The last time Marcus Mota competed at the state level, he needed just one shoe to make headlines.

The Stockdale junior lost his right shoe halfway through the CIF State Track and Field Championship 3,200 meter finals in June. Despite going halfway barefoot, Mota finished ninth in the state.

This time around, Mota is hoping for the same type of finish Saturday in the state cross country championships at Woodward Park in Fresno, just this time hopefully with both shoes on.

“I am pretty excited. But that is my biggest fear now that my shoe comes off,” Mota said. “Now I tie them extra tight to make sure there is no way they fall off.”

Mota ran a season-best time of 15:30 while winning the Central Section Division I individual championship, the first for a Kern County runner since Blake Haney won it for Stockdale in 2013.

That year, Haney finished third in the state in the D-I finals in 15:09. It's  a performance Mota strives for, but not to compare himself to Haney, rather to simply make a name for himself.

Mota finished 30th in the D-I state championships last year and that still irks him.

“All I have to really look for is positioning from the beginning and keep it,” Mota said. “What I learned from last year is the Central Section meet is way different than state. At state, you have to position yourself from the start and hopefully keep it and be a contender.”

Mota’s best friend, Moises Medrano over at Highland, won a second consecutive section D-II title last week. According to Rich Gonzalez, the editor of PrepCalTrack.com, Medrano has a shot at becoming the first Kern County runner to medal at state since Oregon standout and former Stockdale runner Blake Haney took third in D-I in 2013.

“I am fairly confident. I respect all of the competition,” Medrano said. “It comes down to who comes ready the best. But I have confidence and will run my race and enjoy this because it’s my last state meet in high school.”

Medrano, who finished third in the boys 800-meters at the CIF State Track and Field Championships, does have his sights on state gold.

“It would be a huge confidence booster to win,” Medrano said. “I really want to win a state championship in high school. It would be wonderful.”

Only three boys runners from the county have won individual titles in the 31-year history of the state cross country championship. Galvan Gonzalez won the D-IV title 1993-94 for McFarland and Chris Schwartz won the D-I title as a junior at Foothill in 2007.

Billy Nelson also won the D-IV title in 2001 at Taft.

Ridgeview seeks team hardware - In 19 of the first 23 years of the state cross country championships (1987 to 2009), a Kern County team finished in the top-5. That included nine state championships for the McFarland boys, which is tied with Carmichael-Jesuit for the most in state history.

But in the last seven years, no county team has finished in the top-5 in boys or girls.

Ridgeview is attempting to buck that trend.

The Wolf Pack won the section D-III title on Nov. 16 as Austin Garcia won the individual title and Bryan Gaxiola finished second.

Six Wolf Pack runners finished in the top-nine. The composite time for the top-five runners was the second-fastest at the section championships behind Clovis-Buchanan, the D-I champions.

According to Gonzalez, the Wolf Pack are tied with Bellflower-St. John Bosco as the fifth-best team in D-III.

“They are within reach of third,” Gonzalez said of Ridgeview, behind state title contenders West Torrance and Palo Verdes.

A top-5 finish would be the first for any team in Kern County on the boys side, other than McFarland.

The other team that advanced to state on the boys side was California City in D-V.

On the girls side, McFarland advanced in D-I, led by freshman Hilda Gonzalez. The Cougars are the first girls team from the county to advance to state in D-I.

Foothill and Ridgeview both advanced as teams in D-III. Wonderful Prep, the section champions, and Kennedy advanced in D-V.

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