That’s some country to cross

Irvine kids run on open space trails amid woods and wildlife

by Irvine Standard Staff

“Sweatshirts off!”

The affable running coach barks the order to his dozen young charges, all members of OC GRIT, Irvine’s only youth running club for track and cross-country competitions.

Head coach Ryan Yohn and his wife, assistant coach Anel Yohn, often bring their team out into the Irvine Open Space Preserve, charging up and down the trails of Bommer Canyon, Shady Canyon and Quail Hill.

“We’re always using the open space trails,” Ryan Yohn says. “The terrain is so varied.”

On this day, a dozen runners, ages 7 to 14, are warming up on Mason Park’s 2-mile loop trail, some occasionally sprinting over grassy knolls. Just beyond the open fields of ducks and geese, they reach longer trails like Sand Canyon Wash, Road Runner and Dusty where they look for deer and coyotes.

The Yohns, who live in Irvine and who met in college on the running team, have two sons, Aiden, 12, and Thomas, 9. Both boys are members of OC GRIT and have been “running” since they were babies being pushed in their strollers.

“I love to be outside,” says Aiden.

Ryan Yohn, 40, an eighth-grade U.S. history teacher in Huntington Beach, launched OC GRIT in 2015 with eight members after looking for an Irvine-based youth running club and finding none.

The team has grown to 45 runners, many of whom are accomplished. Recently, their boys ages 9-10 took third place at the national USATF Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships in Reno.

“We’re a running family,” Anel Yohn says of her husband and sons.

The same can be said of OC GRIT.

For more information about running and other activities in Mason Park, visit

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