Clifton Cross Country Medals at Mt. SAC Invitational Event

At the latest Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. SAC) Cross Country Invitational, Clifton Middle School students shined thanks to their highlighter green shirts and athletic talents.
The 8th grade girl's team finished 3rd in their division, earning a team medal for the first time in Clifton's and MUSD's history.
The Cubs also had 6th grader Lincoln Cabrera earn an individual medal by finishing in the Top 15 in his division.
"Watching student-athletes compete successfully is very much like watching my students do well in the classroom," said coach and Clifton teacher Gina Ayala. "Naturally, there is a sense of pride as their teacher. But as their coach, there is a different dynamic involved. I am not in the role of 'assessor of knowledge of state academic standards.' I get to be their cheerleader, and I absolutely LOVE IT."
This event at Mt. SAC has been going on for 74 years. Clifton students have been competing since 2016 when Ayala started the Cross Country program.
Ayala and her husband, Coach Ozzie, have coached the team since its debut in 2016. They said they were amazed this year when 84 kids signed up for the 'Running Club.'
About 55 - 60 show up regularly to practice on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays after school.
"One of the best things about our team is that it is open to all. Nobody gets cut," said Ayala. "Nobody sits on the bench in Cross Country! I've coached basketball for years, and that was always the worst part; really gut-wrenching to actually cut kids who simply want to be active and enjoy a sport."
The Clifton Cubs are easy to spot at competitions because of their bright green shirts. While Ayala initially chose the neon green for safety reasons, the whole team embraced their nickname of 'Human Highlighters.'
"I also use the neon color for our practice shirts as it makes us highly visible when we are training around town," Ayala said. "One team member jokingly said we look like a bunch of Human Highlighters. We all laughed and embraced the moniker as our nickname. Neon green is now OUR COLOR."
Ayala said their goal is to continue building the running community in Monrovia and send a solid group up to Monrovia High to continue to develop their program.
To make this dream a reality, Ayala knows it will take a village to get this done.
"We also have volunteer parents who are generous with their time at practice: Coaches Eric Triplett, Heather Huggins, and Katey Cabrera," she said. "Even former Human Highlighters Mia Martinez and Avery Linder will come by to help with the team."
MUSD and the Clifton admin team look forward to seeing how the 'Human Highlighters' bright future continues to grow.