CIF Cross-country championship highlights

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“Run like someone stole your bike,” read a spectator’s shirt at the CIF San Diego Section Cross-Country Championships last weekend. Participants would have had a long chase – the boys ran a grueling 3.04 miles while a slightly modified 2.75-mile course tested the girls.

 

“Run like someone stole your bike,” read a spectator’s shirt at the CIF San Diego Section Cross-Country Championships last weekend. Participants would have had a long chase – the boys ran a grueling 3.04 miles while a slightly modified 2.75-mile course tested the girls.

 

Steele Canyon’s girls’ team, however, finished third in the Division II race and earned a trip to Fresno for the State Championships on this upcoming Saturday, proving they could have easily caught the hypothetical thieves. 

Coach Pat Connolly had just one word to describe his emotions as the results were announced. 

“Ecstatic,” he said. “This was best case scenario, we thought third, if we run really, really well, and our goal was to score under 100 points and put five in the top 30, and we did all of that… It was, I guess, the perfect race.”

Connolly said the only imperfection of the day was his ill-fated bet with the girls. 

“They get to dye my beard pink,” he said with a smirk. “That was the goal back in the summer. They said, ‘If you grow a beard, we get to dye it pink if we go to state.’ That was a good motivator for them, to see me look ridiculous.”

Freshman phenom Carlene Masar led the Cougars with a seventh place individual finish and a time of 17:15. She said, despite her confidence, she was surprised to have finished in the top 10.

“I ran club track and cross-country before this, so I knew that I was gonna do well,” she said, “but I didn’t know I was going to do this well.”

Connolly had nothing but praise for Masar.

“She’s our fastest freshman ever,” he said. “She ran the third fastest time ever for our school on that course and the fastest freshman time in school history.”

Two other Steele Canyon girls earned medals by finishing inside the top 20, senior Sophia Alcaraz (16th, 17:39) and sophomore Areli Diaz (20th, 17:42)

Courtney Clifford, a junior from Grossmont High, also qualified for the state meet as an individual runner, her time of 17:40 placed her 18th in the Division II race. She said 

“(It was) very difficult, but you just gotta get through it,” she said. “All of the hills, you don’t expect them to be in different places.”

El Capitan senior Kayden Carpenter, however, said she enjoyed the variety of the course that featured open fields, trees, grass, dirt, hills and even a few meters of asphalt.

“This is one of my favorite courses,” she said. “I’ve run it since I started cross-country and it’s always been one of the best courses for me because I like dirt, I like grass and it’s just really fun.”

Carpenter’s third-place finish in the Division III girls’ race, with a time of 17:26, earned her a trip to Fresno, but the Vaqueros finished fourth as a team and narrowly missed qualifying for the state meet.

“We just went out hoping for the best and running our butts off,” she said. “Actually, we’re really proud of ourselves because we gave everything we had and if that means fourth, that means fourth. We’re really proud of ourselves for what we got.”

Santana High School provided East County’s final individual female qualifier, sophomore Janice Deguerio. She crossed the finish line in 17:37 and finished second in the Division IV race in just her first season on the cross-country team.

“It feels amazing,” she said. “It’s a rush to be able to be that fast and be able to be ahead of experienced girls already because this is my first year.”

The Division II boys’ race kicked off the day. Valhalla senior Trent Rule finished the course in 16:25 and placed sixth. He said he was happy to have qualified for the state meet, however, he was not a fan of the 8:30 AM start time. 

“I hate mornings,” he said. “I’m not a morning person. I don’t do morning runs, even though I’m supposed to, but racing in the morning wasn’t too bad. I know I’m going to have to do it again next week, so it’s good preparation this week that we ran early, in the beginning of the day.”

Steele Canyon sophomore Luis Pina crossed the finish line in 12th place with a time of 16:36 and also qualified for the State Championships. Pina said he ran the race too conservatively and will correct his mistake in Fresno.

“I was a little worried that I might have gone a little too hard in the beginning and I felt like I should have conserved a little more, so I held back a bit,” he said. “I’ll be a little more aggressive now that there’s a lot more runners. Since I don’t have to qualify for anything afterwards, I’m just going to run and see the best I can do.”

Fellow Cougar Josh Paradise medaled with a 17th place finish, but his 16:44 time was not enough to earn a trip to Fresno.

Vaquero runner Chandlor Huss finished the Division III race with a time of 16:57 for a 12th place finish and qualified for the state meet. Two Vaqueros earned medals but did not qualify for the state meet – junior Tyler Ruff (17th, 17:13) and senior Alex Bellavance (20th, 17:16).

Though just about every state qualifier was pleased with his or her accomplishment, Deguerio said she was still in shock. 

“Just to be able to say I went to state and I raced against all these girls,” she said. “I’ve made it.”

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