Boston Marathon qualifier runs his own race

Eric Stone
Courtesy of Eric Stone
The Stone family – daughter Sarah, from left, dad Eric, son Ethan, daughter Kate and mom Tracy – prepare to begin their neighborhood marathon. Eric qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon, but after the race was postponed, he decided to run 1.1 miles every hour for 24 hours with his family in their Mountain View neighborhood.

By Christina Cheng
Town Crier Editorial Intern

Mountain View resident Eric Stone expected to be on the East Coast in April, fulfilling his longtime goal of running the Boston Marathon. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, the marathon has been postponed to Sept. 14, and Stone said it’s hard to find the motivation to train for a race that may not happen.

The situation inspired Stone to run his own kind of marathon – in his neighborhood. From 11 a.m. April 18 to 10:15 a.m. April 19, Stone and his family ran 1.1 miles every hour – through the night, for 24 hours straight.

“I follow quite a few runners on Instagram, and saw someone else who was planning on running the Boston Marathon post about his attempt,” Stone said on the origin of the idea. “I sent it over to my family, and they all thought it was a cool idea. I think they really were the ones who encouraged me to stick with the idea and make it real.”

Stone has come a long way in his marathon journey to qualifying for the Boston Marathon this year, filled with lots of hard work and close calls.

Stone said he has run a marathon every year since 2014, including the Big Sur Marathon, the Morgan Hill Marathon, the California International Marathon and the New York City Marathon. After running marathons for a few years, he realized his times were close to the qualifying times for the Boston Marathon, and soon made it his goal.

The Boston Marathon is not only the oldest marathon in the country, but it is also the only race that requires runners to meet a qualifying time,” he said. “I’ve heard the Boston Marathon called the Olympics for nonprofessional runners. I will never be able to qualify for the Olympics – but I can qualify for Boston.”

In 2016, Stone came two minutes short of qualifying for Boston in the California International Marathon – “it was heartbreaking,” he said – but decided to alter his training plan and make another run at it. For approximately 20 weeks, Stone said he ran six days per week, with a peak mileage of 60 miles per week.

“I typically (did) all of my running early in the morning, often waking at 5:30 to go run in the dark before heading into work for the day,” he said. “Honestly, it (could) be exhausting and time consuming.”
His hard work paid off in 2018. At age 44, Stone ran that marathon again and surpassed the Boston qualifying time by 11 minutes, finishing in 3 hours and 9 minutes.

“After trying for so many years, it becomes surreal to qualify. My family had come out to watch the race and they were there at the finish line,” he said. “It was amazing to be able to share that joy with them in achieving something that had taken years to accomplish. At (the California International Marathon), they have a ‘Boston Bell’ that you get to ring if you achieved a qualifying time. I will always remember being able to go to and ring the bell – it’s famous for runners.”

Stone was all set to run this year’s Boston Marathon, scheduled April 20, but as the coronavirus spread, the Boston Athletic Association decided to postpone the race until September. Given the current state of the pandemic, however, Stone isn’t sure if the race will happen this year.

That led Stone – inspired by other runners on social media – to run the 24-hour marathon in his Mountain View neighborhood, with his entire family joining in. The night before, they drew a starting line in front of their home, chose a route, prepared food and drinks, and planned times to sleep. Despite all this preparation, Stone said he and his family “went to bed a little anxious about the next day.”

They began at 10 a.m. with the support of some friends. Stone’s older children Ethan and Kate, who are on the cross-country and track teams at Mountain View High, ran with him every hour. Wife Tracy and younger daughter Sarah alternated between running and biking.

As the day continued, many in the neighborhood heard about the run and showed their support with actions such as putting up signs and flashing lights, setting up a water station and joining in for a few laps, according to Stone.

“Having everyone come out to cheer us on made it feel like this fun community event,” he said. “This really was the positive energy that the neighborhood really needed. And it felt great being a part of it.”
As for the future of his marathon career, Stone doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.

“I really enjoy running and the ability to challenge and push yourself,” he said. “I hope that I can continue to race and improve my running for many years to come.”

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Challenge run raises thousands for food drive

By Pete Borello
Staff Writer/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The first time Justin Rosen ran 24 miles in 24 hours, it was just for fun. The second time, he did it to help others.

Justin Rosen” width=
Courtesy of Justin Rosen
Justin Rosen, above, fellow members of Los Altos High’s Associated Student Body and administrators organized the second Rosen 1 MPH Challenge as part of the school’s second food drive during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The president of Los Altos High’s junior class, he worked with fellow members of the Associated Student Body and administrators to organize the second Rosen 1 MPH Challenge as part of the school’s second food drive during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Overall, it went really well – even better than the first (challenge), I think, because we were able to raise money for charity,” the Los Altos resident said.

The food drive raised $7,500 for Second Harvest Food Bank, according to assistant principal and ASB adviser Suzanne Woolfolk, and “at least $2,500 came in directly as a result of the Rosen Challenge.”

The ASB donated $1 for each mile participants logged online until they reached $1,000; the rest of the money came from students, parents and other community members who pledged per-mile donations.

Fifty-eight people participated in the challenge, which followed social-distancing protocol. Most of the runners were Los Altos High students, but several other members of the community also took part by running, walking or biking a mile an hour starting at 9 a.m. May 2.

“I was surprised that so many joined in,” Woolfolk said. “To run alone, every hour, for 24 hours – that was incredible to me. I think it showed how much students love their community and want to help out but also really showed that everyone is looking for something fun and safe to do that connects them to others.”

Although “not everyone did the entire thing,” Rosen said, many of them did run all 24 miles in the time allotted. Rosen, a distance runner at Los Altos, and older sister Emma were among them.

The siblings and a few of their friends also completed the inaugural Rosen Challenge, held March 22. Rosen said he came up with the idea during the early days of the shelter-in-place orders because “I wasn’t doing much and got pretty bored.”

It inspired him to reach out to the school to organize a second challenge for charity that would also be “a good way for people to stay active,” he said. This time, themes were added to the miles every three hours – such as wearing Los Altos High gear, dressing as a tourist and running with a pet – and participants connected on Zoom to support each other. 

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MVHS freshman ranks among world’s best amateur wakeboarders

By Julia Wagner
Town Crier Editorial Intern

Mountain View High freshman Alex Albin seems well on the way to his goal of becoming a professional wakeboarder. He was recently featured on the cover of WaterSki Magazine and last fall won his division at the World Wake Association Wakeboard World Championships in Mexico.

So what exactly is wakeboarding?

“You’re behind a boat and you’re on a wakeboard with attached boots, and you’ve got a line that you hold,” said Albin, who last year traveled to Abu Dhabi with the USA wakeboarding team. “The boat creates a wake and you do tricks from wake to wake, like flips and spins up to 900 degrees.”

The Los Altos resident added that his favorite trick is the “backside 720, which is spinning backward 720 degrees.”
He took up the sport at age 5, introduced to it by his father.

 Alex Albin” width=
Courtesy of Alex Albin
Los Altos resident Alex Albin aspires to be a professional wakeboarder.

“I was hooked,” Albin said. “I was a water baby.”

The Albins share a love for water sports. Albin said his family attends his competitions to support him, and “they like that I do something different.” His sister Kelly, a sophomore at Mountain View, is a competitive wake surfer.

For Albin, the sport is therapeutic.

“Sometimes it just gets my mind off of things,” he said. “Doing it with your friends is probably the best feeling you’ll ever have.”
However, it’s also mentally and physically demanding.

“(It) takes a lot of dedication and determination,” he said. “It’s a lot of hard work, and it shows how much you’ve put in. It gets really frustrating when things don’t go right, and in a competition, things have to go perfectly.”

Prior to the state’s shelter-in-place order, Albin traveled to Discovery Bay every weekend to train on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. He spends summers training in Orlando, Fla.

When he’s away from the water during the school week, Albin relies on trampoline training at home; he uses a rope to practice the moves before bringing them to the water.

Albin has two coaches: Bryson Hancock in California and Glen Fletcher in Florida. Hancock introduced Albin to Fletcher – a former pro wakeboarder – six years ago.
“(Hancock) knew (Albin) needed to go to the next level,” Fletcher said.

That piqued Albin’s interest in the sport.

“I wasn’t really into wakeboarding that much until they introduced me to the competing aspect of the sport,” he said.

With 25 years of wakeboarding experience and a five-year pro career, Fletcher moved to Orlando from New Zealand in 1999 to pursue the sport at a higher level. He described Orlando as the “wakeboarding mecca” because the many lakes in the area and the warm weather create the ideal conditions.

“It’s where everybody gathers to train and push each other,” said Fletcher, a professional coach. “It’s hot, you can ride all year round, the weather is fantastic.”

Fletcher said the training regimen he has for Albin consists of waking up at 7 a.m., eating breakfast, stretching, getting on the lake at 9 a.m. for water training, then trampoline training before practicing in the water attached to an overhead cable.

“The better you are on the trampoline, the quicker you can learn those tricks on the water,” Fletcher said. “(Albin) is really good on the trampoline – he can do everything.”
Fletcher added that he sees something special in Albin.

“He’s a super-quick learner, naturally talented, incredibly aggressive and doesn’t hold back when he gets to the water,” he said. “He could easily be one of the best in the world.”

Fletcher said he would like to see Albin move to Florida to have greater access to the sport. Because he does not live on the water like many of his competitors, Fletcher said Albin “only gets to ride once for every time others get to ride 10 times.”

Albin said he plans to attend college in Florida and would like to start competing at the professional level, an advancement from his current Junior Pro status.

“I’ve been doing it for so long and I think it’s a really cool sport to be able to say you’re a professional at,” he said.

Fletcher shares the same dreams for Albin.

“He’s a great kid, super talented, nice family,” he said. “I would love to see him go professional, see him go to college in Florida so he could pursue it after college.”

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LAHS grad Gwo dominates Ivy swimming finals

Albert Gwo
Courtesy of Albert Gwo
Albert Gwo celebrates after a race.

By Payton Shaffer
Town Crier Editorial Intern

Los Altos High graduate Albert Gwo can’t help but have a feeling of unfinished business. Soon after the Columbia University junior qualified for the NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships in multiple events, it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While disappointed, Gwo is already looking ahead to next year.

“I hope I will be able to better all my performances from this season,” he said.

Columbia head coach Jim Bolster noted that the situation will motivate Gwo to work even harder to reach the goal of being the best swimmer he can be.

“He has a strong sense of what that goal is,” said the Lions’ 34-year coach. “I am confident that he is excited about coming back next year and seeing if he can be even faster and even better.”

No sprinter was better than Gwo at the Ivy League Championships, held Feb. 26-29 at Harvard University. The Mountain View native not only won individual gold medals in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 free – he also anchored Columbia’s victorious 200 and 400 medley relay teams. This earned Gwo First Team All-Ivy honors in all four events and an invitation to the NCAA championships originally scheduled for mid-March.

This is not an easy feat, especially given the mental and physical strength it requires to handle the pressures of the competitions and focusing on several different events. For Gwo, the mental aspect is the biggest challenge.

“Mental preparation is always a work in progress,” Gwo said. “Pre-race I don’t normally think about the race. I just watch TV or chat with my friends and don’t really focus on what’s to come. That helps me not be nervous for the races.”

Gwo’s path to Columbia wasn’t a conventional one. He committed to UC Berkeley after graduating from Los Altos in 2016 but never enrolled there. After taking a year off, he joined the Lions.

“I really liked the culture of Columbia’s campus – I just felt included,” he said. “The swim program was pretty good, too – one of the better ones in the Ivy League – so I was happy about that, too.”

Gwo said he joined Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics (PASA) at age 10. He remained with the club through high school while also competing for Los Altos. He won the 50 free at the state championships his junior and senior years. Gwo also qualified for the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials the summer he graduated from high school.

Gwo said he has grown as a swimmer since then, thanks in part to what the coaches at Columbia have instilled in him.

“We practice our habits,” he said. “Practice good sleeping habits, good performance habits and make sure when the meet comes, we have all these good habits lined up so they are like tools in our tool kit that we can use when the competition comes.”

The computer science major added that he’s also learned to better manage his time, finding enough hours in the day to swim, do schoolwork and socialize.

During the pandemic, however, Gwo and his teammates can’t lean on their coaches.

“They’re on their own,” Bolster said. “We’re not allowed to do any kind of virtual training. All the pools and beaches are closed anyway, so they don’t have access to water. Most are doing what they can on dry land.”

For Gwo, that includes yoga, Pilates and tai chi – activities the swimmer said he enjoys.

As for what the future holds for Gwo after graduating from Columbia, he’s not sure if it will include swimming.

“I wouldn’t say definitively yes or no,” he said. “I definitely have a strong interest in swimming. I enjoy it very much. I enjoy being with my teammates, and most of my closest friends are through swimming.”

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