Runners aid runners

By MATT BROWN
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

On New Year’s Day morning, while most people were sleeping off the previous night’s party, preparing to watch college football or hitting the sales at the mall, a group of motivated Santa Rosa teens was outside in the cold helping runners navigate the Resolution Run course.

Piner High School cross country team volunteers from left, Mayra Villa, Trevor Wofford, coach Susie Mulligan, Michelle Camara and Jessenya Rivas work at the registration booth prior to the Resolution Run, Jan. 1, 2014 at Montgomery High school in Santa Rosa. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Piner High School cross country team volunteers from left, Mayra Villa, Trevor Wofford, coach Susie Mulligan, Michelle Camara and Jessenya Rivas work at the registration booth prior to the Resolution Run, Jan. 1, 2014 at Montgomery High school in Santa Rosa. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Volunteering at the New Year’s Day race has become a tradition for the Piner High School cross country team. This year, about 25 current and former Piner runners and coaches in gold and maroon helped with the Empire Runners Club 5k run at Montgomery Village.

The volunteers helped to register nearly 400 runners, marshal them around the course and guide them through the finish-line chute.

Piner coach Luis Rosales said the event is a good way for his runners to see what goes into putting on a race.

“We’ve been blessed to have people help out our team,” he said. “This is a good way to give back to the running community. The kids get to see a race from a different perspective.”

The Prospector runners from the girls and boys teams arrived at the event by 8:30 a.m. to receive instructions for working the race, Rosales said. It is surprisingly easy to get the teenagers to turn up that early on New Year’s Day.

“It’s become the ‘in’ thing to do,” he said. “We have pretty good kids.”

Race organizer Val Sell said the Piner team’s help is invaluable.

“They’re a great group to work with,” she said. “A lot of the kids join the Empire Runners Club. It’s a great way to get them involved.”

Piner senior Mayra Villa and her teammates have volunteered at the Resolution Run for years. Hearing cheers when she is competing feels great, Villa said. The racers starting their New Year’s resolutions with a run probably feel equally buoyed by her support, she said.

“I think it makes you feel accomplished,” she said. “It’s a resolution run. People are saying ‘I want to lose weight’ or they want to get back in shape.”

The feedback has been great, Villa said.

“We have gained a reputation of ‘Wow, your team is really nice.’ “

Sophomore Trevor Wofford said his support for fellow runners is a way of paying forward the support he receives when he races.

“I think it’s always a boost,” he said of cheers from strangers. “People see what you have done, you have tried really hard and are doing your best to succeed.”

Wofford, who was guiding racers through the finish-line chute Wednesday, had his thoughts interrupted by a winded runner.

“Thank you!” the man said as Wofford helped him remove his race bib. “Go Prospectors!”

(Staff Writer Kerry Benefield contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or matt.brown@pressdemocrat.com.)