Wed, Sep 05 2012 05:27 PM Posted By: Trent Warren
Since 2003, the best individual boys mark at the Metro Conference cross country championship finals has been set by a runner either from Eastlake, Bonita Vista or Otay Ranch high schools.
Mar Vista’s Troy Swier won it in 2001 and 2002. That’s nine years in a row of complete dominance by Mesa League runners.
Well, it’s 2012 and Castle Park and Sweetwater are looking to change that. Both teams want to make a statement this year — a statement not only in the South Bay region, but also a statement throughout the county.
Sweetwater is coming off of a strong 2011 cross country season. The Red Devils are the reigning South Bay League champions, edging Castle Park 23-41 at last year’s league finals.
The Devils placed all seven runners among the top 20 finishers in the league; Castle Park placed all seven of its runners among the top 21 finishers.
Another magical season could be in store for the Red Devils, and the Trojans as well.
Sweetwater lost two runners to graduation; Castle Park lost only one runner.
Red Devil Nation
Sweetwater is led by senior George Martinez, the defending South Bay League individual champion and a state meet qualifier.
Joining Martinez are juniors Gerardo Marquillo, Bryan Alvarado and Carlos Bernal. Both Marquillo (third at last year’s league finals) and Alvarado (10th) were first team all-league runners while Bernal medaled with a 12th-place overall finish.
SuHi coach Adrian Garcia said his team is looking to defend its team and individual championship and improve its team place-finish at the San Diego Section finals.
Last year the Devils finished seventh overall in the Division I team standings.
Impact newcomers for Sweetwater include junior Alexis Diaz Deleon (10th at last year’s junior varsity finals) and sophomores Luis Morquecho (eighth at last year’s JV finals) and Rafael Grajeda (sixth at last year’s JV finals).
Land of Troy
Castle Park finished runner up to Sweetwater for last year’s league championship.
However, last year was last year, as the old cliché goes.
The Trojans are legitimate title contenders this year after losing only one varsity runner to graduation.
Head coach Juan Lozano believes it will be a promising year for Castle Park.
The Trojans return their top runner from last year. Senior Miguel Lopez is a two-time league champion (as a freshman and a sophomore), a two-time state qualifier and a 4:30-miler on the track.
Joining Lopez are seniors Jesus Ortiz and Daniel Vasquez. Vasquez finished eighth at last year’s league finals while Ortiz was ninth, giving Castle Park four first team all-league finishers.
(Rodrigo Paredes, who finished seventh, is currently injured.)
Castle Park’s up-and-coming runners include Jesse Villarruel and junior Elias Mooring. Villarruel competed as a hurdler on Castle Park’s 2012 track team; Mooring is making the transition from tennis.
Castle Park’s season outlook looks bright.
“Our program has improved … We have a lot of depth and experience,” Lozano said. “I have eight guys who can run a mile between 4:30 and 5:02. We are looking to compete against the top Division I and Division II teams.”
Chula Vista is once again favored to win the league title but both Sweetwater and Castle Park expect to challenge.
Sweetwater is returning senior Sophia Barrera, junior Erika Gonzalez and sophomore Briana Coronado. Gonzalez is a returning all-league medalist.
Newcomers Kimberly Arellano (junior), Mariela Cockburn (junior) and Elda Carrillo (sophomore) add depth to the girls team.
“Last year was a rebuilding year,” Sweetwater girls coach Raul Galindo explained. “With a new group last year, we were unable to defend our South Bay championship against recently added Chula Vista. We do hope to give them (Chula Vista) a better run for their money this year.
“The girls are all returning and motivated. I think that the crew can make a huge jump this year and we have a great sense of synergy.”
The Castle Park girls team will be competitive as well.
Senior Keeshawna Jackson, a league champion in 2010 and third at last year’s league finals, leads the Lady Trojans. Following her lead are juniors Genesis Perez and Katrina Roybal and sophomores Briana Diaz and Hayat Hakim.
Trent Warren is a 2011 graduate of Eastlake High School.
© 2009 The Star-News