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Fast to First: 1996 Cross Country Team

It took being fast to be the first, as this group of student-athletes earned the first state championship in Carondelet’s history.
by Carondelet Athletics
  • Wearing their “fast braids” the ’96 Cross Country team was a true sisterhood
  • At NCS Championships, the 1996 Cross Country team
  • Cougars hold the trophy after the winning the state championships in 1996.

Carondelet High School captured its first state title in 1996, when its cross country team was better than the rest in California. The 1996 CIF State Division III Championship marked the first of three state championships for the school and the first of two for the cross country program.

After winning Carondelet’s first state championship 22 years ago, it’s only fitting the 1996 Carondelet cross country team, coached by Helen Lehman-Winters, will be the first team inducted into the Carondelet Athletics Hall of Fame.

“We were lucky to have an incredible coach and mentor in Helen Lehman-Winters, who gave us the confidence to aim for goals that may have seemed outrageous at the start of the season,” said Kelly (Piatanesi) Clasen ’98. “Being part of the 1996 Cross Country State Championship team was one of those goals she led us to achieve, and an incredible experience I’ll never forget.”

The 1996 Carondelet cross country season included nine team competitions, resulting in six first-place and three second-place finishes. The team peaked at the right time, as the Cougars captured the 1996 NCS Division III Championship, posting 21 points for a dominating 52-point victory. All six Carondelet runners finished in the top 11, as Kristen Gordon ’97, Kerri Bock-Willmes ’97 and Cristyn Enea ’99 finished first, second and third, respectively.

At the 1996 CIF State Division III Cross Country Championship, the Cougars were the dominant team again, collecting 67 points for a 24-point victory. Gordon was the top individual finisher, running the 5,000-meter race in a time of 17:17. Gordon advanced to the national championship race, where she stood at the top of the podium, finishing the 5k race in 17:34.7, to become the 1996 Foot Locker National High School individual champion.

After their Carondelet days, many of these runners have gone on to have outstanding success. Helen Lehman-Winters is now the head cross country coach at the University of San Francisco, where she led the Dons to an NCAA National runner-up finish in 2017.

Kristen Gordon, the most decorated Cougar cross country runner, went on to run collegiately at Georgetown University, competed in Olympic trials, and won a marathon the first time she ever competed in the grueling 26.2-mile race.

“As athletes, we push ourselves to the edge of physical and mental limits, because we want to compete at the highest level we can,” said Clasen. “As women, leaders, workers, wives, mothers, you name it—we push ourselves the same way. Handling pressure, pushing boundaries, and taking risks as a high school athlete has given me the confidence to continue to do so in all aspects of my life.”


1996 Carondelet Cross Country Roster
Meghan (Andrade) Jorgensen ’99
Kerri (Bock-Willmes) Heusler ’97
Ginaea (Carrillo) Bauer ’97
Cristyn (Enea) Mirkovich ’99
Kristen (Gordon) Henehan ’97
Kristen Hart ’98
Maura Kelley ’97
Carolyn King ’98
Katie Nash ’98
Kelly (Piatanesi) Clasen ’98
Helen Lehman-Winters (Head Coach)
Mary Ann Grubb (Assistant Coach)

1996 Carondelet State Results
Runner (Place) Time
Kristen Gordon (1) 17:17
Kerri Bock-Willmes (18) 19:24
Kelly Piasntisi (21) 19:29
Cristyn Enea (29) 19:37
Meghan Andrade (47) 20:05
Ginaea Carrillo (59) 20:26
Kristen Hart (65) 20:35

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