The Ridgeview boys cross country team is sick, and in more ways than one.
With several runners feeling a bit under the weather, the Wolf Pack still put together another “sick” performance, capturing its third straight Central Section championship on Thursday at Woodward Park in Fresno.
“Most of them had a cold this week, but they were able to push through it,” said Ridgeview coach Greg Dabbs, after his team won the Division II championship, on the heels of two straight D-III titles. “But the seniors are just excited to get one more race.”
That race refers to a return to Fresno for next week’s CIF State Championships on Nov. 30, where the Wolf Pack captured the Division III title last year.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment to see how hard these kids work,” Dabbs said. “They just work so hard and they wanted it so much. And getting to see their emotions after the race knowing they won, makes it all worth it. All the hard work.”
The Wolf Pack placed five runners in the top-25, capped by a personal-best 16:51.53 by senior William Gonzalez that helped his team hold off a strong challenge from second-place San Luis Obispo to win by seven points.
“For most the season he’s been our sixth guy,” Dabbs said. “But today he stepped up and he was our fifth runner. And he was there to help us win.
“It was a really close between us and San Luis Obispo. We knew San Luis was really good. They pack up really well. They have a really good program.”
Defending D-III champion Alex Cuevas (15:55.82) and senior teammate Ased Adus (15:57.99) finished second and third, respectively, while junior Gerado Moreno (11th in 16:29.26) and senior Payton Fox (14th in 16:25.38) also had solid performances for the Ridgeview.
“It was so exciting because we three-peated, back-to-back-to-back,” Dabbs said. “I don’t know when that’s ever been done before in Bakersfield, so that’s an amazing accomplishment."
It was the first 3-peat in cross country for a Bakersfield team. The McFarland boys won three consecutive D-III titles in 1987-89, according to Central Section Historian Bob Barnett.
"It’s always a jump when you go up divisions, and we lost two or three kids from last year’s team," Dabbs said. "So going into the season it’s ‘who’s going to step up?’ The kids definitely stepped up this year.”
Highland junior Jacob Yagers can say the same.
After finishing eighth in the section last year, Yager continued his impressive season with a victory in the D-II race (15:48.91) to help the Scots to a fourth-place finish.
“I feel pretty proud of myself,” Yagers said. “It kind of went how I wanted it to. I took the lead at the 2-mile mark.”
But Cuevas battled back and regained the lead shortly thereafter before Yagers made his final move.
“I just waited back for a little bit, and at the last three-quarters of a mile I passed him and took the lead the rest of the race,” Yagers said. “It felt pretty good, but now I know I have to get ready for (the state meet).”
Yagers is one of 13 individuals that will join three teams competing for a chance at a state medal.
In Division I, Liberty senior Ethan Jones (15:30.41) finished third to qualify along with Stockdale seniors Adham Maher (4th in 15:41.32) and Juanathan Reyes (8th in 15:55.30).
In Division III, Frontier and Foothill finished second and third, respectively, to qualify for state, along with D-4 runners: East sophomore Nathanael Rodriguez (3rd in 17:03.26), junior Mason Madden (5th in 17:05.76) from Tehachapi and Kennedy junior Patrick Espinoza (7th in 17:08.15).
In the girls competition, McFarland junior Hilda Gonzalez finished 10th in the Division I race in 18:46.56. She will race in state along with D-III runners: Highland juniors Haley Ulloa (2nd in 19:36.08) and Neyda Martinez (5th in 20:00.22) and Independence freshman Elena Baltazar (4th in 19:53.19). Tehachapi freshman Kailey Kolesar also qualified with a fifth-place finish in the D-IV race (19:35.15). She will be joined by Chavez junior Mikaela Ortega (9th in 20:14.39).