It was a day of ushering out the decorated old and saying a big hello to upstart talent during Kern County league cross country championship meets, which were held at Hart Park on Thursday.
As Highland senior Moises Medrano led the Scots to a Southeast Yosemite League team title and cruised to an individual championship, a fresh face took over on the girls side.
Stockdale freshman Taylor Smith knows what her competition is because it’s been the same for the last five years.
At the youth level, Smith’s best competition was Hilda Gonzalez, who is now a freshman at McFarland.
On Saturday at the Kern County Championships at Hart Park, Gonzalez beat Smith for the individual title by 33 seconds.
That continues to drive Smith, even when she is not going head-to-head against Gonzalez.
Smith won the SWYL girls title on Thursday with an impressive mark of 18:16, beating out Liberty junior Nickie Sanchez by 31 seconds.
“It was really good,” Smith said. “I imagined Hilda Gonzalez in my head … She pushes me a lot. I think I pushed myself really hard this race.”
Stockdale won the SWYL team title with 30 points, beating out Liberty.
Mustangs’ senior Alexandra Cholometes finished third at 19:19 despite collapsing at the finish line due to exhaustion.
Medrano, who took third in the boys 800-meter CIF State Track and Field Championships, has aspirations of more of the same on Nov. 25 in Fresno.
The senior started his postseason with the SEYL title in a time of 15:12, the top time posted on Thursday.
“It felt amazing,” Medrano said. “I started off pretty strong. I’m feeling good.”
Medrano is a favorite to win a section D-II title next week and has said throughout the year he wants a medal at the state championship. He feels this was a good start to get there.
“I knew this was going to be a good tune-up race,” Medrano said. “But I also knew to not take it too hard.”
Stockdale junior Marcus Mota has his sights set on a title run next week at the D-I section finals.
Mota said, “Not too long ago I wasn’t feeling too good,” but he’s back in postseason form just in time.
Mota won the SWYL boys title in 15:11 while outpacing the pack early. He did it without timing himself, which has been a steady practice for him.
“I decided not to wear my watch,” Mota said. “I just wanted to see how I could do without it and how I would feel because that’s what I am going to do at Valley and state.”
Liberty won the team title for the fourth consecutive season with a score of 33-69 over Centennia. The Patriots were paced by Joseph Mikhail, who finished third at 15:51. Centennial’s Jose Perez finished second in 15:42.
The lone perfect team score of the day came from a program that has a great chance to finish the season on the podium at the state championships.
Ridgeview, led by Austin Garcia's first place finish (15:45), came in the top-six places in the South Yosemite League race. The Wolf Pack are the top-ranked team in the D-II field in the section, and are a top-10 team in the state, according to Prepcaltrack.com.
After Garcia, Bryan Gaxiola, Ased Adus, Payton Fox, Gerardo Moreno and Alex Cuevas all finished in the top six Thursday.
“We all want to win as a team,” Garcia said. “We practice hard on pushing each other just to help each other to get better.”
On the girls side, Gabrielle Mullenmeister won the SYL individual title in 19:39, as the Falcons edged Ridgeview 31-36. The Wolf Pack did win the overall league championship that also takes into account the league mini meets throughout the season.
Wasco junior Sayra Raya won the South Sequoia League individual title in 18:49, 1:27 faster than the rest of the field.
Wasco also won the boys title in the SSL, edging out Shafter 40-43, as Kennedy senior Rafael Gutierrez won the individual title in 16:18.
Foothill won the SEYL girls title 30-53 over Highland, as Scots’ freshman Haley Ulloa won the individual title in 19:40.