Randy Angel

Staying the course: Mira Costa’s ‘down under’ senior Xavier Court has risen to become one of the top cross country runners in the state

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Mira Costa track star Xavier Court sprints to victory in the 1600-meter race at the 2017 South Bay Championships. He also won the Bay League crown in the 3200-meter race. Photo by Damian Court

By Randy Angel

As a young boy in Australia, Xavier Court envisioned himself becoming a soccer player. He  played club soccer, tennis, basketball and baseball in his youth. But beginning in kindergartner in the Australian public school system, he also ran.

“We had what were called Carnivals that were basically meets between schools,” Court recalled. “That ignited my interested in running and I joined a running club when I was 8 years old.”

As he grew, Court realized his proficiency in running and, with the urging from his father Damian turned his focus to career. His father ran track in high school and continues to run 10K races.

 

Running a personal-best 14 minutes, 44 seconds, Xavier Court (right) set a school record placing fourth at the prestigious Mt. SAC Cross Country Invitational on October 21. Photo by Damian Court

In January 2011, after Damian left his position as director of Hoover Floorcare Asia Pacific to become president of Breville USA, the family moved to Manhattan Beach. Xavier began running cross country with Manhattan Beach Middle School team. At Mira Costa, he has run track and cross country. This year, the senior, has emerged as one of the top cross country runners in the state.

Court began this season winning the 2-mile Palos Verdes Mini Meet in August and proceeded to claim the title at the 3-mile Laguna Hills Invitational in early September. One week later, he ran a personal best in the 3-mile placing 2nd at the 37th Annual Woodbridge Classic with a time of 14 minutes, 25.9 seconds.

On Oct. 21, Court placed 4th at the 70th Annual Mt. SAC Cross Country Invitational, with another personal-best of 14:44 on a 2.93-mile course. The mark is the 9th-fastest in the state this season and broke the Mira Costa record by more than 20 seconds.

In a field of 122 runners, Court led Mira Costa’s boys team to an 8th-place finish in the Division 1 and 2 Sweepstakes race. Combined, the team set a new school record by more than one minute with a team time of 78:23 minutes.

“It was definitely an exciting race, with tons of competition at the D1 level for myself and the team,” Court said. “I felt confident and strong during the race and I have loved running on this course ever since my freshman year. I was a little sad as we walked out of Mt SAC at the end of the day, knowing it was likely my last race on the course.’

Former Mira Costa distance runner Jeff Atkinson (Class of 1981) coaches the boys cross country and track teams. Atkinson knows what it takes to be a successful runner, having participated in the 1500-meters in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He was ranked the fastest American in 1989 and still holds the mile record at Stanford University.

Prior to returning to Mira Costa in 2015, Atkinson coached the highly successful Palos Verdes High School cross country program.

Xavier Court has emerged as one of the top cross country runners in the state, leading 13th-ranked Mira Costa into CIF-Southern Section Division 1 competition. Photo by Ray Vidal

“Xavier is the most gifted guy I’ve ever coached,” Atkinson said. “Competition is the key for him and he just does not want to lose. He is the fastest kid in the South Bay ever. He has posted times faster than former Palos Verdes High School star Jonah Diaz, the area’s most successful cross country runner in the last 20 years, who ran Division 1 at UCLA. To excel at the next level is rare. There have only been a handful of runners from the South Bay who have become Division 1 standouts.”

Atkinson has been as impressed with Court’s work ethic, which has made him a team leader for the Mustangs.

“He’s not real vocal but leads by example,” Atkinson said. “He brings it on game day, which is what you want from a team leader. From a physiological perspective, he has massive aerobic capacity. Emotionally, he’s more comfortable at huge meets and his tenacity makes him a winner.”

Court, who runs at least seven times a week, admits he has become more serious about the sport and has improved his nutrition regimen with a high-calorie diet.

“Running every day will make one better than running only four times a week,” Court explained. “It also helps to have a goal in mind, whether it be a personal time or weight loss.”

In the spring, Court competes in the 1600 and 3200 events for Mira Costa’s track team. He has  personal bests of 4:20.66 in the 1600 (7th place at CIF-SS Division 2 finals ) and 9:35.17 in the 3200 (1st at Bay League meet against Redondo). But he prefers running cross country.

“It’s more of a team sport where track is individualized. In cross country, you have five guys who score and sometimes an additional tiebreaker. The bond between teammates is something you don’t have in track. You also have more time to improvise during the race. I have more endurance than speed.”

Although Court’s finish at Mt. SAC was impressive, it was not his most memorable moment as a runner.

“The CIF State cross country race my junior year and running with (teammate) Caleb Lloren was the highlight of my career so far,” Court said. ”It was a breakthrough year for both of us. It was the epitome of me putting together what I had worked so hard on. I was proud to have been a part of that team.

“My most memorable moments were our training trip in Mammoth my sophomore year because it was my first time, and also our trip to Seattle in September 2015. It wasn’t so much the race, but the moments that composed the trip. I’ll never forget the fun and the bonding experience we enjoyed.”

Xavier Court crosses the finish at the Mt. SAC Cross Country Invitational. Photo by Damian Court

Court has his sights set on winning the State Division 1 championship and helping his team win a CIF title and qualify for the Nike Cross Nationals (NXN), to be held in Portland, Oregon on December 2.

“I’d like to break 15 minutes on the 5K course at State and walk away with that ring,” Court said. “Going to the NXN as a team is a dream goal. We have the potential to qualify but everyone has to have their best races with personal records.”

Another goal for Court to leave his legacy at Mira Costa by breaking school records in the 1600 and 3200 during the track season.

Court believes his dedication to running carries over into the classroom. Colleges having shown interest in Court include Cornell, USC, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley.

The senior realizes time is running out to make a selection

“Mutual relationships have formed. Having so many options is not a bad problem to have. I’m really looking for a college that has strong academic and running programs and social activities.”

Court plans to major in business with a possible minor in psychology.

“I plan to run in college and maybe go pro. I’ll decide after two or three years in college to see if the pieces fit together and I’m willing to make the serious commitment.”

When he’s not training, Court enjoys surfing, longboard skateboarding and reading about running.

“I do a lot of research on other athletes, Court said. “I also love playing fantasy football. All my friends discuss it during the week.”

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