Hawks send girls to state
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
The Liberty Hawks girls cross country team starts the Div. IV Valley Championship race Thursday at Woodward Park. The Hawks placed third as a team and earned an invitation to the CIF State Cross Country Championships.
FRESNO — The Liberty Hawks cross country team had their first CIF State Cross Country Championships participant in 2013. Three years later, the Hawks will be sending a team.
With a third place finish in Div. IV, the Hawks advanced to the state championships for the first time in school history as a team.
Jamie Lewis was the first Liberty runner to advance to state, heading there her freshmen and sophomore years, but injuries have prevented her from running the past two years.
Enter freshman Sophia Napier to lead the Hawks into state.
“All year long, she has had a great season,” head coach Jason Napier said. “It’s been neat to watch her excel. She’s a natural at this and is getting faster and faster. We’ve been talking about let’s qualify individually. If we do it as a team, great. We had two qualify for state individually, but to qualify as a team, even better.”
Along with Sophia, Aaliyah Montemayor would have also qualified for the state championships with a 13th place finish.
However, Napier and Montemayor will be joined by the rest of their team at the starting line of next week’s state race. The girls will run at 9:30 a.m.
“It feels great to lead the team to state,” Sophia said. “It was a group effort and it’s awesome.” Bishop Union won the team title followed by Rosamond with 73 points. Liberty was just 15 points behind and one minute behind in time to Rosamond for third place.
“It is very special,” Napier said. “We’ve been talking about getting the team to state for a while, but I’ve known about it for months. You don’t want to say things that aren’t going to happen. We’ve recently talked about the opportunity and talked about second and third on paper. Today, we were able to put it in the record as the top three teams. We’re super excited about that. They did really, really well.”
Sophia Napier has been one of the top runners in Div. IV all season and didn’t disappoint in her first season. She finished fifth, just a second behind McKaylie Caesar of Lindsay for fourth.
“It’s kind of like a way for myself that this is what I came for and this is what I did,” Sophia said. “It put everything together today. I was thinking I have a long time to do this. I feel like I’m going to keep pushing harder and getting better and get here next year.”
After Montemayor, Lexi Perez placed 18th, followed by Madison Bento in 27th and Matison McCombs in 34th to finish out the team scoring.
Brianna Burgess placed 48th for sixth on the team and Rebecca Mendoza was 54th.
“Out of the seven girls that ran, five of them took time off,” coach Napier said. “A couple of them, super key girls in 5-6-7 position, moved ahead in the top five. I was telling them they could take a minute off their time still. We had two girls take a minute off their time, which is insane at this time of the year.”
Meanwhile, the boys team placed fifth in Div. V, but had two runners in the top 20, led by Michael Rivera in 17th place. Clayton Cardoza was 19th, seven seconds behind Rivera.
Connor McPherson was 29th, followed by Dane Tynan in 41st and Jazper Blancett in 43rd.