Felipe De Cardenas runs into the record books

Paul Gould

Felipe De Cardenas ’22 has always strived to be a role model on the cross-country team. He strived to always be “that” person on the team — someone to look up to. He felt this way because there was always someone in his high school years to mentor him to make him better and push him to be his best self and best teammate. He’s definitely done that: De Cardenas has become RE’s fourth fastest 5k runner of all time.

Now it was his turn. 

Someone that immensely helped De Cardenas over the years was his coach, Don Kappelman. When De Cardenas began cross-country, it was mainly just to get in shape for soccer, his primary sport at the time. But once De Cardenas reached high school, Kappelman altered his student’s mindset. 

“Felipe led the 2021 cross country team both with his words and actions. He knew how to help motivate teammates with his pre-race speeches, and he demonstrated a work ethic throughout the season that enabled him to excel,” Coach Kappelman said. 

At the beginning of the year, Kappelman and De Cardenas came together to set goals. One of the goals was for Ransom Everglades to be District Champions. In order to reach this goal, De Cardenas could not solely rely on himself; he had to be better and had to push others to be better. But he knew he had to be on top of his game to accomplish this goal. 

To prepare for meets, De Cardenas likes to know where he is ranked within a race and to know who else will be running. He uses this information to know where he must be with regard to time during a race and how he needs to pace himself and how others pace themselves. It is also important to De Cardenas to eat a significant amount of carbohydrates and protein the night before and race and to stay very hydrated. Staying hydrated became more critical for De Cardenas after he got sick from dehydration at the end of a meet in September of 2021. He now often begins his days by drinking an entire bottle of Pedialyte in preparation for the grueling meet ahead.  

Before districts, De Cardenas locked in and prepared fully for the race in front of him. He was so motivated to succeed in this race, not only for himself but for the team, that he went out and ran his 5K in 16 minutes and 12.5 seconds–a personal record. De Cardenas finished on the podium, which helped Ransom Everglades qualify for the State Championships. This was De Cardenas’s second goal — to place and qualify for States. 

But De Cardenas did more than just qualify in States; he finished 14th out of 232 runners.

De Cardenas shows us how his hard work and determination paid off. He said “The whole season I always liked to see where I was seeded and challenge myself to exceed it. I remember halfway through the season I was 40, then I made my way to 25, and before the race, I was 20. I knew who I wanted to beat. Looking back on it now, I am proud that I was able to do so, and how I earned it.”

De Cardenas proved the seeding wrong for States, as he was projected to end closer to 20th. He improved more than anyone would ever have thought, improving his time by 1 minute and 45 seconds over his high school years. But the work outside of school should not go unseen. From the camps he attended as a freshman and sophomore year to the six-days-a-week runs, his growth came with a lot of time and sweat. Just last summer, he ran about 45 miles a week, for 355 miles from June 28 until August 16th. De Cardenas took his passion and brought it to the next level.

De Cardenas has an underclassman sibling on the team, Matias De Cardenas ’24. Matias explained, “We all learned a lot from watching my brother work so hard and then have it pay off. A lot of us look up to him. It was cool to be able to share the season and train with him before he graduates.” 

That brings us to De Cardenas’s final goal: to leave a legacy for Ransom’s cross-country team. After his final year of running for RE, he has certainly succeeded.