Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
The Madera South Stallions boys cross country team and coaches celebrates its ninth straight Central Section championship on Nov. 17. The Stallions now try for a top three finish at today’s CIF Central Section State Cross Country Championships.
Members of the Madera South Stallions cross country team spent their Thanksgiving week basically the same way they have spent the past nine — working out to run in today’s CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park.
The Stallions received their ninth straight state bid with their ninth straight Central Section championship, their fourth in Div. I.
The ultimate prize is that coveted state championship, but head coach Eloy Quintana’s goal is a top three finish.
“We just want to go out there and run at our very best and compete at the level that we know how to compete,” Quintana said. “Our goal is top three. Preferably to be first place. But top three would be great.”
According to dyestatcal.com, the Stallions are ranked No. 3 in the state and come in after fourth place finish at last year’s state championships, but five of the top seven runners returned to this year’s race, including Valley Champion Miguel Villar.
Villar placed 11th last year at the state and hopes to improve on that this year.
“I know my potential is there and I was shooting for a top-five finish,” Villar said after last year’s race. “If I take care of the workouts, then the times and places will come. We’re going to come together at the beginning of the year like we always do and set our goals and do everything we can possible to achieve them as brothers.”
Also running from last year’s race were Michael Ochoa (11th in this year’s Valley Championships), Victor Ochoa (fourth), Nicholas Hernandez (fifth) and Adrian Alvarez (15th).
“Every year, the message does change,” Quintana said. “This year, the message is just finish the job. Finish what has been started many years ago. The boys know that. They are so well experienced with so many big races under their belt. They know what to do going into it. The coaching staff doesn’t have to talk to them too much because they know what they need to do.”
However, after running in nine straight state championship races, the Stallions know what they can do on the course. For Quintana, it’s getting the kids mentally ready to run.
“We need to get them to focus on the goal and focus that the team needs to be at this point in the course,” Quintana said. “But to also enjoy it. Not too many teams get to be in the situation they are in right now. Enjoy each other’s company. If they can enjoy this, they will compete very hard for each other. It’s the same course. Just race, just run and it’s as simple as that.”
Coyotes get first taste of state
Unlike their city counterparts, the three Madera Coyote cross country runners will get their first taste of the CIF State Cross Country Championships today.
Freshman Unique Ford, junior Olivia Zambrano and senior Tim Fitch will lace it up for the last time this season in the Div. II boys and girls races.
“I’m trying to tell them to get out and protect their space, know where they are at on the course at all times,” Madera head coach Alisha Brown said. “I don’t like to put the pressure on them. I try not to make it more than what it is. It’s a high-level competition that they are prepared for. I let them know they are prepared for this. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be in the situation they are in. I just give them the security and confidence that they are ready to ready to race at this level. They can finish with the top racers. They have to believe in themselves and make it happen. I tell them to not think, just race.”
Brown can pull from experiences at the state championship when she advanced as a two-time Valley Champion in the Central Section races in 2008-2009.
“Coming from my point of view, I don’t think I did well at state at any time,” Brown said. “I got choked up and put all this pressure on me with so much to prove. Every time, I felt like I let people down. I just want them to know that this is a race to show off your hard work. This is a race where you can be a star. I tell them to have fun. This will be one of your most memorable races you will have.”
Ford heads into the race as an up-and-comer, winning the County/Metro Athletic Conference championship and then earning a silver medal in the Div. II Valley Championship race last week.
In between the two races, Ford dramatically improved her time. She won the CMAC championship with a time of 19:15.6. She placed second in the valleys with a time of 18:41.4, a 34 second improvement in the two races.
“For Unique, she can finish in the top 15,” Brown said. “She has that physical capability. She’s really close to the varsity boys in the workouts. She’s that strong of a runner. She’s very young and she’s not fully aware of her full potential. It’s difficult for her to process that she can be top 15. I want her to get out and race. If she gets out and races, she can surprise herself. I know she’s going to do well and surprise herself. I think she will get to mid 18s. She needs to go out there and have a fun race.”
Zambrano placed 10th in the Div. II race to also qualify as an individual.
“When you get to these kind of races, you really have to go in with a little bit of a plan,” Brown said. “Our plan is to get out strong and race in the top pack and see what we can do. If we get out strong, that says a lot about how we can finish. If they go with that plan through the two-mile marker, they can see what they can do at the finish of the race.”
Fitch narrowly missed racing in the state championships last year, but made sure to make the state championships this year with a seventh place finish in the Valley Championships.
“I was telling Tim about college and he was saying there were going to be a few college coaches watching his race,” Brown said. “I told him that many college coaches will be at the state meet. This is your last race and if you go out with your time in mind, knowing you put in the work, you can break 16 and speak with some of these coaches. It’s to enlighten him. This is your day to shine. Don’t go into it nervous with so much to prove. You have already proved it.”