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Cougar Runners Push To Strong Performances


Another busy week for Escalon’s cross country runners saw them hosting the annual Escalon Invitational on Wednesday, and traveling to the state meet site in Fresno on Saturday.

“The Escalon Invite was a huge success. We had 17 schools from around the section,” said head coach Rick Heflin.

There were a total of seven races run during the course of the afternoon, taking off about every 20 minutes. Races included those for freshman girls and boys, sophomore girls and boys, varsity girls and boys and a JV race.

“I want to thank all the parents, alumni, and runners that helped us put it on. Running an invitational takes a lot of help and a lot of people came through so we could put on a top notch event,” Heflin said.

Weather was warm, with just a light breeze blowing at the reservoir, north of Oakdale. Schools participating ranged from Bret Harte to Orestimba, Patterson to Ripon.

“The cool news of the day was that Flor Algandar won the JV girls race for the second year in a row,” added Heflin. “There was not another girl in sight when she finished.”

As teams, the varsity girls and boys placed second in their races. The girls were just edged out by Bret Harte to the tune of only one point.

“Leading our team with an awesome run was Sierra Hernandez, followed closely by Yajaira Salinas,” Heflin explained. “The varsity boys finished behind Summerville by nine points. The leader for us was Eddy Calderon with an 18:02 time. He was followed by Kyle Jimenez and Zack Gardner. Making into the 19’s for the first time this year were John Rivara and John Lunn. Leading the JV boys was Daniel Luis.”

The freshman boys also placed second in the team scoring, with just two sophomore boys in that race. Leading the sophomore girls team was Lizeth Calderon.

“She has been improving with every race,” Heflin said.

Saturday, several of the runners headed to Fresno for the Clovis Invitational.

“Escalon has sent quite a few individuals and teams to state in cross country over the years. Unfortunately we have not qualified someone recently so the coaching staff felt a strong need to reintroduce Escalon to the state meet,” Heflin pointed out. “It is hard to work for something if you don’t know what it looks like. This weekend we went down to the Clovis meet which is held on the state meet course and it is run in the same manner as the state meet. The first race was at 7:15 a.m. So just about when the sun came up we ran the course.”

Yajaira Salinas was Escalon’s first girl across the line at 21:32. She was followed by Sierra Hernandez, Jackie Lau, Marisol Aguayo, Farley Moore, Avery Mello and Nora Nash.

“Sierra, Jackie, Marisol, Farley and Avery all hit their PR’s for this season (21:43, 22:49, 23:05, 23:55 and 24:34). Hitting your best on the state course which is not considered a fast course is nice,” the coach noted.

Also turning in an outstanding effort were the Escalon boys.

“The big news of the day was the boys race. Zack Gardner and Kyle Jimenez finally busted through the 18-minute barrier and hit 17s. A goal they have had all season,” Heflin explained. “Zack ran 17:42.8 and Kyle got 17:50. Following behind those two were Eddy Calderon, Luga Mendoza, John Rivara, Ryan Schuurman and John Lunn.”

The day on the state meet course couldn’t have gone much better, added Heflin.

“It was a good showing especially since we are still in the hard training part of the season and everyone on the team is running on tired legs,” he said. “It will be fun to see what happens when we have a little rest before the big meets at the end of the season.”

The Trans-Valley League finals will be Wednesday, Oct. 28 at Legion Park in Modesto.