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Mira Costa Runners Reach Goal - With A Little Help From Friends

May 13, 2024 09:15PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Mira Costa track teammates gather to celebrate a goal realized. Jacob Cohen is in the center with blue shorts; Finn Fojut is to the right with a white t-shirt and red shoes, next to Coach Johnson with the polo shirt.

Two Mira Costa High School runners set what they thought was a near-impossible goal for themselves: a sub-five-minute mile. Senior Jacob Cohen and freshman Finn Fojut hadn't reached that milestone by the time the distance track season had ended. But they kept running - with their teammates' support - and finally achieved that goal earlier this month.

Coach Hunter Johnson described to MB News how it all came together: "When the season was finished, I told Jacob that we had to help him get under five minutes before he graduated. His goal all year had been to break five minutes, and he was painfully close in our last official meet of the season. A few days later Finn said he wanted to take a crack at it too. When I asked the boys on the team if they would help pace them to a sub-five mile, the call was answered. We ended up with about 10 or so teammates pacing and another 20 cheering and rooting them on."
On the appointed day, the runners gathered on the Mira Costa track. And after four dramatic laps, Cohen finished at 4:55 and Fojut came in just under the wire at 4:59 - to rousing cheers from their teammates and supporters.

"It was one of those special moments when I am reminded why I love coaching, and that we are indeed making a positive impact on these young people," said Johnson.

Cohen then wrote about the experience in a social media post:

"When I first joined this team in my sophomore year, I couldn't run three miles without stopping to walk. I remember wanting to quit on my second day of being on the team, thinking, 'Maybe this sport isn't right for me.' However, through it all, I persevered. Year after year, week after week, day after day. Along the way I've run hundreds of miles and had to recover through many injuries. I would never be able to stay consistent or motivated if it weren't for this amazing team. The team culture and energy from this team is just so amazing. Six days of the week I see an amazing group of people that are supportive, hardworking, and passionate. If it weren't for this team, I would have settled for much less. If it weren't for Coach Hunter, I would be mediocre. But because of this amazing team and group of people, I was able to do something I never would have expected to do."

Cohen continued: "This goal was purely so I could prove to myself I could accomplish anything with enough dedication and hard work. And I did exactly that...This team has been the most special thing I've ever felt a part of in my life and I expect great things for the future of it."

Cohen told MB News that his next focus is training for a marathon that he will run this summer with teammate Luke Graham - one of the runners who helped pace him during the time trial. He said he doesn't plan to run in college, but he will continue to run "just for fun."

For his part, Fojut has three more years of Costa to develop his running with the team, but he said he is proud of the experience. 

"Coach Hunter and Jacob encouraged me to train the week before the time trial with all of the CIF qualifiers, and for me to run the time trial," Fojut told MB News. "I’m glad I did this and am extremely happy with the results that came from all the training."

Fojut added, "One more thing that helped was the support that came from my teammates who weren’t required to come but still took time out of their day to be there."

Teammate JT Kaplan was one of the runners who showed up in support. "It was an emotional day. I was so happy to be there," said Kaplan. "It really shows a lot about the team culture to have so many people show up for Jacob and Finn to meet their goal."

"We Conquered This Feat Together"

Johnson explained that although track is an individual sport, the runners draw inspiration from the camaraderie of the entire team - and sometimes even from their competitors.

"We try to foster a supportive environment that builds up everyone in our program," said Johnson. "They all support one another and hold each other accountable so that they can reach their goals. I can't take too much credit though; we are blessed to have really great kids in our program that have driven the culture in a positive direction and want to see each other do great things. I feel very lucky to be their coach, and I'm inspired every day by their work ethic and support of one another."

Johnson continued: "I think cross country and track are unique sports because there is a shared respect amongst all athletes who participate. They know how difficult it is to do what they do. When they finish a race there is a feeling of, 'we conquered this feat together,' even if they are competitors from rival teams."

Finn's mom Tammy agreed. "The support and positivity exhibited is exactly what we all need right now," she said.

See the full video of the time trial below.

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