FRESNO — Ridgeview boys cross country assistant coach Ryan Lucker held back the tears.

Head coach Greg Dabbs wasn’t as worried about showing his emotion as he was choked up every time he spoke.

Along with their mentor in Adam Setzer, the three coaches at Ridgeview were able to soak in the fact that the Wolf Pack had just accomplished a feat that had never happened before in the 32-year history at the CIF State Cross Country Championships.

The Wolf Pack won the Division III title at Woodward Park on Saturday in Fresno.

Ridgeview became the first program from the city of Bakersfield to win a state title in cross country.

It’s also the first state championship for the athletic department at Ridgeview.

“This is an amazing feeling,” Dabbs said. “I am still in shock. They worked all year for it. Really, this all started two years ago. You just work and work and you grind. These kids are amazing.”

It was the closest team finish of the day. Ridgeview edged out Moraga-Campolindo 83-94 as West Torrance came in third with 106 points.

Alex Cuevas led Ridgeview with a ninth-place finish in 15 minutes, 40 seconds.

It’s the second consecutive season a Ridgeview runner earned a medal in a top-10 finish. Bryan Gaxiola, who finished 25th on Saturday (16:05), finished ninth last season when Ridgeview finished sixth in the D-III finals.

There was many layers to why this title for Ridgeview is so emotional and historic.

To be able to bring home the first title to the school and the city in the sport are the obvious reasons.

But the emotions were even more personal for Cuevas.

Just 16 months ago, Cuevas thought he would never run again.

Cuevas and his mother were injured in a car accident just weeks before the 2017 season began. But Cuevas recovered and helped Ridgeview to the Central Section title last year.

“It’s all emotional. I am glad we got the state championship,” Cuevas said. “I am so happy about that.”

The junior began this season fully healthy and won the section title last week here at Woodward Park before leading the Wolf Pack into the history books.

“He just takes it one day at a time. Every day is special to him,” Dabbs said. “We didn’t even know if he was going to run last year. For him to come back, it makes you want to cry. He’s an amazing kid.”

Then there was the pressure that compounded onto the team. After the sixth place finish and returning seven of the top eight runners, there was talk over the summer of this day coming to fruition.

“They have handled the pressure better than the coaches have, to be honest with you,” Dabbs said. “They’ve been ready for this race for six months. Amazing kids.”

Cuevas led the way for Ridgeview heading into the first-mile marker while Ased Adus, Gerardo Moreno and Gaxiola were all in the top 15 a third of the way through the finals.

As the runners crossed the finish line, Adus weaved his way through a handful of runners to finish in 18th place in 16:00.20, just .10 of a second ahead of Bryan Banuelos from Fresno-Edison.

“I knew every point matters,” Adus said. “It doesn’t matter what position you are in. I just wanted to finish strong and not let down my team.”

Moreno, just a sophomore, finished in 20th place in 16:01 and Jonah Molina rounded out the top 5 for the Wolf Pack in 32nd place (16:14).

“It’s been a tremendous season,” Gaxiola said. “To come back with the same team from last year and prove ourselves, it’s something big and special for all of us. We are glad with the outcome of this race.”

The top-three finishers for Ridgeview in Cuevas, Adus and Moreno all return next season.

“It’s so surreal, but they deserve it,” Dabbs said. “I’ve never had a team that has worked so hard in their lives. They wanted it and they made it a goal to do this and achieved the goal.”

Mota misses out on state medal

Marcus Mota has been one of the area's most consistent and dominating boys cross country runners over the last four seasons.

Mota won his second consecutive Central Section Division I title 10 days ago, and was eager to secure his first state medal, but fell two spots and five seconds short.

Mota finished in 12th place (top 10 individuals earn medals) in 15:21.

“The first mile went out pretty fast, but I had to stay consistent,” Mota said. “I tried to stay within the pack, but then with a mile to go, it kind of slipped away from me. The last 400 meters started to hurt. Although I didn’t get a medal, I am still happy with my result.”

After finishing 18th at state last fall and recording seventh-place finishes the past two season in the CIF State Track and Field Championships in the 3,200-meter finals (top 6 medal in track), Mota’s last hurrah will come in his final track season this spring.

“This makes me hungry,” Mota said. “I know I’ll see these guys there and go for it.”

Mota’s teammate, Adham Maher, finished in 39th place in 15:49.

Trevor Horn can be reached at (661) 395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @trevhorn.

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Moardeeb

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