Fri, Sep 16 2011 03:06 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
The Otay Ranch High School cross country team paced South County’s complement of teams at last Friday’s Mustang/East Hills Realty Invitational at Rohr Park. That is not necessarily a surprise considering the Mustangs are the defending Mesa League champions and are favored by many to contend for a qualifying berth to this year’s state meet.
But what might have come as a mild but pleasant surprise, especially to veteran ORHS coach Ian Cumming, was the order of finish of the teams. The Mustang girls squad entered the season highly touted as an outright contender for the San Diego Section Division I championship while the ORHS boys team, with heavier losses to graduation, had yet to draw as much attention.
Last Friday’s racing proved the boys squad looks to be up to the challenge as well after the Mustangs, drum roll, captured the championship team title of the Blue Division varsity race. The ORHS girls team finished third — by two points — in its division.
The Sweetwater Red Devils boys team also put its name in the hat for early season rankings recognition after pulling up just one point short of the Blue Division team title, trailing the victorious Mustangs 82-83 at the wire.
The two teams combined to place six runners among the race’s top 15 finishers and three among the top 10 finishers. Twelve teams scored in the 82-runner race.
Otay Ranch senior Steven Martinez placed fourth in 16:08, just two seconds behind Scripps Ranch senior Brad Littooy but a significant 26 seconds ahead of fifth-place finisher Ryan Barrett, a junior from Westview.
The 5K race-winner, St. John Bosco senior Danny Martinez, appeared not to break much of a sweat while cruising to a 14-second victory in 15:41. University City senior Riess Haslam was second in 15:55.
The Mustangs got a boost from their second runner, senior Zach Velasquez, who finished sixth in 16:38.
Next in among local runners was Sweetwater senior Abdi Castellanos, who crossed the finish line in 10th place in 16:52.
Three Metro Conference runners finished among the next seven placers. Otay Ranch senior Anthony McGough was 13th in 16:56, followed by SuHi junior George Martinez in 14th in 16:58 and Sweetwater sophomore Gerrard Marquillo in 17th in 17:13.
The runner-up Red Devils placed their top five scorers among the top 22 finishers. Senior Carlos Ponce was 20th in 17:19 while junior Elias Amador was 22nd in 17:27.
Otay Ranch’s fourth and fifth runners finished 29th and 30th, respectively. Sophomore Steven Liu timed 17:40, followed by junior Rodrigo Baza in 17:44.
The next Metro placer was Bonita Vista junior Christian Kelley (32nd, 17:45).
Amazingly, only Martinez and Velasquez are returners from last year’s varsity league finals championship team for the Mustangs.
“The first mile was crazy,” Martinez said. “That’s the fastest mile I’ve ever run in cross country. It was a lot of fun even though the second mile got to me and I was tired. But I never give in. I just keep going.”
Indio finished third with 99 points, followed by Westview (fourth, 129 points), St. John Bosco (fifth, 133 points), Steele Canyon (sixth, 134 points), Valley Center (seventh, 152 points), University City (eighth, 161 points), Scripps Ranch (ninth, 188 points) and Valhalla (10th, 208 points).
Bonita Vista was 11th with 271 points while San Ysidro was 12th with 372 points.
Otay Ranch finished fifth at last year’s Division I finals. The top three finishers in the division qualify for the state finals.
Said Martinez: “I think we’re a lot stronger team than last year, in my opinion.”
Sweetwater’s finish certainly must open some eyes. The Red Devils finished 16th at last year’s Division I finals after placing 11 points behind Castle Park at the South Bay League finals.
Otay Ranch finished two points behind University City in the Blue Division girls varsity race. The second place Centurions placed four runners among the top 14 finishers while the Mustangs’ top four runners were spread among the top 18 finishers.
Westview won the team title in commanding fashion with three runners among the top six finishers and five among the top 13 finishers. The Wolverines’ speed proficiency on the course amounted to a score of 35 points — nearly double that of UC (67 points) and Otay Ranch (69 points).
Among individuals, Westview junior Kaelyn Harbison finished the 2.3-mile course first in 13:18, followed by Steele Canyon senior Madison Nocon in 13:26 and Otay Ranch junior Carina Gillespie in third in 13:29.
Also for the Mustangs, junior Catie LeDesma was ninth in 13:51while fellow classmate Brenda Hernandez was 16th in 14:15 to finish ahead of Bonita Vista junior Kristen Lamprecht, who placed 17th in 14:20.
Otay Ranch junior Juliana Corrao was 18th in 14:21, just behind Lamprecht, while Mustang senior Blanca DeLaRocha finished 23rd in 14:31 ahead of Bonita Vista juniors Raelene DeArmas (25th, 14:36) and Jennifer Yang (26th, 14:37) in the 67-deep field.
The Barons finished sixth with 151 points.
Gillespie returns to the cross country course as a two-time state meet qualifier in the 800-meter run and last year’s San Diego Section 800 champion.
“It was a pretty good race, I really didn’t expect to finish third,” she said. “I was just hoping to finish in the top five. Third place is pretty good to start the year. It was pretty exciting to get some good competition.”
Gillespie and LeDesma rank as the Metro Conference’s two highest profile female cross country runners.
“I’m not going to say that I’m going to finish first the whole season,” Gillespie said. “We’re going to work our hardest to be the best we can. It’s not about individuals for us but the team. We always have as our team goal getting to CIF and winning it or qualifying for state. That will be a goal again for us this season.”
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