Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
The Madera South Stallions girls cross country start the Div. I girls race Thursday in Woodward Park. The Stallions placed third overall, led by Emily Montoya (3485), to earn an automatic bid to next week’s CIF State Cross Country Championships, also at Woodward Park.
FRESNO — Fresh off winning the County/Metro Athletic Conference in dominating fashion, Madera’s Unique Ford ran past the Central Section Div. II field to capture the Valley Championship title.
Ford easily won the race Thursday at Woodward Park. She outdistanced Grace Rubio from San Luis Obispo by almost 30 seconds.
“It feels super good,” Ford said. “I always wanted to win a Valley.”
Ford overtook Rubio in the middle of the race and began to run away from her in the final mile.
“It was pretty hard,” Ford said. “It was competitive in the beginning. I lost her and it was hard to keep pushing.”
Ford placed second in the Valley Championships in her freshman year and missed last year’s race. She came back and won the elusive title this year.
“It took me a long time to get to where I am,” Ford said.
Unfortunately, Ford will be the only Coyote runner in next week’s CIF State Cross Country Championships. Teammates Linda Perez and Julia Martinez finished outside the Top 12 and weren’t eligible for an at-large entry and the Coyotes finished fourth as a team.
However, the Madera South girls team will advance to the state championships for the first time since winning the Div. II Valley Championship in 2013. This year, the Stallions placed third in a tight race for the final state bid in Div. I.
“It’s special to send the girls team to state,” head coach Eloy Quintana said. “It’s a humbling moment. Our girls team has always been in the shadow of the boys program. For them to finally have their moment is really special.”
Buchanan easily won the Div. I Valley Championship. They placed five runners in the top 10 and scored 24 points. The real race was for the next two spots out of three teams for the state bid.
Former Madera South and Madera cross country Rich Parris led the Clovis West girls team to a second place finish with 92 points. Madera South was just four points behind and McFarland was just 13 points behind Clovis West.
“It’s something I’ve talked with Sky Fierro at Martin Luther King Middle School and the coaches at Madera South when I first took over is we have to get the girls team up to par with the boys team,” Quintana said. “Little by little, we started putting the puzzle together, piece by piece. Last year, we fell a little short of the goal and this year, we got over the hump. We get to go to state with the goal of finishing in the top 10 in the state.”
The Stallions placed all five placing runners inside the top 35 and were led by Emily Montoya in eighth place, leading the Stallions for the second week in a row. Montoya finished the 5-kilometer race in 19:06.88.
“Two weeks in a row, that lady has stepped up with one leg,” Quintana said. “She’s had two ACL repairs on it. Even though her knee is supposedly 100 percent, I know when she runs downhill out here, it does do a number on that knee. She sucks it up and goes for it. It tells you what kind of girls team we have. They’re close and sacrifice for each other.”
The Stallions race at 9:30 a.m. while Ford races at 10 a.m. on Nov. 24 in Woodward Park.
“Our girls are excited,” Quintana said. “They stuck to the plan and executed it to almost perfection. Credit to the girls, coaches, community and Madera South. It’s a special day. It’s hard, too because our boys team. They didn’t have it in their legs. It’s a learning experience. It’s never a moment of we lost. It’s a learning experience and that’s how life is.”
For the first time since Madera South has been qualified to send runners to the CIF State Championships, a Madera South boys runner will not be a part of the races. Madera’s top runner, Victor Ochoa, placed 20th overall.
For the Stallions girls, it was a battle for the top three spots. Dariana Miramontes, who missed last week’s CMAC championships because of a family emergency, came back to place 12th for the Stallions with a time of 19:14.86. Maria Aguilar was 15th for the Stallions, just four seconds behind
Perla Jimenez finished 28th with a time of 20:20.94. Jaydah Aguilar closed the scoring for the stallions in 33rd place, 19 seconds behind Jimenez.
Paola Cruz was sixth on the Stallions in 43rd place while Elisa Vega was two seconds behind in 44th place.
The Coyotes made a run for the top two teams that would qualify for state. With their top three runners, Madera had 30 points and would have been second. However, the next two runners totaled 101 points and sent the Coyotes to fourth place.
After Ford won the race, Perez was second on the Madera team in 14th place with a time of 20:07.42. Two seconds later, Martinez crossed the line in 15th place.
Ochoa led the Stallions in the boys race, placing 20th with a time of 16:29.70. Salvador Martinez was second on the Stallions in 34th place with a time of 16:55.47 while German Villavicencio was 42nd and Remi Ochoa was one second back in 43rd place.
Guillermo Guzman was the top Madera runner in the Div. II race in 54th place with a time of 17:28.51.