Madera schools excel at XC Valleys
Tyler Takeda and Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
The Liberty girls team is all smiles after receiving their Div. V runner-up plaque.
FRESNO — While one school returned to prominence, other Madera schools showed they are also powers to be reckoned with at the Central Section Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park.
The Madera South boys cross country team won the Div. I championship for the first time since 2016, and did it in rather easy fashion.
Meanwhile, the Liberty Hawks boys cross country surprised coach Jason Napier and won the Div. V Central Section championship for the first time in school history. On top of that, the girls team placed second and it marked the first time that both teams will race at Saturday’s CIF State Championship.
In addition, the Matilda Torres Toros boys cross country team placed second in Div. IV and also earned an invitation to the state meet.
Madera will also send a runner to the Div. II state meet. Sophia Mirelez placed third after a pair of Sanger runners to also earn an invitation.
Madera South Stallions
The Stallions’ return to prominence came on the heels of a mostly underclassman team. Leading runner Alejandro Gutierrez is the only senior of the bunch.
Gutierrez and Dylan Devine led the Stallions with top 10 finishes.
The pair ran with the front group at the first mile with Gutierrez in fourth place and Devine in sixth.
At the second mile, Devine jumped ahead of Gutierrez in sixth place while Gutierrez was eight.
Gutierrez finished the race in 15:33.55 in third place. He was eight seconds behind second and three seconds ahead of fourth.
Devine kept his sixth place run throughout the race and finished in 15:44.11. He was a second ahead of the seventh place runner.
Isaac Chavez moved from 14th at the second mile to 12th at the finish, coming across 13 seconds behind Devine. Hipolito dropped from 10th at the second mile to 15th overall and Estevan Medina moved from 21st at the second mile to 20th at the finish.
Vidal Luna and Ulysses Vega also finished 27th and 35th, respectively.
The Madera South girls team came in a respectable fifth behind four Tri-River Athletic Conference schools. They were just two points behind fourth place Clovis West.
Diana Cortes led the Stallions with a 20th place finish. Jimena Rivera was 28th and Milca Martinez placed 30th.
The Stallions will run Saturday in Woodward Park at 12:30 p.m.
The Hawks surprised Napier with their finish on both the boys and girls race.
While the boys team won by 13 points to advance to the state meet, the girls team was just five points behind Central Valley Christian-Visalia and three in front of Fowler to also advance to the state meet.
Emilio Ortega led the surprise by finishing third in the Div. V boys race with a time of 17:59.73. He was 10 seconds behind second place, but nine seconds ahead of fourth.
Eduardo Gonzalez was 14th while Spencer Gladders was 20th. Carson Louqaci placed 27th and Miguel Angel was 33rd.
“I will say it’s a bit of a surprise for the boys,” Napier said. “I know we’re a strong team. We have seven dedicated, hard working kids. For them to come out and blow away their personal best times by almost 30 seconds is surprising. It’s the reason why we won today. It’s our 3-4-5 that’s our glue that makes sure we are pushing each other. That’s my juniors and they support Emilio Ortega.”
The girls team pulled off a second place finish to also advance to the State Championship.
Jenna Rodriguez led the Hawks with an eighth place finish. Brooke DaSilva was 15th and Sienna Federico placed 22nd. Hailey Bugg was fourth on the team in 28th place while Graicynn Achelpohl was 32nd. Right behind Achelpohl was Maci Whaley in 33rd and Emma Piedra in 39th.
“The girls had a fantastic day,” Napier said. “They are running in a tough field. We did really well in their division.”
The Liberty boys team will start at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday while the girls takeoff at noon.
“State is the icing on the cake. It’s fun to be at, but Valley is where we can be competitive,” Napier said. “As a coach, you put in a lot of time and effort, so do these boys. It’s worth the time for them to be able to show up today.”
Matilda Torres Toros
The Matilda Torres Toros boys cross country team made a bit of school history on Thursday.
By placing second in the Div. IV boys race, the Toros earned an invitation to the CIF State Cross Country race for the first time in school history. They also received the school’s first CIF Central Section plaque with a runner-up finish and became the first team to compete at the CIF State level.
Ozzy Hernandez led the Toros with a seven place finish. He was sixth through the first two miles, but dropped a position to finish the race in 18:06.17.
Teammate Esaud Vargas improved from his 10th place running at the first mile to move up to eighth at the second mile. He remained in eighth to finish a half-second behind Hernandez.
Noah Felix-Andrade was third on the team. He also improved from 12th at the first mile to 11th at the second and across the finish line.
Buffalo Solto moved up five spots from the second mile to place 20th overall. Miguel Ramirez closed out the scoring in 28th place. Omar Jayme was 29th and sixth on the team and Ricardo Silva was 32nd.
The Torres boys team runs at 9 a.m. on Saturday.
Sophomore Irene Garcia was the lone Torres runner in the Div. IV girls race. She ended up finishing in eighth place, but out of a chance to run at the state meet. She finished in 21:19.50. She was 14 seconds out of seventh and three second ahead of ninth.
While the boys team ran four and didn’t complete a team, the girls team, led by Sophia Mirelez placed fifth in the team standings.
They were just four places out of third place and a point ahead of Bakersfield in sixth.
Mirelez led the team with a third place finish, placing behind two seniors. She was the first non-senior across the line in 18:55.09. She was five seconds behind second and nine seconds behind the leader.
Mirelez, a sophomore, earned her first CIF State invitational with her finish.
She will run at 1 p.m. on Saturday.