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Wood cross country runner Gulab Singh is The Reporter’s Athlete of the Week

Singh is Sikh and came to the United States from India when he was in fifth grade....

It’s easy to recognize Gulab Singh when he lines up at the start of a high school cross country meet.

He’s the one wearing the turban.

Singh is Sikh and came to the United States from India when he was in fifth grade. He was the only Sikh student at Will C. Wood when he enrolled as a freshman.

“When I started cross country it was definitely hard stepping out on the line,” he said. “But then slowly as I started getting better I noticed a lot of eyes on me and people actually enjoyed watching me race… Now when we go to different meets people recognize me because of my turban. So it’s kind of cool.”

In his most recent meet at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III 5,000 meters at Willow Hills in Folsom, Singh finished seventh with a time of 17 minutes, 7 seconds to qualify for the State meet on Nov. 30 at Woodward Park in Fresno.

For his performance, Singh is The Reporter’s Athlete of the Week.

Singh wanted to run track for the Wildcats his freshman year. Track coach Mary Woo suggested he run cross country to help him prepare. So he joined the cross-country team halfway through the season. The senior has been competing in both sports ever since.

He runs the 800, 1,600, 3,200 and the 4-by-400 relay for the track team.

“I think in a lot of ways he’s fought to overcome being different, and, as a result, he’s standing out,” said Wood head cross country coach Ray Hausler. “Not only is he different and wears a turban and looks different than everybody. He also is minutes faster than everybody else on his team.”

Because of that Singh has had to find ways to compete and work out with faster runners. Vacaville High head cross country coach Dave Monk has provided him with that opportunity. Once a week Singh works out with the seven fastest cross country Bulldog runners.

“Gulab has great attention to detail in his work,” said Wood head coach Ray Hausler. “He’s a student of the sport and he’s a student of life… We’re excited for Gulab. He’s worked so hard for this opportunity (the State meet). It was nice to see him shine on the section stage and earn that trip to Fresno.”

Singh’s best race this year was at the Clovis Invitational at Woodward Park, the same course where he will compete in the State Championship.

He ran the 5,000 meters in 16:10, finishing 10th out of 190 competitors in the medium-size high school varsity boys race. He also finished third in the Monticello Empire League championship meet this year to make the All-Mel squad.

Breaking into cross country as a freshman who looked different than everyone was hard for Singh. Now, three years later, he says the thing he loves most about cross country is running with all the new friends he has made in this sport and “getting to hang out with them and talking about the whole day.”

And the turban, considered a crown by the Sikhs and a symbol of dedication, self-respect and courage, has become a mark of distinction for this young man, who has demonstrated all of those qualities as a Will C. Wood student-athlete.


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