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Solid Showing For Runners At Salinas Early Bird Meet
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With limited chance recently for getting in solid workouts because of late summer heat and bad air quality, the Cougar cross country runners nevertheless had a solid showing Saturday.

“It was our big meet at Toro Park in Salinas. This meet is always an eye opener for us and a great measuring stick of how our training is going,” explained head coach Rick Heflin. “The Condor Early Bird meet usually has over a hundred schools and at least 200 athletes in each race. Some of the top athletes in the state from the Central Coast are there.”

The format for the meet is that they have eight races that are all the same distance, said Heflin. Freshman girls, freshman boys, etc. all the way to senior boys run the same distance.

“Since everyone races in their grade level some of the people you (normally) race against are not in your race. You don’t know how you did against them until you compare times,” Heflin said. “They may have passed you at the finish, so to speak, but since their race was two races earlier you won’t have seen them doing, it will only show up when you line up the times.”

Heflin said the race is especially good for seeing where the runners fall.

“Put all your athletes’ times in a spread sheet and hit sort,” the coach said. “Now you have a list of your top runners in all grades. It has been a great wake up call for a lot of athletes on if they are training with the right runners on the team and it helps runners see who they should try to run with.”

Following the Condor meet, Escalon’s top seven placers for boys and girls were:

Top boys

Kyle Jimenez 18:03, Eddie Calderon 18:19, Zac Gardner 18:22, Luga Mendoza 18:44, Ryan Schuurman 20:17, Troy Bedell 20:48, John Rivara 21:13.

“Right behind Rivara was one of the day’s surprises; posting a huge PR (personal record) was Daniel Luis at 21:14,” Heflin said. “Strong performances also came from Tim Megenney at 22:16 and Josh Teske at 22:08.”

Top girls

Yajaira Salinas 21:46, Sierra Hernandez 22:31, Veronica Grajeda 23:01, Marisol Aguayo 23:13, Jackie Lau 23:24, Nicole Luis 23:34, and Nora Nash 24:16.

“Avery Mello was also very close with a 24:29,” Heflin said.

Escalon’s senior girls took fourth overall in the race, missing a third place finish by just five points.

“The team of Sierra, Nicole, Avery, Veronica, and Flor had a very strong showing,” Heflin said of his seniors. “Since everyone runs in grade level, you can’t move people around to make better teams and since most large schools have much bigger numbers than us, getting to the awards stand as a team has been a challenge. This year we came the closest we have been to making the top three.

“Considering the difficulties of trying to get in quality workouts this week with the heat and air quality due to the fire, I think the team put in some great performances. We have tough and hard-working team this year. It should be a fun year.”

On a humorous note, Heflin said the Early Bird invite is the favorite of the season for standout Yajaira Salinas.

This is Yajaira’s favorite meet because it is a fun course and since it is a local meet for Salinas High School, tons of people are yelling ‘Go Salinas.’ When she is running Yajaira Salinas chooses to think that they are cheering for her. She says it’s fun to run with hundreds of people cheering for you.”

Next up for the cross country runners – air quality and fire conditions permitting – will be the Mother Lode League meet hosted by Argonaut today, Wednesday, Sept. 16.