Other than a little bit of a runny nose, Alex Cuevas showed no outward appearances of being sick after running three grueling miles against the best boys cross country runners in the South Yosemite League on Thursday.
Despite suffering from a cold that made it difficult for him to breathe at times, the Ridgeview junior ran away from the rest of the field in winning the SYL boys race, part of the four-league (SEYL, SWYL, SYL, SSL) Cross Country Championships held at Hart Park.
“I got sick after the county meet (last Saturday),” Cuevas said. “…I started feeling it after the second mile. That’s when I started pushing it a little bit more. I’m pleased with the result. I just want to get better and help the team out at Valley and state. That’s what we’re looking forward to.”
Paced by Cuevas the Wolf Pack, currently ranked No. 1 in the state in Division 3, finished with a perfect team score of 15 as its five scoring runners finished first, second, third, fourth, and fifth.
“They did great,” Ridgeview coach Greg Dabbs said. “They had a goal and met that goal today. We’re just going to keep working towards Valley next week.”
Cuevas’ winning time 15:03.99 was the second fastest of the day, only behind that of SWYL boys winner Marcus Mota, the defending Central Section D-1 champion.
Mota, a senior at Stockdale, posted a time of 14:56.14, more than 10 seconds faster than his teammate, SWYL boys runner-up Adham Maher.
Mota ran the first mile in under five minutes and then let up a little bit during the middle of the race before finishing strong.
“It couldn’t have gone better,” Mota said. “I had a strategy and finished it right through, exactly the way I wanted.”
The Liberty boys had runners finish in the next four positions, helping the Patriots edge the Mustangs in the SWYL boys team standings 29-48.
The Patriots also out-pointed Stockdale to win the SWYL girls competition (36-60). The SWYL girls first-place finisher was Centennial’s Allison Staricka (18:41.07).
Staricka shaved more than 24 seconds off her three-mile personal record in notching her second win of the season.
“I was not expecting that at all, but I’m really happy,” Staricka said. “I’ve been having foot problems with both of my feet so I’ve had to take a few rest days, but I guess that’s what I needed.”
McFarland sophomore Hilda Gonzalez registered her eighth win of the year by blowing away the SSL girls field.
The 2017 BVarsity All-Area Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year posted a time (17:56.33) that was more than 44 seconds faster than any other girls runners. However, it was nearly 10 seconds slower than her time a week earlier during the Kern County Championships.
“I’m kind of disappointed because I got a slower time,” Gonzalez said. “My side was really hurting. I felt like I was going to faint before the race.”
The Cougars, competing in the SSL for the first time this year after moving over from the East Sierra League, had their girls and boys teams both take first place.
“Our girls, at the back end, were a little more aggressive today,” McFarland coach Thomas Valles said. “Last week at the Kern County Championships I wasn’t happy with my back-end girls, which is my fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh. They didn’t get out. I told them we need to get out because Clovis West next Thursday will walk away with that second place if we don’t challenge ourselves early in the race. And they did it.”
McFarland wasn’t the only team to win both girls and boys team titles.
Highland also did it in the SEYL. The Scots Haley Ulloa won the SEYL girls race (18:53.95) while Highland’s Jacob Yagers won the SEYL boys race (15:30.93).
Independence’s Alicia Muralles took first place in the SYL girls race (20:12.02). It wasn’t enough to keep Ridgeview from claiming a narrow, 32-36, victory over the Falcons on Thursday. However, the second place finish was good enough to clinch the league championship for Independence.
Wasco’s Juan C Ramirez won the boys SSL race (15:51.12). That helped the Tigers finish second to McFarland, which had four runners finish in the top 11.
“I felt great,” Ramirez said. “The pace was perfect. The last race I came out a little bit too strong and it threw my pace off. I feel like figured it out (today).”