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Cougar Cross Country Runners Break PR’s, Qualify for Mt. Sac Invite
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Chloe Farley PR'd by over 3 minutes finishing in 28:01. Photo Contributed.
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Jacob Beneux PR'd by over 2 minutes finishing in 22:00. Photo Contributed.

Escalon High School cross country kicked off this past week with Purple and Gold 2. This is the same intra-squad scrimmage they run at the beginning of the season. The 2.25-mile course around the campus and neighborhood is a great checkpoint for runners to compare their progress to the beginning of the season. 

The boys were led by junior Andrew Morales in 13:35, followed by junior Julian Gonzalez (13:41), junior Jose Calderon (14:02), and senior Joshua Churchill (14:06). The girls were led by sophomore Kathy Romero (15:42), sophomore Lauren Rodriguez (16:10) and Megan Fahey (17:21). 

As a team they averaged over 90 seconds of improvement, with several runners improving their time on the course by several minutes. 

Some of the bigger improvements were by sophomore Emma Berchtold, who finished the course in 18:52, over two and a half minutes faster; and sophomore Charlotte Shaddix, who dropped over four minutes to finish in 18:27. In her first year of running cross country she has really started to find her form as of late, said coach Michael Bower.

The team carried that momentum into Saturday when they traveled to Hayward High school for the P. Mariner Invite.

"This was a brand new course for us. There was great racing conditions — 60s, overcast, no wind, and some great competition. At this meet, it's a fast course and everyone runs a 3-mile. It was a chance for our varsity athletes to touch some speed before the end of our season and for our younger athletes to gain some experience racing longer. The opportunity to have some big days was right in front of us, and the kids definitely capitalized,” said Bower.

In the Frosh/Soph Girls race, Charlotte Shaddix continued the momentum from earlier in the week and finished in a time of 22:44, crushing any race she had so far this season. She was followed by freshman Madelyn Fahey (25:44) and the often-connected duo of sophomores Kali Castellanos (26:36) and Emma Berchtold (26:37). 

In the Frosh/Soph Boys race, sophomore Jake Sawyer had his breakout race finishing the course in 20:52, averaging sub-7-minute miles for the first time since last season. Freshman Matic Trimble was not far behind in 21:26, followed by freshman Theodore Harp in 21:59 and sophomore Luis Verduzco in 23:06.

The Varsity Girls race continued the fast times. Senior Megan Fahey ran a blistering 22:26, followed by juniors Hannah Wampler in 22:55 and Destiny Reyes in 23:21. All three set personal records for 3 miles and at times that would translate to their best 5k's as well. Escalon’s scoring five was rounded out by senior Ryan Walker (26:50) and junior Chloe Farley, whose 28:01 time just missed sub-28, but was a big personal best for her in her first season running cross country.

The Varsity Boys were in a very fast race with 90 runners coming in under 17 minutes. They fought hard to catch jerseys and found themselves forming a pack in the middle of the race and working together to the end. 

Junior Andrew Morales finished in 17:58, hitting sub 18 for the first time of his career. The boys then finished as a group with sophomore Nate Millard (18:47), senior Joshua Churchill (18:48), junior Marcos Grajeda (18:49) and freshman Daniel Bagadiong (18:50). 

"In practice you can start to see when teams are forming. But you are waiting for it to materialize in competition. Cross country is weird because so much of it is based on your individual effort and improvement. But it is still a team sport, your best day includes helping your teammates have their best day. These boys have been training together, and working together for weeks. To see the group, stay close enough in a race to work together and run over a minute faster across the board was incredible to watch,” said Bower.

"This was an incredible day for us. To show up in a big meet- many races had over 200 runners), against some much larger schools in the bay area, and to be able to focus on what we needed to do to have our best day was great to watch. The runners were prepared, handled themselves well, and had a ton of time along the way. We hit some incredible marks, and it is my hope that we use it to keep us focused and pushing for that extra little bit over the next few weeks,” he continued.

The meet had some extra motivation for some of the runners. Cross Country will be attending the Mt. Sac Invitational in Walnut, California this upcoming weekend. This is a famous cross country course that is recognized by college coaches throughout the country. It is an incredible opportunity to get a mark that can help them pursue running goals in college, and just appreciate the size of the running community. 

In order to go, athletes must hit certain times for 3 mile or 5k courses. 

Based on their efforts this season, Escalon will have 12 runners to race this Friday: Andrew Morales, Jose Calderon, Nate Millard, Joshua Churchill, Marcos Grajeda, Daniel Bagadiong, Kathy Romero, Megan Fahey, Lauren Rodriguez, Hannah Wampler, Charlotte Shaddix, and Destiny Reyes. 

"It has been a long time since we have taken a scoring team for both boys and girls. These runners have put in the work to hit the times they need to get. Some just missed the mark last year and entered the season with a focus to find that extra little something. And at the Mariner Invite, they definitely did,” said Bower. 

Next up for cross country, is the Mt Sac Invite on Friday (12 athletes) and TVL Finals at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park on Oct. 26. Races begin at 3pm, and after all are finished there will be a presentation for league awards and recognition of the league's seniors.