and he was our second or third guy and that’s a big jump from running a two-mile run at the freshman-sophomore level to a varsity 5-kilometer race. On top of that it was a big meet and a lot of young runners might have trouble with that but Brandon didn’t; he had a great performance.” Even their teammates see the young runners’ talents. “Reaghan’s been our key runner,” Oak Ridge senior and No. 1 runner Samantha Ralstin said. “We didn’t expect her to be one of our top-two runners. She’s been able to run with me and we’ve worked well together.” “Brandon is multi-talented and his true love is basketball,” said senior Benji Xie, the boys’ team’s top runner. “I’m glad he decided to come out because he’s talented and he’s also a great competitor.” For their part, Emrick and Williams have enjoyed the season and are thrilled to have made such a big contribution to their team. Emrick’s modest goal at the start of the season was to make the varsity team, while Williams set no goals for himself. “I started off kind of slow, but have gotten better,” Emrick said. “I had two goals at the start of the year: make the varsity team and break 20 minutes and I’ve done both.” Williams said he’s surprised at how well he’s done. “At first I was surprised, but after that I realized I had potential and started expecting myself to do well,” Williams said. “I just figured I’d be on the freshman-sophomore team all year, but after my second race I was moved to the varsity team.” It’s clear that if Oak Ridge’s teams are to have a good performance on Saturday, these two runners will play a big role. Emrick said she hopes to break 19 minutes on the flat, fast Woodward Park course in Fresno, while Williams wants to be Oak Ridge’s No. 2 runner and break the 16-minute barrier.