By Karen Billing
Rancho Santa Fe twins Elle and Finn Waters both took cross country titles at the recent South Coast Middle School League Championships. Their victories marked the first time that R. Roger Rowe School has had a boy and girl champion in the same year and it just so happens that they are in the same fleet-footed family.
The championship races were held at Mission Bay on a 1.5-mile loop that had the runners hoofing on both grass and concrete. The two first place finishes were huge personal bests for the Waters duo — last year, as seventh graders, Elle finished fourth overall and Finn placed fifth.
Finn was able to see his sister’s victory before his own race.
“When she won I said to myself, ‘I better win too or it’s going to be an awkward family dinner,’” Finn said. “It was really fun when we both won, I didn’t think both of us would…Our whole family was there so it was really good to win it in front of them.”
In addition to the individual victories, the Rowe boys cross country team also finished second overall in the league. Rowe eighth grader Jacob Aries also placed third at the championships, finishing a season in which he traded leads with Finn in a friendly rivalry.
Rowe Athletic Director Steve Rossier said Coach Ricardo Rodrigues has done an exceptional job developing the cross country program over the past four years.
“Ricardo is unbelievable, he’s also an athletic trainer and he really connects with the kids,” Rossier said. “Twenty-five kids want to come out and run because of him.”
Both Finn and Elle started running just last year as seventh graders and stuck with the sport when they realized their talent and speed.
Finn showed his strength in running hills this year with late-race power surges.
“I tend to sprint the last 100 yards and can beat people out,” Finn said. “Having extra energy and not getting fatigued has been helpful.”
In the championships, Finn was in a leading pack of four runners when he made a break for it toward the end of the course.
“I sprinted more than I should have but it was worth it, they couldn’t catch me,” Finn said. “It was a pretty close finish.”
While others may prefer to easily jog during a cross country race, Elle cannot.
“I have to win,” the competitive Elle said.
One of the most important things she’s learned from Coach Rodrigues is how to pace herself.
Elle’s strategy is to stick with the race leader for the bulk of the race and then pick up the pace in the last 300 to 400 yards.
She easily employed her strategy in the championship race, hanging with a Francis Parker runner and then kicking it into high gear for the finish.
Elle also plays soccer and Finn plays basketball and surfs. Both twins say they hope to continue their running careers in high school, although Elle likes track and Finn prefers cross country.