When Madera South started competing in the Central Section Cross Country championships nine years ago, teams had a chance for a Valley Championship.
Now, teams in the same division as the Stallions just hope to make it competitive.
The Stallions, who have been the top-ranked team in the Central Section all season, will go for No. 9 on Thursday at Woodward Park, the same site where they have won five straight Div. I championships after winning three others at different divisions.
“As long as we stay healthy, keep doing what we’re doing, we should be competitive,” head coach Eloy Quintana said. “We’ll come in and show respect to the competition and be fearless and competing and we’ll compete for a Valley Championship.”
Last week, the Stallions recorded a near-perfect result at the County/Metro Athletic Conference championships at Woodward Park.
The Stallions scored 18 place points with Madera’s Tim Fitch the only one coming in the Stallions’ way.
Miguel Villar, who has been an understudy to Lalo Herrera since he was a senior, leads the Stallions this year. He has consistently been the top runner in the Central Section all season and won the CMAC championship last week by nine seconds over Nicholas Hernandez.
The Stallions are an experienced team with three seniors in their top six runners. Hernandez placed second and Christian Nevarez placed 10th.
“People see the finished product the day of the meet,” Quintana said. “Leading up to it, there’s a lot we have to deal with as a coaching staff. We try to find solutions and find ways to solve it. The greatest thing is the kids helps us find solutions. They understand the coaches are doing a lot for me and I’m going to step it up when the time comes. They do. They don’t back down from the challenge no matter what the circumstances are.”
Also placing for the Stallions were junior Adrian Alvarez in fourth, sophomore Victor Ochoa in fifth and junior Seth Garcia in sixth.
Quintana was especially pleased with the results from Nevarez, who missed all of last year because of injury.
“He’s running really well,” Quintana said. “All props to Christian to be a tough individual mentally, understanding to stick with it and not giving up.”
Meanwhile, the Madera South girls team used solid finishes from in its top six runners to win the CMAC for the first time in three years. The Stallions, who race with just one senior — Marlen Martinez-Lopez — feature three freshmen — Diana Iniguez, Triny Leon and Diana Miramontes — a sophomore — Perla Jimenez — and a junior — Veronica Ortega. Ortega led the Stallions with a third place finish.
“The freshmen are going to be fine,” Quintana said. “They are so mature. They don’t back down from any competition. They go after it. Credit to our lower level coaches, Sky Fierro at MLK and Danny Vulich at Desmond for teach our kids how to be fearless and competitive. When they come to this level, after two weeks of understanding of how this program is run and what we expect, they go for it.
“One of the first comments I made after the league was we have a building block to make something special. It will be gratifying to build another dynasty. We’re in Div. I for boys and girls and are in the cream of the crop.”
Coyotes look for state berth
The Madera Coyotes girls cross country team is using a youth movement to battle for a Div. II Valley Championship and a berth in the CIF State Cross Country Championships on Nov. 26.
Freshman Unique Ford ran away from the CMAC competition last week, winning the girls championship by more than 40 seconds ahead of teammate and junior Olivia Zambrano.
“When Unique came to the team, she immediately clicked with the varsity girls,” first-year Madera head coach Alisha Brown said. “She shows no fear when it comes to workouts. That was really good to get her to adapt to the training. She’s a great runner. She’s very talented. She was staying in shape. Having her lead these girls because she brings such great energy and positiveness to the team. She’s a go-getter, she has a heart full of fire. I’m honored to be one of her coaches. It’s an amazing thing to see someone who is so talented and not afraid to work hard. I’m really excited to see what she can do the next few years.”
The Coyotes do not have a senior in their top six. After Ford and Zambrano are freshman Linda Perez, junior Adriana Cortez, sophomore Jasmine Castillo and junior Ruth Martinez. Senior Lisette Maciel is the seventh Coyote.
“I don’t doubt the girls at all,” Brown said. “I think they will be just fine. As long as they relaxed and confident, I think they should have no fears about what to expect. We’ve raced here at Woodward Park a few times, of course the energy will be different, I have no doubt they will be just fine.”
However, the boys team is a little different with four-year runner Fitch leading the way. He broke up the Stallions contingent with a third place finish in the CMAC championships.
“It’s really good to have someone like Tim because he knows what to expect,” Brown said. “The other guys know what to expect as well. Having a team full of juniors and a senior, they can really pull something together this year.”
Also running for the Coyotes are juniors Brandon Ebersole, Daniel Chadwick, Kevin Keller, Moses Zavala and Gursharan Singh and sophomore Paul Campos.