Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera freshman Unique Ford cross the finish line in a personal best time of 18:41 to place second in Div. II at the Central Section cross country championships Thursday.
FRESNO — In her first year as the head coach of the boys and girls Madera Coyote cross country teams, Alisha Brown was able to pull from her experiences to help her teams compete at the Div. II Valley Championship meet.
Although the Coyotes missed out on sending teams to next Saturday’s CIF State Cross Country championships, three runners will advance.
“It’s an awesome feeling as a coach watching their work pay dividends,” Brown said. “They’ve been training really hard this season.”
Freshman Unique Ford battled for the Div. II individual championship and fell nine seconds short, placing second to McFarland’s Devianna Salcedo.
Ford finished with a time of 18:41, smashing her previous personal record by more than 30 seconds.
“Unique wanted to break 19 minutes,” Brown said. “I told her if you go out and run with the top three. I told her if she runs in the top three, she will break 19. That’s exactly what she did. She listened to my advice. When she finished the race, she told me I did what you told me and I broke 19. She was really excited. Just seeing that excitement made me happy.”
Ford knew she had a chance to get her personal goal so she pushed in the final mile.
“Being with these racer pushed me further,” Ford said. “I made up a lot of time in the last mile. I was trying to catch the other girl. I was very proud of myself when I saw the time and broke 19 minutes.”
“We knew it was in her the whole time,” Brown said. “It was a matter of mind power and racing with the top girls. She did not run scared today. She got out and went straight for it. She executed the race just as I asked her to.”
Also advancing to the state championship meet will be junior Olivia Zambrano, who finished 10th, earning a medal with a time of 20:13.
“Olivia went out and fought the same thing,” Brown said. “It pays when you fight like that in a race. They got ti see the fruits of their labor today.”
Freshman Linda Perez was the third Coyote across the line in 18th place.
Senior Tim Fitch narrowly missed advancing to the state championships last year, achieved his goal of advancing to state with a seventh place finish.
Fitch was just three seconds behind the sixth place runner to advance.
“Tim Fitch has had this goal since the summer to go to state,” Brown said. “He’s been very determined for that. Today, he really showed that. He fought in his race and kicked really strong.”
Brandon Ebersole finished 23rd for the Coyotes and Moses Zavala was right behind in 24th place.
Ford and Zambrano will run at 11:10 a.m. next Saturday in the Div. II State CIF Cross Country Championship race at Woodward Park while Fitch will run at 12:50 p.m.