Bonita Vista High School senior Sequoia Kriss has had a busy past few months — first competing in cross country and most recently capping the track and field season as the Mesa League girls champion in both the 1600- and the 3200-meter races.
Her first name obviously stands out, and admits it is as inspiring as the mighty tree it represents. She said she has received nothing but positive feedback.
“Since it is so unique, many people remember it and when I run races,” she said. “I hear it from people I have never met before, but they remember me from past races. I have been told by my past friends who have graduated and from younger lowerclassmen that I am an inspiration to them and that they want to be successful in running because of me.”
There’s no question about the success part.
Kriss is no newcomer to distance running, however. She competed on the Bonita Vista Middle School cross country team and began running at Saturday races.
“I have always loved running,” she said. “Since I was 5 years old, I would run around for fun.”
Kriss is also no stranger to family involvement in sports. Her father competed in baseball, football and wrestling.
Kriss elevated her running career the summer going into her freshman year of high school when she began practicing with the BVHS cross country team.
“Being a lover of running, I was instantly excited and motivated to find the summer training and begin working hard,” she said.
Besides enjoying competitive racing, she is also involved in several extracurricular activities at her school where she maintains a 4.07 grade-point average in her academic studies.
She has served as vice president of the Interact Club at Bonita Vista High School that focuses on working with the community. Its motto is “Service over self.”
She is also part of the hiking club at school where members go on monthly hikes and remove trash.
Her favorite subjects are English, digital media and United States history.
Accomplishments include being the captain of the cross country and track team for two years— both her junior and senior years.
She plans to major in public administration at San Diego State University. “I am going to join the running club at SDSU and I hope to continue running and compete in local races and the running club races,” she said.
Not running on empty
Kriss has had to overcome obstacles to find success. She developed juvenile idiopathic
scoliosis at age 12 and underwent spinal fusion surgery. Now she has two titanium rods and 22 titanium pins surrounding her spine.
“I have had to learn how to train differently from some of my other teammates,” she admitted. “Certain strength exercises I cannot do because of my back and I have learned to find replacement exercises to do instead. Some days my back hurts more than others and I have had to learn how to cope with the pain and learn how far to push myself and when to take a break.
“The surgery has only made me stronger and staying active, running, stretching, yoga and core work all helps with the pain and makes me have a stronger back. I love working out because it helps my back and helps me to be successful outside of sports and during sports.”
She said running makes her feel “like I can escape reality.”
“When I run, I am at peace of mind,” she said. “I can work on my form, breathing and pacing myself. I relax and let my body work to its maximum potential as I speed down the roads of Chula Vista. When I am active, I feel healthy. Running and being active allows me to escape the stresses of school and calms my body down while also pushing it to work hard.”
Kriss was pushed to win the 3200-meter run at the Mesa League championship meet May 27 at Sweetwater High School. Eastlake sophomore Amanda Challburg gradually caught up to Kriss deep into the race and executed a challenge on the remaining lap. The two runners almost seemed to merge around the final bend but Kriss executed a late kick to win by two seconds.
The Bonita Vista distance runner was mobbed by jubilant and supporting teammates after leaving the oval.
She set a new personal record in the 3200 with her winning time of 11:46.18. She won this year’s 1600 league title in 5:22.43, another personal record by 10 seconds.
If there is a preference between cross country and track and field, Kriss said she prefers cross country “because I like running long distances.”
“I also love running on different terrain and pushing myself up hills and strategizing how to pass a girl or work hard to not let a girl pass me,” she said.
She said there is a difference in how she approaches training for both running sports.
“For cross country there is more endurance and distance that we have to train for,” she explained. “The races include hills and can be up to three miles long. This requires hill training and to put in more than 35 miles a week of running. Our runs during cross country are based on mileage rather than speed. We work up the mileage while also working up the speed and pace of the runs.
“In track, we work on our speed. The 3200 is the longest race and there are no hills we have to worry about. We spend time on the track doing workouts that are specific to the events that we run. For long distance events, we do workouts that are based around longer distances on the track. Most of our runs are located on the track because it allows us to become acquainted with the track and learn how to use the curves and pace ourselves. Track has less milage but greater speed work.
“In longer races I work on focusing on my breathing and times of each lap. Focusing on my times allows me to think about my pace and if and when I should pick up my pace. Longer distances are definitely more mental than physical. You have to be fast but running around for eight laps gets mentally draining.
“If I focus on my times of each lap and measure with my body when to pick up the pace, I am able to have the eight laps not seem so draining and repetitive. In cross country I am focused less on my time for each 400 meters and more on how I am going to attack the next hill or when I am going to go a little faster in order to get ahead of the girl in front of me. There is more strategy to cross country and more physical aspects because of the hills and different terrain. In cross country you can see the finish, compared to in track when you run past the finish line seven times before you can cross it on the eighth lap.”
She placed 15th at Mt.SAC Invitational in 2019 — a large-scale regional cross country invitational comprised mainly of hills.
She ran three miles in 19:16.
She won all her 3200 dual meet races during the 2021 track and field season.
“She has worked really hard and trained really well to get to this point,” BVHS cross country coach Dan Kettlehake said. “She deserves to be competing at the CIF meet with the best runners in San Diego.”
Kriss said there are several things that she has taken away from sports to become a better person overall.
“Sports has taught me that in order to push yourself you have to be confident in yourself,” she said. “Confidence is key. I learned this through my four years of running. Believing in yourself is important. Passion and drive are also important to have in your life. I think sports has helped me to be confident, believe in myself and push myself to be the best version of myself that I can be.”
What advice does she have for younger runners on the team?
“Consistency is the key to running,” she said. “Stay optimistic about running and have fun while running.”