Ethan Yuan, a 10th-grader at La Jolla Country Day, improved his cross country time over 3.11 miles by one minute and 30 seconds this fall from his best showing as a freshman last year. “My dad participated in cross country when he was a student, and he is very proud of how well I’m doing,” said the likable 5 feet 11 inches tall, 140-pound runner. “But I’m not doing that well in English class.”
Seemingly built for long distances, Yuan says when he first started running, he could run “less than a mile. Now I can run five miles,” and it’s no problem. How does he feel about making strides in his running? “I feel proud about myself, that I will run even faster next year.”
“When you run, you feel that sense of accomplishment,” confides the high school sophomore. “You would get motivated in other areas” as a result.
But English/language arts is a special challenge. Born in China, Yuan was first exposed to English in the first grade. He moved with his family here in the fourth grade. He entered Country Day as a sixth-grader.
“In class, we do a lot of analysis and think deeply. We answer questions the teacher asks us, like what is the tone of the writing? What was the author aiming for?” These questions can’t always be answered well simply with more effort. Yuan gets frustrated with literary elements and concepts.
One major step: He says he doesn’t translate everything into Mandarin. “We’re talking (right now) in English,” he said. “I’m thinking in English. When someone talks to me in Mandarin, it’s just Mandarin (I’m thinking).”
So he has made leaps and bounds (to use a pun) in his language facility, to parallel his progress on the cross country course. On this Wednesday in coach Scott Sanders’ program, Yuan and about 20 other Torrey runners ran from campus the mile and a half to the UC San Diego Par Course among eucalyptus trees to support the JV team in a meet, then run back to campus for some team-building.
Team members were chuckling and calling out encouragement as each of the three teams ran a relay: doing a somersault, dancing the “Griddy,” and then doing push-ups. That led right to teammate Laila Mirkazemi’s comment: “Cross country is individualistic, but you have a community supporting each other.” A first-year harrier who came over as a hurdler from the Torrey track team and also a volleyball player, Mirkazemi is a junior who is part of Sanders’ re-build of the girls program that got knocked out during the two COVID years. “With boys, it didn’t affect” the team, said the coach.
He also introduced three freshman runners: Ryan Salami, the number-two (of six) on varsity, and Aaron Guss, who has run either third or fourth. Lukas Chu is an alternate who finished 13th in JV at Mt. SAC Oct. 21-22.