Madera schools compete at state level
Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Members of the Matilda Torres Toros cross country team finish the school’s first-ever CIF State contest after running in the Div. IV CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park on Saturday. From left are head coach Conner Nolen, Omar Jayme, Esaud Vargas, Miguel Ramirez, Ozzy Hernandez, Buffalo Soito, Ricardo Silva and Noah Felix-Andrade.
Led by junior Dylan Devine, the Madera South Stallions placed 13th in the CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park.
Devine and Alejandro Gutierrez led the Stallions at the end of the first mile Saturday in the Div. I race.
“The team ended off the season a lot better than where we were in August,” co-head coach Sky Fierro said. “I don’t think we lived up to our full potential on the day. I believe we could have run better.”
However, by the second mile, Devine moved ahead of Gutierrez.
At the end, it was Devine leading the Stallions with a 37th place finish, improving on his 45th place running at the second mile. He finished the 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) course in 15:49.6.
Meanwhile, Gutierrez dropped back to 62nd place with a time of 16:08.0.
“Dylan was our number one and Alejandro fell back about halfway through the race,” Fierro said. ”I looked at the splits and I think they stuck to the plan pretty well time-wise. I think it was just the big meet thing that got to him.”
Adrian Hipolito was the next Stallion across the line in 86th place. Estevan Medina placed 105th and Isaac Chavez was 119th to complete the team scoring. Ulysses Vega placed 121st and Vidal Luna was 169th.
“Back in August, there wasn’t any huge expectations,” Fierro said. “We wanted to win Valley. As the season progressed, times were getting better and we improved as a team. After last week’s win, it was a really big high. It’s hard to put back-to-back-to-back great races together. It starts to take its toll mentally and physically.”
The Stallions, who captured the County/Metro Athletic Conference championships two weeks ago, followed by a Div. I Central Section title the next week, will close out the season by running in the Nike Regionals this weekend, also at Woodward Park.
“I expect the team to run much better next week than today,” Fierro said. “You can’t really know about the big meets beforehand. You just have to have the experience.”
With six of his top eight runners coming back next season, expectations will be high for the Stallions, which is normal territory for the program.
“The expectations will be pretty high next year,” Fierro said. “We are losing two of our top eight next year. Overall, we’re not too upset at the race. We know we could have done better. Placing 13th in the state of California is great. If you take a step back and look at it from a wider perspective, it’s a good day. We represented Madera and Madera South well.”
Just advancing to the CIF State Meet is an accomplishment and, for the first time in school history, the Hawks had two teams qualify for the state meet.
“We hit some of our normal times,” head coach Jason Napier said. “I didn’t see any personal bests out there. I also know that’s tough to do at state. I think everyone was pretty competitive with their times and pretty close to matching their times.”
Ozzy Hernandez led the boys team with a 103rd place finish while the team placed 22nd in the Div. V race.
However, midway through the race, No. 2 runner Eduardo Gonzalez injured his ankle. He was taken to the medical area and received treatment. He was later taken off by stretcher in an ambulance to take care of the injury. Napier didn’t have an update later Saturday.
“That threw our scoring off,” Napier said. “We had five runners finish. We were bummed out our guys weren’t all together. They were happy with their race.”
However, vibes are high for the Hawks, who return six of their top seven runners (Emilio Ortega is the team’s lone seniors) for next season.
“There are definitely great vibes of going to the state meet and recognizing we are returning almost all of our kids,” Napier said.
The girls team placed 24th in the Div. V race. They were led by sophomore Brooke DaSilva, who placed 127th.
“The girls did great. Brooke DaSilva, our most consistent runner, had a good run today,” Napier said. “She hit her time. Everyone else basically did the same thing. The top five girls were repeating their time in a tough field. You have to try to figure out how to stay fast when everyone else is running fast.”
Like the boys team, the girls return six of the seven runners (Jenna Rodriguez is the team’s only senior).
“Every one of the girls, but one, will be back,” Napier said. “There’s no reason for excuses after you see it. We had to modify our schedule a few years back to get into some big races. You get on the starting line with a lot of runners and it definitely changes how you race. At state, they go out hard. They know that now”
Matilda Torres Toros
In their first year of running varsity races, the Matilda Torres boys cross country team earned its first CIF Central Section plaque with a runner-up team finish at the Central Section championships last week and earned its first invitation to a CIF State event.
“This was really exciting,” head coach Connor Nolen said. “To be here and have this opportunity is huge for this program. This gives us confidence heading into next season knowing we’ve been here before. A lot of them PR’d today, which is huge. It’s more that I can ask of them that they can run their best time at the state meet. They know the training works and they were ready for this day.”
Ozzy Hernandez led the team with a 70th place finish with a time of 16:42.8 Esaud Vargas was only three seconds back in 73rd place.
“This will helps us out a ton,” Nolen said. “This will help us bring out those middle schoolers and some kids that aren’t doing a sport and want to be a part of a program that can compete at the state level.”
In addition, all seven runners will be back next season. The Toros only sport one junior (Ricardo Silva) to go with four sophomores and two freshmen.
“Nerves was a thing.” Nolen said. “The way they handled things and moved up showed they were relaxed and confident. I didn’t really sense any nerves going into it. I felt more at the Valley race. They ran better than what I could have asked them. We went out a little too slow, but they made up for it moving up through the race.”
For the Madera Coyotes, only sophomore Sophia Mirelez qualified for the CIF State meet.
Mirelez had some trouble battling through the large crowd in the Div. II race and hopes to bring along some teammates next year.
“It was pretty intense,” Mirelez said. “I think I could have gotten a better time. I kind of got boxed in too much.”
Mirelez finished her first CIF State race in 75th place with a time of 19:33.0. She was the 16th runner across that didn’t have a team with her.
“We all need to work together and push each other,” she said about getting her team at the race next year. “At each race and each practice, we need to give it our all to be ready for meets like this.”
Although she missed out at a chance to run at the CIF State Meet as a freshman, Mirelez hopes to become one of the few runners to qualify for three state meets.
“It feels good even though this was my first state meet, I know I can improve on meets to come,” she said.