The Orion

First week practice of first-year runners

Ryan Grady

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Chico State first-year cross-country runner Camila Turati competes in a race last season. Photo courtesy Camila Turati

18 NCAA Championship appearances, 12 California Collegiate Athletic Association titles and 10 West Region crowns usually means a team is pretty good.

Too good, in the case of the Chico State cross-country team, for a standard season preview. Instead, The Orion followed first-years Derek Morton and Camila Turati through their first week of double-day workouts on the award-winning squad.

Monday morning: Run behind campus down Bidwell Avenue, eventually to Nord Avenue and back to campus.

From that first 8 a.m. practice, these first-years have their work cut out for them. But the two expected that much.

Morton said he knew it was going to be more challenging than high school, but it’s a challenge he wanted to take to make it to that next level.

Turati said that to compete at the Division II level, she’s going to focus on her training.

“I’ve learned that when it comes to running, what you put into your body is what you get out,” Turati said. “I try to stick to a healthy diet, take care of any aches or pains and organize my schoolwork with training so I don’t get overwhelmed.”

Tuesday: Hill repeats, 3.5 miles up Old Humboldt Road, parallel to Hwy 32.

If there’s ever a pair of first-years with the track record to stack up to college running, it’s these two. Turati is fresh off a track and field season where she won league titles in both the 1,600-meter and the 3,200-meter. Morton won 13 races spanning three different distances as a senior.

Both said they wanted to be part of a team that could help them continue their success.

“During my recruit visit, I paid special attention to the chemistry between the coaches and the team, as that was very important to me,” Turati said. “I wanted a coach that could plan for my running future and develop me for the long term.”

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Chico State first-year cross-country runner Derek Morton competes in a race last season. Photo courtesy Derek Morton

Wednesday: Start from campus, head through lower Bidwell Park on the main trail parallel to Vallombrosa Avenue. Turn around at Five Mile Recreational Area or the golf course.

By Wednesday, the miles are piling up for these new runners.

They were on pace for 55 miles this week, with a 70-mile week coming up, Morton said. Compared to running a 60-mile week maybe once in high school, that can be quite a change. But Morton, who’s grandfather was an ultramarathon runner, has built his stamina up and can do 65 miles comfortably.

“It’s definitely tough, but it’s a long, slow process,” Morton said. “You just have to get used to it and work your way up.”

Friday: An 8-mile tempo run in the morning.

Running at a college level also means longer races, with Turati and Morton being expected to compete in 6K, 8K and 10K events. That means different strategies, and for Morton, that means not getting out too fast in a race. Fortunately for the San Diego native, he has a core of veteran runners to learn from.

“I’ve learned so much just from listening to what they have to say,” Morton said. “It’s nice being around these older guys because they have a lot to offer.”

Morton will redshirt as a first-year this year, meaning he will run with the team at races but not wear the Chico State gear. His first race of the year will be at the Willow Hills XC Open in Folsom while Turati, who is expected to start for the Wildcats this year, will debut at the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto.

It’s her first college race and she’s going to be pretty excited, Turati said. But she spent all of high school running in competitve company, something that should help her with this first race.

“I had the privilege of competing in one of the most talented high school sections in California: the Southern Section Division 1,” Turati said. “I was competing with the top runners in the state on a weekly basis. Not only did it raise my bar, but I believe it also made me a better athlete.”

Sunday: A 6 to 8-mile run, starting at Hooker Oak Park and weaving through a variety of trails in Upper Bidwell Park.

With the first full week of college cross-country practices in the books, Turati and Morton find themselves in a good position.

The season starts Saturday, and Turati knows the history of the uniform she’ll be wearing for the first time, she said.

““I know that when I put on the Wildcat uniform, I am inheriting a legacy of outstanding female runners that have gone through the program before me,” Turati said.

Morton, on the other hand, said he’s going to take this redshirt year to build a foundation for his future as a Wildcat.

“I just want to have a really good season of training and give myself a base for these next few years,” Morton said. “I just want to give the best that I can to the team in training and in races. I want to give my all and put myself on the line for my team. I’m just really excited to get out there and see what I’m made of.”

Nick Woodard and Ryan Grady can be reached at [email protected] or @nwoodard25 and @ryangrady23 on Twitter.

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First week practice of first-year runners