Fri, Nov 23 2012 01:17 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
The Castle Park High School cross country team looked to steal the spotlight — as well as the Division III boys team title — at last Saturday’s San Diego Section championships at Morley Field.
In fact, the Trojans, who shared this year’s South Bay League championship title with the Sweetwater Red Devils, appeared to have a lock on the team title. That is, until the final 400 meters.
Then calamity struck.
Miguel Lopez and senor teammate Daniel Vazquez had led most of the 3.04-mile race on the challenging hill course, with El Capitan senior Daniel Gomez and Monte Vista senior Steven Lepe also comprising the lead pack of four elite runners.
Vazquez fell off the pace after the two-mile mark, and Gomez broke away from the remaining three runners with about 600 meters to go.
Lopez looked to have second place in hand, all but guaranteeing Castle Park a first place team finish in the 146-deep race.
But as Lopez began to ascend the final incline to the finish line, exhaustion began to wrack his body. He fell several times as he courageously made an effort to finish, with runners from other teams, as well as his own, passing him.
Lopez finally did make it across the finish line, but at a cost on the scoreboard. He ended up finishing in 29th place in 17 minutes, 43 seconds — 1:34 behind race winner Gomez (16:09) and 1:11 behind runner-up Lepe (16:31).
Castle Park’s fifth scorer, senior Jesse Villarruel, also experienced a slow-down toward the finish line. He finished 52nd in 18:05, with runners from other teams also sprinting past him.
Both Lopez and Villarruel had to be treated by emergency personnel at the finish line; Lopez was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.
El Capitan won the team title by 27 points, with the Trojans relegated to a distant second place finish.
The South Bay League co-champions obviously left it all on the field, as the old saying goes.
“We were winning but our first guy fainted at the finish line,” CPHS coach Juan Lozano recounted. “And about 10 people passed our fifth guy.”
Concerned teammates huddled around Lopez as emergency workers treated him, creating a surreal finish to what was otherwise a magical day for the Trojans, who had finished as the top team at the preceding week’s Metro Conference finals.
The top three teams qualified for this Saturday’s state championship meet in Fresno. Despite placing runner-up to El Capitan under unfortunate circumstances, Castle Park still nailed down a history-making state qualifying berth.
“It’s still a great accomplishment — this is the first time that Castle Park has made it to state as a team,” Lozano said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get first at the finals.”
Vazquez, this year’s South Bay League individual champion, wound up as the Trojans’ top finisher with a fourth-place time of 16:36. Jesus Ortiz (eighth, 17:00) was officially the team’s No. 2 runner while Rodrigo Paredes (13th, 17:17) crossed the finish line as the team’s No. 3 runner. Lopez and Villarruel rounded out the team’s five scorers.
Overall, seven runners took the course for Castle Park. Jonathan Patron was 54th in 18:12, followed by teammate Gabriel Magana (61st, 18:26).
El Capitan’s five scorers went 1-12-17-23-26. It was the third straight state qualifying berth for the Vaqueros, who finished as the top team at the Grossmont Conference finals.
El Capitan’s girls team finished second to give the Lakeside team a rare state-qualifying double.
Five Metro Conference individual state meet qualifiers will join the Trojans in Fresno, including three from Otay Ranch.
Sweetwater senior George Martinez led the way in the Division I boys race with a strong second-place finish in 16:11.
Otay Ranch senior Carina Gillespie, the three-time reigning Mesa League champion, was third in the Division I girls race in 16:39.
Also qualifying were Otay Ranch senior Rodrigo Baza (10th, Division I boys), Otay Ranch sophomore Darla Osuna (10th, Division I girls) and Montgomery senior Alejandro Rosario (seventh, Division III boys).
Baza finished third at the preceding Mesa League finals while Osuna was second in the Mesa League girls race.
Rosario was the Aztecs’ first state meet qualifier since 1999.
Martinez made a triumphant return to the course after suffering badly from sickness at the South Bay League finals the previous week. Martinez had entered the league championship meet undefeated in dual meet competition but faded to a fifth-place finish due to illness.
Martinez’s 16:11 time was easily the best posted by a Metro runner at the CIF championships. He finished five seconds behind Division I champion Jeff Schaeffer, a senior from Carlsbad, and notched the seventh-best time overall among the 611 male runners who competed in all five division races.
Martinez, who finished eighth in 16:26 at last year’s Division I finals, held the lead in the Division I race until the final half-mile.
“My goal was to have a good pace, be with the pack, and make a move when I felt it was the right time,” he said. “But when he (Carlsbad’s Schaeffer) kicked, I didn’t have anything left.
“Still, this is my peak, for cross country, at least.”
The Red Devils finished fifth as a team in the Division I standings (10th among all 87 scoring teams).
Otay Ranch placed 12th among Division I boys teams.
Baza’s 16:37 time placed him third overall among Metro runners at last weekend’s CIF finals.
“He went out there and ran like he meant it,” Otay Ranch coach Ian Cumming said succinctly.
Montgomery’s Rosario was the fourth-best Metro runner on the day with his 16:59 time.
Gillespie was the top Metro female runner at last weekend’s section championship meet, placing 13th overall among the 542 finishers.
“I wanted to get in the top five and improve my time and my place from last year,” she said. “It was a little slower than I wanted but I finished with energy for my final kick.
“I also wanted to give my team a chance to qualify for state.”
Gillespie, who was fourth in 16:28 at last year’s division finals, placed 22 seconds behind race winner Nicolette Sorensen, a senior from Torrey Pines, and seven seconds behind runner-up Brianna Miller, a senior from Carlsbad.
Rancho Buena Vista (55 points), Torrey Pines (65 points) and Poway (112 points) finished as the top three Division I girls teams. Otay Ranch finished seventh with 171 points — two points out of sixth place, five points out of fifth place and 21 points out of fourth place.
The top six placers in the Division I girls race were all seniors. Osuna, third in this year’s overall Metro field, finished as the fourth-best underclassman in the Division I race, boding well for next year.
Cumming remained optimistic about his team’s state qualifying chances entering the race. “On any given day, we have the talent to do it,” he said.
Eastlake freshman Celiese Zasueta turned heads with her 30th-place finish in 17:43 to earn honors as the No. 3 Mesa League finisher in the 145-deep race.
Chula Vista sophomore Ana Gonzalez (32nd, 17:48) was the South Bay League’s top finisher in the Division I girls race.
Sweetwater junior Erika Gonzalez finished 35th in 17:55 — two seconds ahead of 2012 Mesa League champion Yoceline Ramirez (36th, 17:57) from Chula Vista.
Mesa League champion Bonita Vista was a non-factor in the Division II boys race, placing a disappointing ninth. Two Barons did manage top-third place-finishes: junior Austin Johnson (28th, 17:21) and senior Jacob Sherman (38th, 17:36).
Sherman was this year’s Mesa League individual champion.
The top four Division II girls teams qualified for this weekend’s state meet. Bonita Vista, runner-up to Otay Ranch at the Mesa League finals, finished sixth — 47 points behind fourth place Westview.
The Barons, in a show of force, did place all five scorers in the top third of the 134-deep field, led by Kristen Lamprecht (19th, 17:29), Jennifer Yang (22nd, 17:37) and Clarisa Hernandez (29th, 17:48).
Bonita Vista notched honors as the highest-placing Metro girls team (12th) at this year’s CIF finals. Otay Ranch was 16th among all 77 scoring teams.
La Costa Canyon junior Steven Fahy created a dramatic ending to the Division II boys race when he collapsed just over the finish line to record the top time of the day among all male runners — 15:44.
LCC’s Emma Abrahamson had the top girls time of 15:56.
© 2009 The Star-News