Photos Courtesy Of Michael Bower
Several members of the Escalon cross country team traveled to compete in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Meet this past Saturday, Nov. 11, hosted at Folsom High School. In all, 20 Cougar runners qualified for this meet including two teams and six as individuals.
“While we had an optional practice earlier in the season to preview the course, we have not raced here this year. So for many of our runners this was their first time to truly race this course,” noted head coach Michael Bower. “The frosh/soph level races a slightly longer 2.1 mile course which combined with the hills makes for a pretty challenging race.”
The day started off with the freshman boys race. Kenneth Vargas ran 13:58 and finished six places higher in the standings compared to the previous week’s Subsection meet at Frogtown. Luke Konradi finished in 15:12, just one spot out of where he finished the week prior.
The frosh/soph girls were run by a group of all freshmen and finished fourth as a team. Leigh Garside ran 17:23, 19th place overall and 10 spots higher than the week prior. Athena Quiroz ran 17:43, 23rd place. Jenn-Alexis Barrera had a huge improvement running 18:27, for 26th place and 20 seconds faster on a longer course. Carli Jones ran 18:28, 27th place. And taking the last scoring spot was Jaslene Rodriguez with what Bower termed “a phenomenal last race” completing the course in 18:31, moving up nine spots to finish 29th overall. Therese Morales-Yapo ran the course in 19:15 and Ashley Flores ran 19:24.
“The varsity and JV races both completed the 5k course, two loops of some pretty intense hills and turns on the trails next to the campus,” Bower said. “Even though it is a championship race, due to the difficulty many times are slower than athletes’ top 5k bests which were likely obtained on easier, flatter courses.”
In total Escalon had two varsity boys and two varsity girls qualify for Sections, with senior Andrew Morales and freshman Kylie Fast in the conversation to qualify for the State Meet.
In the varsity boys race, Andrew Morales ran 17:25. He was in seventh place through the halfway point of the race and finished eighth overall at the end.
“This was two spots better than his 10th place finish at Subsections,” Bower explained. “Unfortunately, even after the team qualifiers were removed, he was the seventh individual runner and just missed making the top five needed for the state meet.”
Fellow senior, Jose Calderon had an off day on the touch course but still finished with a very respectable 18:39 and 38th place finish overall.
“It was actually really fitting to have these two boys run at Sections as seniors. They have both run for me all four years, the first being that bizarre spring cross country season in the midst of partial school openings during COVID. I have seen so much growth in these two, both as athletes and as men,” Bower said.
In the varsity girls race, freshman Kylie Fast ran 21:21 moving up three spots in the rankings from the week prior. She finished ninth overall and sixth as an individual, two seconds behind the last qualifying spot.
“It was a bit of a bittersweet moment. One of the timing chips for the top five didn’t read and so for the first couple of hours after her race we thought she had earned the last qualifying spot for the state meet. Then right before the awards ceremony the results were updated,” said Bower. “While it’s disappointing, we respect that the officials got it right. Furthermore, Kylie is a freshman. For her to find this much success this early is incredible. There are lots of areas where she can grow and she has her whole career in front of her.”
Fellow freshman, Victoria Calderon, rebounded from an off day at Subsections the week prior to finish the Section course in 23:31 taking the 41st spot, a full nine places faster than the previous week.
The day ended with the Escalon JV girls, where all five divisions were run and scored in a combined race. While Escalon qualified as a team of seven, because of injury and some kids going on to their winter sports, the squad only had four finishers at Sections so no team score.
First up was freshman Amanda Mortenson, usually in the top five for the frosh/soph team, who was sick at the Subsection race and finished outside of the team qualifiers. In only her second 5k race, she ran 28:28 for a full 32 seconds faster than her previous best at the very flat and fast course at Oak Grove Regional Park. Next up was senior Faith Reyes, finishing in 33:20; junior Isabella Podwinski Grant in 33:22; and senior Kaleia Jones in 35:56.
“When you start getting to the JV kids, I know there are a lot of reasons for why they are out there. Some just want to get in shape for their next sport, some just want to hang out with friends, some just want something to do. But to see them show up and work just as hard to learn and be better, and then have the chance to earn that spot to keep running means a lot,” Bower said. “We were hopeful we would still have a couple of kids still practicing and getting ready for the state meet. And while that didn’t happen this year, to be close on both the girl’s and boy’s side is pretty incredible. There is a lot to celebrate from this season. I will cherish the memories and look forward to what next year will bring.”