In the over 100 years that Coronado High School has existed, it has produced many NCAA athletes in every sport offered at the school. CHS has been one of San Diego’s best at producing talent year after year, from football to sailing. In recent history, the CHS cross country and track & field programs have pumped out several Division I athletes, including 2017 CHS graduate and current San Diego State senior Renee Phillips.
Phillips was a cornerstone of both the high school’s track & field and cross country teams. As a four-year varsity letter winner, she captured two individual CIF titles. Phillips was a two-time CIF San Diego Section cross country (2.75 miles) individual champion, in 2015 and 2016. In all four years, she helped CHS reach the state championship in cross country.
Phillips reminisced about her time saying, “Coronado High School was huge in my development as a runner and athlete. We had a lot of success in my four years as an islander. And I don’t think I could have gotten to the next level if not for my time on that team.”
With her dominant four year run at Coronado, the college looks and offers began to pour in during her senior year. “I knew I wanted to stay on the west coast and run in the Mountain West Conference, so the schools I was looking at were the University of Nevada, Fresno State, UC Santa Barbara, and San Diego State. All of them were great schools and appealed to me in one way or the other. But ultimately, staying close to home made the most sense to me. Plus, I connected with the girls at SDSU better than anywhere else.”
So in 2017, Philips committed to run track & field and cross country for San Diego State University and hasn’t looked back. Upon her arrival to the campus, Phillips knew she had made the right decision mainly due to the amount of comradery that came with the smaller size team the Aztecs had.
“The girls on the team made me feel at home very quickly. We’re a smaller team, and I think because of that, it caused us to bond faster and closer than other Division I programs. It was nice to arrive and be able to grow close to so many teammates.”
During her four-year career at SDSU, Phillips has participated in plenty of meets. And with San Diego State being in the Mountain West Conference, Phillips has had the unique and somewhat challenging task of frequently running at elevation at schools like the University of Nevada.
“The meets have always been one of the best parts of being on the team. It’s been unique to run at meets around the conference. Having to adjust to the higher elevation isn’t as hard as you would think. We always arrive as close as possible to meets at a higher elevation so that our bodies are still in shock, and to me, a lot of it is mental. You know it’s gonna suck when you finish your event or race, but you just can’t think about it like that. Early on in my first year, I’d sometimes get nervous for our meets just because I placed a lot of pressure on myself to perform, but now as a senior, the pre-meet nerves are gone.”
Phillips is in unique situation as both a cross country and track & field athlete. Since she participates in both sports, she has to switch training programs within each year, with her fall and winter being focused on cross country and the spring being focused on track & field — meaning an offseason doesn’t really exist for Phillips. This makes her schedule as a student-athlete that much more jam-packed.
“The busy schedule was certainly something I knew about going in, but it was an adjustment coming in from high school, and academically it took time for me to adjust as well, I had to make some adjustments like changing my major, but SDSU was a huge help in making me feel comfortable with my schedule. So, around my sophomore year, I’d say I was fully adjusted.”
Phillips also has faced physical challenges during her years at SDSU. She was hampered by several injuries that held her out of some meets over the years. While Phillips admits that the injuries mentally and physically strained her, she has always been able to keep a positive mindset and continue to move forward.
“Dealing with injuries never gets easier and is never something you want, but I’ve always tried to find ways to stay positive. I always try to make benchmarks for myself during the rehab process and keep myself focused on getting healthy and competing again. The injuries suck, but I always remind myself that things will be ok.”
Even with all the ups and downs, her time on the SDSU track and cross country teams is something she wouldn’t trade. For Renee, the little moments and triumphs will always outweigh the roadblocks and hardships.
“I’ll always remember the meets and the times I had with my teammates. Things like getting to race up in Seattle in front of my family at the West regionals and the place that I called home. I remember it just pouring, and I lost my shoe mid-race. But as a team, we placed way higher than we expected. Its moments like that I’ll always remember.”
Like many student-athletes, Phillips is unsure if she’ll exercise her 5th-year option at SDSU. It’s a decision that she hopes to make soon. But if this is the end of her cross country and track career, Phillips is confident her time at SDSU has her ready for whatever comes next.
All images courtesy of Renee Phillips