The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.

The Wildcat Tribune

The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.

The Wildcat Tribune

The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.

The Wildcat Tribune

Liana Lee blazes through senior season with new school records

Liana+Lee+racing+at+the+North+Coast+Section+Championships+on+Nov.+18%2C+where+she+placed+second+and+individually+qualified+for+the+CIF+State+Championships
Derrick Lee
Liana Lee racing at the North Coast Section Championships on Nov. 18, where she placed second and individually qualified for the CIF State Championships

Senior Liana Lee took the lead at mile three.

The Dougherty Valley cross country captain sprinted ahead of the pack at the East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) Championships on Nov. 4, followed closely by a contender from San Ramon Valley High. Lee didn’t know if she was speeding up or the other girl was slowing down, but her lead was growing.

“I was able to build about a 10-second distance between us,” she recalled. “That last mile was when I pulled away.” 

Lee finished the three-mile course in first place, winning the title of EBAL Player of the Year.

“Winning wasn’t set in stone. It wasn’t really on my to-do list,” she joked. “But it was really cool getting first place.”

Lee’s outstanding performance isn’t an isolated incident — her senior year has been filled with striking results at various meets. At the Scott Bauhs Invitational on Sept. 30, she placed first out of 104 athletes. On Oct. 21, she set a school record for the course at the Mariner Invitational. 

“Liana’s senior campaign has been nothing short of amazing,” cross country head coach Lauren Nakaso said. “She is a great athlete [and] is so humble.”

Interestingly enough, running started as no more than a casual pursuit for Lee when she was in eighth grade.

Winning wasn’t set in stone. It wasn’t really on my to-do list. But it was really cool getting first place.

“I think it was ironic because when I first started running, I was like, ‘I’m never going to run a race,’” she said.

In part due to her friends’ confidence in her talent, Lee signed up for the cross country team. Looking back, she finds it amusing that she was uncertain about joining in the first place.  

And now, as Lee’s high school cross country career draws to a close four years later, running has become an integral part of her life. She gets up as early as 4:30 a.m. for morning runs and builds up to 60 miles each week. She’s also become better at time management out of necessity — without finishing her other tasks, she can’t make time for running. 

“Running is such a big part of my life that I rearrange other aspects [of my life],” she said. 

Beyond her individual success, Lee has found close friends and a strong sense of community within the team. 

“People around you really make up the sport, especially for cross country,” Lee said. “You know you have people who want you to succeed and who are cheering you on.”

Junior James Wang, one of Lee’s pacing partners, has trained with her and watched her improve.

Whether it’s 4 a.m. running, baking or Strava caption ranting, Liana has definitely [transformed] the team into a more vibrant and welcoming environment.

“She is always persistent and never stops halfway,” Wang said. “Whether it’s 4 a.m. running, baking or Strava caption ranting, Liana has definitely [transformed] the team into a more vibrant and welcoming environment.”

During practices and races, Lee and the team drive each other forward. Lee pushes her teammates to add more repetitions to workouts or run extra miles on long runs, a level of dedication that earned her the “most inspiring” award at the cross country banquet last season. She also took home the Wildcat Award, which honors the MVP of the team, at the end of this season.

“She is hard-working, always willing to do another [repetition] and [a good] influence on her teammates,” Nakaso said. “I am excited to see where she goes!”

Lee qualified for the CIF State Cross Country Championships — the last race of her high school career — as an individual. But despite her team’s physical absence, the spirit of the team followed her to Woodward Park.

“I had so much support from team members: texts, calls and everyone [wishing me] good luck,” Lee said. “It was such a motivating factor for me during the race. I wanted to race for my teammates, especially since they couldn’t be there.”

Lee blazed through the 3.1-mile race with a time of 18:22.9, finishing her high school career by breaking the school record on the course. As her last season of high school cross country draws to a close, she reflected on what she’ll remember about the sport.

“All my teammates [have] become such great friends,” Lee said. “And I really do enjoy running — it’s something I get to do, not something I have to do.”

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David Zhang, Staff Writer
David joined the Wildcat Tribune out of curiosity for the behind-the-scenes process of journalism publication. In J1 last year, David played around with various forms of journalism, and this year he hopes to gain more experience with conducting interviews. In his free time, David enjoys playing card games with his friends and running in the hills behind his home. Outside of school, he's an avid participant in college-run math tournaments. If David could be anyone else on the Tribune, he would aspire to become Benjamin because of his natural charisma and infectious enthusiasm.

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