9.15.2023 – The Menlo School cross country team left for Irvine on Friday morning, and by that night, took the Woodbridge Invitational by storm.
The Knights capped the night with a boys varsity team win. Menlo junior Landon Pretre won the boys’ varsity race which included three to-4 finishes. Sophomore Ariya Kaushek took gold in the girls’ varsity race, and Jonah Block was first in the sophomore boys’ event.
“It was definitely a special night for everyone,” Pretre said. “The atmosphere at Woodbridge is about as electric as you can get in cross country, under the lights, flat, and fast. There are also lots of people watching and racing, so the adrenaline on that line is always high. Definitely one of my favorite races every year.”
Led by juniors Pretre, Will Hauser and Jared Saal, who finished Nos. 1, 3 and 4, Menlo won by 93 points, scoring 71. Ontario Christian and Northwest Christian were second with 164 among 24 teams.
“Going into the race our team had confidence, because we know we are doing something special right now,” Pretre said. “I went in ready to be in the front pack, see how I feel, and just race from there. That’s what we are trying to master this season, is just the confidence going into every race knowing if we go all out we are incredible as a team.”
It showed. Pretre won gold with a time of 14:46.4 with the best time of the day overall, including both varsity boys races and 397 runners. Hauser was third overall in 15:04.2 and Saal fourth in 15:07.0. James Yue, a sophomore, crossed the finish in 16:50.4 and Max Talwar, a senior, ran in 17:06.9 to round out the scoring. Joshua Benyo Baker clocked in at 18:05.3 for the Knights.
Kaushek won in 18:15.9, ahead of 151 other runners. Marissa Louie, a freshman, also ran, finishing in 22:19.1 in her second race of her prep career.
This year, the Knights ran in the White or Division IV race.
“At the start line I definitely had a different mentality for this race which helped me. We were in a much-smaller school race than last year, so I really worked on…being more confident. Normally I’m just full of nerves,” Kaushek said. “On Friday I definitely had to be a lot more confident especially because I was the oldest on the team. It was just me and Marissa, a freshman. I felt like I had to be a leader and step up.
“Knowing our team was only two people and team and the boys did well really makes me excited for the rest of the season,” Kaushek added “I think we really have a lot of potential “and it’s still early.”
“Landon and Ariya just continued their campaign from last season with help from our amazing coaching staff,” Menlo coach Jorge Chen said.
The Knights started the night with a team win from the sophomore boys. Block won in 16:47.5 among 200 runners. Amay Srinivasan was third (17:07.1) and Tristan Chen fourth (17:17.1). Asher Lev finishes 11th (17:47.3) and Rajan Kaushek 21st (18:16.2).
“This was a great start to a promising season,” Chen said. “Some adjustments still need to be made, but we coaches are very happy with our kids’ performances.”