If anyone was looking to preview the 2011 Metro Conference cross country campaign, all they had to do was put on a pair of running shoes and follow the competition at last Friday’s 38th annual South Bay Invitational at Rohr Park.
Twelve South County teams participated in the event, including all six teams from the Mesa League and six of the seven teams from the South Bay League.
Otay Ranch led the sizable Metro contingent with impressive first-place finishes in both the girls and boys varsity races as well as the boys junior varsity race. Eastlake captured the team title in the girls JV race.
Metro runners put on a blockbuster showing, with nine of the first 14 place-finishers either from Otay Ranch, Bonita Vista or Eastlake high schools. The Mustangs pushed across four of the top 11 finishers, placing two runners ahead of the Barons’ top two finishers to record a 14-point team victory over runner-up Bonita Vista.
Mustang junior Carina Gillespie, the defending Mesa League champion, captured the 2.5-mile race in 15:45. She scored a 10-second victory over Monte Vista junior Emily Lopez and finished 15 seconds ahead of Monte Vista sophomore Celina Lepe, the race’s third-place finisher.
East County runners accounted for four of the top six individual placer-finishers but the next eight finishers were all from the Mesa League.
Otay Ranch junior Catie LeDesma was seventh in 16:11, followed by Bonita Vista juniors Raelene DeArmas (eighth, 16:17) and Kristen Lamprecht (ninth, 16:19).
Otay Ranch had the next two runners to give the Mustangs four runners ahead of Bonita Vista’s third scorer.
Otay Ranch junior Brenda Hernandez was 10th in 16:23, followed by senior teammate Blanca DeLaRocha (11th, 16:26).
It was then the Barons’ turn as junior Jennifer Yang was 12th in 16:27, followed by classmate Clarisa Hernandez (13th, 16:29).
Eastlake sophomore Ridley Gatlin finished 14th in 16:31, followed by Olympian junior Kioana Smith (20th, 16:37), Eastlake sophomore Alina Corona (21st, 16:37) and San Ysidro freshman Karina Cantera (22nd, 16:38).
Otay Ranch’s fifth scorer, sophomore Marlene Gadea, finished 25th in 16:40, while Bonita Vista’s fifth scorer, sophomore Claudia Hernandez, was 26th in 16:41.
The Mustangs went 1-7-10-11-24 in team scoring while the Barons finished 8-9-12-13-25. The performance of the Otay Ranch’s top two finishers — Gillespie and LeDesma — obviously helped tip the outcome in the Mustangs’ favor.
BV coach Ed Winczowski called it a “very exciting meet” for his girls team.
“I can remember two years ago when we hardly had any girls and we would decide about an hour-and-a-half before the race who was going to run varsity that day,” Winczowski said. “Now it’s still mostly the same group of girls who have ground it out the past couple of years and really stuck with it. We graduated both Sofia Garcia and Cristina Hernandez last year and that still by far was the best girls team effort since I’ve been here. That should sum up their efforts (this year) right there.”
The top 35 individual place-finishers received medals. Also medaling in the 174-deep field were Eastlake junior Jenna Garces (27th, 16:50), Otay Ranch junior Andie LeDesma (29th, 16:57), Sweetwater senior Amparo Gavarain (30th, 17:03) and Bonita Vista junior Elena Jurado (33rd, 17:06).
(The top seven runners on the first-, second- and third-place teams also received medals.)
Otay Ranch finished first in the team standings with 53 points, followed by Bonita Vista with 67 points. San Pasqual was third with 129 points — well behind the two Mesa League leaders. Monte Vista was fourth with 134 points, followed by Eastlake in fifth place with 145 points.
Granite Hills was sixth with 146 points, followed by Our Lady of Peace (seventh, 223 points), Grossmont (eighth, 234 points), West Hills (ninth, 247 points), El Capitan (10th, 303 points), Francis Parker (11th, 321 points), San Diego (12th, 341 points), Mt. Miguel (13th, 383 points) and Hilltop (14th, 420 points).
Castle Park led the Metro’s contingent of South Bay League teams with a 15th-place team finish with 446 points, followed by defending league champion Sweetwater in 16th place with 466 points.
Castle Park junior Keeshawna Jackson, last year’s South Bay League individual champion and an individual state meet qualifier, finished 41st in 17:26 — a whopping 44 seconds behind San Ysidro’s Cantera, 23 seconds behind SuHi’s Gavarain and four seconds behind Mar Vista senior Karley Tena (38th, 17:22).
Olympian rounded out the Mesa League’s allotment of scoring teams with 483 points in 17th place, followed by Santa Fe Christian (18th, 492 points), Point Loma (19th, 497 points), Oceanside (20th, 536 points), Madison (21st, 561 points), Valley Center (22nd, 590 points) and El Cajon Valley (23rd, 626 points).
Mater Dei Catholic, Mar Vista, Montgomery, San Ysidro and Southwest did not field the mandatory five runners to score team points.
Otay Ranch and Bonita Vista both have serious aspirations of qualifying for November’s state meet. The two Mesa League juggernauts meet in a dual meet showdown on Thursday, Oct. 6, and last Friday’s 1-2 invitational finish only served to crank up the anticipation level for the upcoming encounter at Discovery Park (3 p.m. start).
Led by individual race champion Steven Martinez (15:50), the Mustangs out-pointed the Barons 88-97 to win an exceptionally close race.
As runners whizzed by at the first mile marker, Bonita Vista had five runners packed in front of Otay Ranch’s top three. But the Barons could not maintain their pack in that location for the duration of the 5K race.
Martinez, breaking away in the second mile, breezed to an 11-second victory over Monte Vista junior Steven Lepe (16:01) and beat Bonita Vista’s top scorer, senior Caesar Castillo, across the finish line by 15 seconds.
In an impressive showing, Metro Conference runners grabbed five of the top eight place-finishing positions and accounted for six of the top 10 placers.
Otay Ranch senior Zach Velasquez finished sixth overall in 16:19 to greatly enhance the Mustangs’ hopes of winning the team title. The Barons eventually placed four runners ahead of Otay Ranch’s third scorer but saw their fifth man drop back during the second half of the race.
“One of our boys did drop off and he was extremely disappointed,” Winczowski said. “We are still really happy with where we are at so far this year.”
Velasquez finished behind San Pasqual senior Zachary Laurenzana (fourth, 16:10) and El Capitan junior Daniel Gomez (fifth, 16:13).
Sweetwater senior Abdi Castellanos was the top runner from the South Bay League to finish, placing seventh in 16:27. Just behind Castellanos was Castle Park junior Miguel Lopez (eighth, 16:30) while Sweetwater junior George Martinez (10th, 16:32) finished behind St. Augustine junior Joseph Saad (ninth, 16:31).
Eastlake junior Zac Zasueta (16:43) was the seventh Metro runner to post a top 15 finish in the 193-deep field by claiming 15th place.
A flood of runners wearing (two shades of) blue and gold decided the outcome of the team championship.
Bonita Vista junior Jacob Sherman was 19th in 17:01, followed immediately by teammates Alejandro Dominguez (20th, 1703) and Austin Johnson (21st, 17:04).
But Otay Ranch countered with its next three scorers to put five Mustangs ahead of Bonita Vista’s fifth scorer.
Following Castle Park junior Daniel Vasquez (24th, 17:08) were Otay Ranch senior Andres Fernandez (26th, 17:09) and junior Rodrigo Baza (28th, 17:10).
Otay Ranch’s fifth scorer turned out to be senior Michael Barker (30th, 17:11). Bonita Vista’s fifth scorer, senior Kevin Yen, finished 11 seconds later (39th, 17:22).
Officially, the Mustangs wrapped up the invitational title with a scoring finish of 1-6-25-27-29. Bonita Vista’s scoring went like this: 3-18-19-20-37.
ORHS coach Ian Cumming was obviously pleased by his team’s all around championship showing.
“Our team can take some confidence from that, but they also realize that we need to continue to train and race well to achieve our goals for the season — both the league season and beyond,” he said. “There are some good teams out there who want to beat us and win the league championship. We will need to stay focused and work intelligently to meet the challenges of each week ahead of us as we move through this season.”
Cumming added he felt good about the team’s chances to meet those challenges. “ It will be exciting and I feel good about our team and the things they will accomplish this season,” he said.
Martinez, who finished fourth at the Mustang/East Hills Invitational and third at the Mt. Carmel Invitational in preceding races, wore a wide smile on his face as he confidently strode to the finish line.
“The last two races I had a really fast first mile, so this time I decided to back off and take it easy — if I felt like good after the second mile, I’d go for it,” he said. “I wound up taking the lead.”
El Capitan, with 102 points, finished just five points behind Bonita Vista in third place. A pair of traditional North County powers followed: San Pasqual (fourth, 124 points) and Valley Center (fifth, 129 points).
Sweetwater won its invitational duel with defending South Bay League champion Castle Park by recording 148 points to finish in sixth place while the Trojans (216 points) finished seventh.
Sophomore Gerrardo Marquillo buoyed the Red Devils by finishing 29th in 17:10. SuHi was second (by a point to Otay Ranch) at the Mustang Invitational.
St. Augutine (251 points) was eighth, followed by San Diego (294 points), Granite Hills (10th, 315 points ), Eastlake (11th, 316 points), Grossmont (12th, 316 points), West Hills (13th, 421 points), Hilltop (14th, 443 points), Francis Parker (15th, 453 points), Monte Vista (16th, 461 points), Mt. Miguel (17th, 465 points) , Montgomery (18th, 507 points), Point Loma (19th, 537 points), Calvin Christian (20th, 543 points), El Cajon Valley (21st, 567 points), Olympian (22nd, 596 points), Santa Fe Christian (23rd, 600 points), Mar Vista (24th, 610 points) and Oceanside (25th, 626 points).
•In the 287-deep 2.5-mile girls junior varsity race, Otay Ranch junior Bailie LeDesma captured top individual honors in 17:38, though Eastlake out-pointed runner-up San Pasqual, 94-104, to secure the team title. Eastlake junior Kayla Lawson was second among individuals in 17:47.
•Bonita Vista sophomore Christian Kelley was the top Metro runner in the 5K JV boys race, finishing second to El Capitan sophomore Reoh Darwell (17:22) in 17:25. But team champion Otay Ranch promptly flooded the finish line with the next four runners in the 199-deep field to out-point runner-up Bonita Vista 26-75.
•A total of 1,079 runners finished this year’s South Bay Invitational, including 367 varsity harriers.
•For complete race results, visit www.sdtrackmag.com.