Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
The Madera South girls cross country team begins the Div. I CIF State Cross Country Championship race Saturday at Woodward Park.
FRESNO — While both the Madera South and Liberty cross country teams looked to build from it success, Madera will try to add to its solo success.
Sixteen Madera area athletes competed in Saturday’s CIF State Cross Country Championships and came away with a certain amount of success, but it wasn’t in how they finished, but rather on what they could build upon.
“They are happy and excited,” Madera South head coach Eloy Quintana said. “A couple of years ago when we first knew we were going to be Div. I, we had no girls at the State meet. To go from sixth to third in the valley and being here in the Div. I state championships in California, the best state in the country for cross country, for these girls to finish the way they did, is amazing. They are going to be known as the first team in Madera South to go to a State Championship in cross country in Div. I. They are the ones that will open up the gates for many girls in the future to make it to this level.”
“This is a foundation team,” Liberty head coach Jason Napier said. “We’ve got a good group of kids to move on with. We are losing three from this year’s team. We have four coming back. We were already talking to girls after the Valley meet. We had 10 at the beginning of the season and we’re losing three. You never know who you are going to get. .”
Both the Liberty and Madera South cross country teams participated in the state meet for the first time, the Stallions in its first Div. I race.
“It was a really great day,” Napier said. “You go into the race knowing it is going to be tougher because of the traffic and the fencing. We had girls who stayed consistent and that is fantastic for us. They did really, really well.”
“This all started two years ago with Veronica Ortega,” Quintana said. “Since she was a great captain teaching the girls how to be more professional and more accountable, these girls took what they learned to the next level and that’s why they are here today. The door is open for many girls in Madera to make it to a Div. I State championship. This is where our school should be in cross country and track.”
The Madera South girls team placed 18th in the Div. I championship race with 384 points. Junior Dariana Miramontes led the Stallions with a 43rd place finish with a time of 16:49.6. She missed the Valley race the week before because of a family emergency.
Senior Maria Aguilar was second on the Stallions’ team in 74th place. Senior Emily Montoya was 88th, eight seconds behind Aguilar.
Senior Perla Jimenez was fourth on the Stallions in 128th place. Sophomore Jaydah Aguilar closed out the scoring in 167th place. Also running for the Stallions were junior Paola Cruz in 174th place and junior Elisa Vega in 176th place.
“They ran really well,” Quintana said. “No. 1-4 ran really well. Our No. 5 was a little slow, but she was hurt a little. At the mile point, we were in seventh place and were looking great. Overall, our girls did great. Some of the girls did reach a personal record.”
The Liberty Hawks’ girls team placed 21st in the Div. V girls race. However, it wasn’t Liberty’s first experience at the race. Sopha Napier and Mattison McCombs and others also competed in the state meet two years ago.
“It helped a lot to run the state meet before,” Sophia Napier said. “My freshman year, my time was nowhere near my personal record. Recently, we’ve run races with a lot of people to get used to the people to train for State.”
Junior Sophia Napier, who placed second to her teammate in the Valley meet, led the Hawks in 52nd place. The junior finished the race in 20:31.1.
“The hardest part of my race is the last mile,” she said. “I’m pretty consistent in my first mile. I felt like I did better than other races in the last mile. It’s insane. Just at the beginning when there’s the cloud of people and you have to run so much faster than you’re used to to get out of that so you don’t get boxed in. The first mile is the worst. Everyone is on top of each other. I got run in to about four times.”
Senior Mattison McCombs, the Div. V Valley Champion, was second on the Hawks in 79th place. She was 36 seconds behind Napier.
However, 74 runners crossed the finish line before the next Hawks runner. Freshman Kassidy Afonin placed 155th, more than two minutes behind McCombs.
Senior Brianna Burgess was fourth on the team in 165th place and junior Rebecca Loquaci was 177th and fifth on the Hawks’ team.
Also running for the Hawks were senior Sopha Avila in 189th place and junior Madison Bento in 191st place.
Liberty’s Ryan Avila was the only Madera male runner to participate in the state meet.
“I have never seen anything like this before,” Avila said. “It was overwhelming at the beginning.”
The sophomore placed 123rd overall in a time of 18:11.2, which was almost three minutes behind the winner.
“I went out good, but it didn’t turn out as I thought it would,” he said. “I kept going back and back.”
Although a wrestler by trade, Avila hopes to bring a team to the state meet in the future.
“I’m really excited about next year,” he said. “I’m going to try to be motivation for everyone else to get the team there. I feel excited about wrestling, but I’m going to miss this. This whole season was unbelievable and fun.”
Running in her second state meet, Madera’s Unique Ford, the Div. II Valley Champion, said she didn’t run the way she wanted.
“The other one, I did way better,” she said. “This one was hard and I couldn’t push. I had another one to run with in the first one.”
Ford, a junior, finished the Div. II race in 110th place with a time of 19:46.2, which was more than two minutes behind the race winner.
“I got a slow start at the beginning and the crowd hurt me,” she said. “When I first started, I felt I was going to do bad because of how I felt. The course was challenging and was harder than any other race I ran.”
Next time, Ford hopes to bring a team to the race to help her out.
“I’ll help encourage them and making sure they are pushing in the practice and training hard,” she said.