Liam Anderson Talks About Impact Of California Wildfires After Big Race At Mt. SAC

In the weeks leading up to Mt. SAC, Liam Anderson and his Redwood (CA) High team had been training a little differently due to thick smoke filling the air from the deadly Tubbs Fire.

"We've been on treadmills for a week and a half (in the) two weeks now up in Northern California, so it's nice [to be outside]," Anderson said. "We've only had two days outside up north, then we came down here, so it's nice to be back outside with some blue skies and some clean air."

Despite the difficulties in training, Anderson, Flo50 ranked No. 20, still placed second in the D1 and 2 individual boys sweepstakes race, running 14:51.00 for the 10th-fastest time of the weekend.

Yet, some part of him was still elsewhere. He said if he hadn't been running, things may have been drastically different. 

"Going through the debris of the houses and literally sifting through for remains," Anderson said. "I'm part of my Marin County sheriffs office search and rescue team, and we've been sending a team up to Santa Rosa every day to search the ruins to locate people's remains."

He's been part of the group for two years now, originally getting involved through a family friend. According to the Marin County Search and Rescue, in order to become part of the search and rescue squad, anyone wanting help has to undergo rigorous training. The course requires a 60-hour search and rescue bootcamp, which includes "fitness testing, training in GPS and land navigation, unexpected night out skills, trail rescue techniques, and area search training."

Anderson said if he wasn't running he would have been with the search and rescue squad.  

"During the season I'm 100-percent committed to cross country," he said. "Sometimes during the season I wish I could go up, but I know that this is what matters and this is what important to me, so this is what I put first."

For him and many in the community, recovery has been a tough process.

"Seeing a lot of that . . . and helping raise money, and knowing people who have lost their houses [or] they know family who were lost in the fire, it sets kind of a somber mood around the school," Anderson said. "School was closed because there were teachers who lost their homes so there's been an out pour of support to Santa Rosa and everyone who was affected by the fire."

Although he hasn't been going up to Santa Rosa with his search and rescue team, he's been offering support to the those who have.

"It's a somber mood; not a lot of high schoolers get to do something like this and are exposed to this, so everyone on the team is very cognizant of the fact that it is some heavy stuff, and everyone is supportive of each other," Anderson said. 

The whole thing has made him reflect on how lucky he is to compete. 

"A lot of us take it for granted the opportunity we have to compete and the privilege we have to compete. . . . There are a lot of people right now who are out of a home or they've lost loved ones, so it really is very moving to know what we are so lucky to be able to come down and do this."

With the conditions in California clearing up and Mt. SAC in the books, Anderson and his team are now looking ahead to training outside and preparing for meets to come. 

"At Redwood, our sights are always set on state meet and postseason," he said. "So I'm looking forward to coming out to state and making a good appearance there and then seeing what we do as far as nationals." 

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