Takami Having Senior Season Not To Forget
• Peninsula High cross country senior captain sets personal records to help lead the Panthers.
The 39th annual Woodbridge Cross Country Classic in Norco on Sept. 21 came with another victory for senior and varsity captain Michael Takami, a long-time runner on Peninsula High’s cross country team.
Placing first in the Blue Division’s Senior Boys Individual three-mile race with a time of 16.00.9, Takami set a personal record in his running career.
This particular race was sentimental for Takami, his last Woodbridge meet in his high school career. Nevertheless, he feels that he made his younger self proud by coming so far in his performance.
“This meet was very important to me because Woodbridge was the very first race I took part in as a freshman, when I was nowhere near as fast as I am now,” Takami said. “It was definitely symbolic that I have gone from the back of the pack to one of the top runners trying to bring my team to a state level.”
Despite the personal record, Takami did not feel that his time met his expectations. Because of some placement complications prior to the meet, Takami competed in the senior race instead of the varsity race, where the top runners were placing two minutes ahead of Takami.
In addition, due to some confusion regarding the track course, Takami lost a couple of minutes, making his time slower than the 15:30 personal record he was aiming for. However, despite the setbacks, Takami wants to continue pushing through the rest of the season.
“I definitely could have gone a lot faster, which in turn does give me confidence [that I can beat this personal record],” Takami said. “[My experience with this year’s meet] definitely gave me a much-needed push to have a positive outlook for the rest of the season.”
Now, with only a couple of months on the team before he graduates, Takami reflects on his time with Peninsula’s cross country team and the experiences that came with it.
Takami joined the junior varsity team his freshman year, where he quickly ran to the front of the pack and became a varsity runner as a sophomore. Although he had some difficulty adjusting to the long-distance running practices at the beginning of his first year, he quickly overcame the physical fatigue by strengthening his craft through practices. Takami began to look past the physical aspect of running and started to see it as a period of relaxation away from the weight of schoolwork.
“I remember, in the beginning, my legs could not even handle going three or four miles of running,” Takami said. “However, with a lot more running, I definitely started to find a lot of relief [within the sport] from school and all of the things going on in my life.”
Along with the calm he found with running, Takami developed deep connections with his teammates as the years progressed. As a freshman, Takami looked for new friendships, as he was the only boy from his middle school to join Peninsula’s team that year. After some soul-searching, cross country opened up opportunities for him to build relationships with individuals he otherwise never would have met.
“Because of circumstances in my freshman year, I was almost forced to make friends, making this one of the first times I ever had to deal with [such a social impediment],” Takami said. “Yet, the process of creating friendships and building on them helped me make bonds with people I’ll stay close with for years to come.”
However, with his successes came a setback no athlete wants to experience in their sports career. In the summer going into his sophomore year, Takami suffered a serious injury during practice at Lunada Bay Little League, where a nine-centimeter palm frond impaled his foot. After going into shock and being rushed to the emergency room, Takami began a journey of realization, appreciation and perseverance.
“Just seeing most of my teammates waiting for me in the lobby of the hospital and knowing how much I truly meant to them gave me a newfound appreciation for the team,” Takami said. “I think that day was definitely a turning point [in my time with cross country] because I truly realized how important the team and running was to me.”
There was ambiguity with the diagnosis of Takami’s injury, as the medical professionals could not exactly tell how far the plant pierced his foot, nor what kind of damage it caused. After an operation to remove the palm frond, the doctors told him that he may not be able to run for the rest of his cross country season. Nevertheless, after a couple of days on crutches, Takami chose to go against his doctors’ wishes and eased himself back into running.
“At this time, I knew that I loved running, but I never realized how much of a piece of my life it was,” Takami said. “I just could not stop running, so I wanted to do everything in my power to get back into it.”
Remarkably, Takami recovered from his foot injury after two weeks despite the doctors’ predictions. After recovering, Takami registered immediately into the annual Big Bear High Altitude Camp. Through the foot injury, Takami found a newfound passion for running and understood the value of perseverance and work ethic.
Now, with his last year in high school underway, Takami looks ahead into the remainder of the school year as well as his last season with his team. Although he is not sure about continuing the sport in university, his goal for this year as captain is to help bring the team to CIF.
“With all of the experiences I have had with this team, I realized how far my ability in running and grit can take me, and I hope I can carry that for the rest of the season,” Takami said.