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Stallions finish drive for nine at Valley Championships

For the past nine years, the Madera South Stallions boys cross country team have entered the Central Section cross country championships as the favored team. 


The Stallions haven’t let down, winning the past nine straight Valley Championships, including its fifth straight Div. I championship Thursday at Woodward Park. 


“It validates the sacrifice and hard work the whole program puts in, especially those boys,” head coach Eloy Quintana said. “Those boys have gone through quite a bit with staying healthy and putting up with our workouts. People see the finished product, but they don’t see the behind the scenes to get to this point. Nine for nine makes it that special.”


The Stallions, once again, dominated the competition, outdistancing Clovis 20-90, led by Miguel Villar who claimed his first Valley Championship gold medal after finishing second to teammate Jose Herrera the past two years. 


“It feels good to keep the legacy going, but the team championship feels a lot better,” Villar said. “I’m really proud of my guys. They came out and they really showed up as a team. If you went to our practices, you would understand how we won nine straight championships.”


The trio of Victor Ochoa, Nicolas Hernandez and Christian Nevarez finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively. The final scorer for the Stallions, Seth Garcia, finished 10th. Madera South’s non-scorers Michael Ochoa placed 11th and Adrian Alvarez was 15th.


“The way things are at on campus and the way our middle schools look like with Sky Fierro and Danny Vulich and the way they are doing things, the future looks good,” Quintana said. “There’s no worries to keep the legacy going.”


According to Quintana, the highlight of the day was Villar capturing his first Div. I Valley Championship. Villar ran in the shadows of Herrera for two years before coming into his own this year while recording the best time of the night, defeating heralded Div. III runner Evert Silva of Fresno by 15 seconds. 


“That was the highlight of the day,” Quintana said. “I know this is a team sport and he’s all about the team and he always talks about the team and never talks about himself. For him to win a Valley title is really special. It’s a healthy, respectful rivalry. For him to come out and show his potential, but there’s still more in him, he’s the fastest one of the day. I’m proud of him and proud of the boys.”


Villar found himself in a battle with Stockdale-Bakersfield’s Marcus Mota at the second mile. The two runners were side-by-side until Villar started to pull away in the third mile. 


Villar finished more than 10 seconds ahead of Mota to capture his title with a time of 15:18.6. 


“It was all mental games in the third mile,” Villar said. “I think I went out a little too strong in the first mile. I could have been a lot smarter. He stuck with me the entire time. I heard him breath a little harder so I knew he was getting tired. That was motivation to go through a little more pain.”


Victor Ochoa finished fourth with a time of 15:47.7 while Nicholas Hernandez was four seconds back in fifth. Christian Nevarez was two seconds behind Hernandez for sixth. Seth Garcia closed out the scoring in 10th place, 14 seconds behind Hernandez. 


“We hold ourselves to a different standard,” Villar said. “We like to think of ourselves as a lot more mentally strong. We keep each other on check.”


The Stallions advance to the CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward on Saturday. They will run at 10:40 a.m.


On one hand, the Madera South Stallions girls cross country team didn’t have a runner advance to state. However, all but one runner will be back next year, including freshmen running at state. 


“Last year, we went in unhealthy, but this year we had aches and pains that got in the way, but no excuses,” Quintana said. “These girls are that, no excuses. They gave us everything they had today. We’re very proud of them. We’re young. Watch out for our girls in the future. It’s a special thing building around our girls program. We’re not going away any time soon.”


Junior Veronica Ortega led the Stallions with a 19th place finish and senior Marlen Martinez-Lopez was second on the team in 24th place. Freshmen Diana Iniguez placed 28th, Dariana Miramontez was 33rd and Triny Leon was 34th. 


“The way things are at on campus and the way our middle schools look like with Sky Fierro and Danny Vulich and the way they are doing things, the future looks good,” Quintana said. “There’s no worries to keep the legacy going.”