When Corona del Mar High cross country coach Bill Sumner says the cat's out of the bag, he's not kidding.
That cat probably can beat you in a three-mile race.
CdM freshman Raquel Powers did not even start the year on varsity, running on JV instead. Ask Sumner to list his top seven runners, and she wasn't one of them.
But that all changed Sept. 14 at the Laguna Hills Invitational.
Powers forced her coach's hand. She won the freshman girls' Division 3 race in 19 minutes, 20 seconds, finishing in front of second-place Samantha Murphy of Northwood by six seconds. Not only did Powers win the race, but she had the best time among all of the CdM girls' runners from every class.
And, two days later, Sumner told her that she had made varsity.
The move made Powers happy. She's already making new friends on varsity, along with fellow freshman Madi Greenberg, who was also moved up after finishing third at Laguna Hills.
"It makes me feel like I had to perform my best, to work harder at running," said Powers, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week. "It makes me feel like I have the whole next four years ahead of me, and that I'm on a good path."
Her whole family saw her winning path at Laguna Hills, with mom Vanessa and dad Fred there, as well as older sisters Melanie and Ashlee. Both of them were also standout runners at CdM; Raquel is the third Powers sister to earn Athlete of the Week honors at CdM.
Yes, the Powers name carries quite a bit of, well, power at the school. In 2009, then-senior Melanie and then-sophomore Ashlee helped CdM win the CIF State Division III title, the program's seventh overall.
Melanie ran for three years at Wake Forest and now lives back locally, where she currently works at Avila's El Ranchito in Corona del Mar. Ashlee now runs at UCLA.
They had good advice for their younger sister after that freshman girls' race at Laguna Hills.
"Ashlee just told me to keep up the great work," Raquel Powers said. "[She said] 'You've got to keep working hard, keep going to sleep early, keep eating healthy.' Melanie just gave me words of encouragement, saying, 'You have a long four years ahead of you, and I know you can do it because you're a Powers sister.'"
Sumner said he was a bit surprised with Raquel's first race of her high school career, but not overly so because she had a good summer. She trained hard, running with Sumner's Cal Coast Track Club five days a week at 6:30 a.m. at Inspiration Point.
The inspiration for Powers was to have a strong freshman season. She said her goals for the year were simple, just to do her best and make her family proud. She already seems well on her way.
"It's nice when they're freshmen and they have no fear," Sumner said. "The ace card that she was holding [at Laguna Hills], the wild card in her pocket, was that she has been running with girls who are a little bit older. She just raced 'em, right from the first step.
"We moved her up on Monday. Well, if you want the right answer, she moved herself up on Saturday by her performance."
Powers goes by the nickname "Rock," which is easier for Sumner to yell out. She likes it, too, because it makes her sound tough. In reality she's still just 13 years old and pretty reserved, but she likes to smile. She said one of her favorite things to do is to take her dogs, Fluffy and Pearl, to the dog park.
Powers was always around running growing up, and she said she joined Cal Coast in about the fourth grade. But she didn't really get serious about the sport until middle school, when she also ran for CdM.
And now she's on varsity.