The Metro Conference cross country dual meet season stepped off on Friday, Sept. 30, with the Sweetwater Red Devils recording a varsity sweep of the Montgomery Aztecs in the South Bay League and the Eastlake Titans, Bonita Vista Barons and Otay Ranch Mustangs also recording sweeps over their Mesa League opponents.
In any given year, Eastlake coach Joe Stubbs might have enough talent to win the league title with his girls team. But with Otay Ranch and Bonita Vista both bidding for potential state meet berths, it will be interesting to see what happens when the teams meet in dual competition.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Stubbs said.
Otay Ranch led both teams across the finish line at the South Bay Invitational on Sept. 23, with Bonita Vista recording a narrow runner-up finish to the team champion Mustangs and Eastlake recording a strong fifth-place finish.
The Titans got off on the right foot, so to speak, by defeating the Olympian Eagles, 20-42, at the Imperial Beach pier. The dual match-up marked the Eagles debut in the Mesa League.
Olympian’s Kioana Smith recorded the top time of 15:34 on the 2.25-mile course. But the Titans’ depth was too much for the Eagles to overcome.
The Titans defeated the Eagles, 17-43, in the boys varsity meet as Zac Zasueta completed the 3.1-mile course in 17:43.
Eastlake placed all of its seven runners in the top third of the 174-deep field at the South Bay Invitational, led by top five scorers Ridley Gatlin (14th, 16:31), Alina Corona (21st, 16:37), Jenna Garces (27th, 16:50), Jasmine Vasquez (39th, 17:24) and Carly Hintz (49th, 17:45). Following were Sarah Garces (51st, 17:47) and Carly Graff (55th, 17:55).
Eastlake was nosed out by Granite Hills by one point for 10th place in the boys varsity team standings at the SBI. Zasueta recorded a 15th-place finish in the 193-deep field in 16:43, followed by teammate Oliver Abundez in 38th place in 17:22.
Other runners finishing in the top half of team scorers in the field included Andre Lobato (78th, 18:19) and Casey Stanko (98th, 18:39). Stanko is a league champion wrestler and also plays lacrosse.
Stubbs said 73 student-athletes came out for this year’s team, but only two were seniors.
“It’s a young and improving team,” the EHS coach said. “On the boys side, we graduated a lot of veterans but we have some kids who seem to have some ability as good prospects for us. On the girls side, we only graduated two of our top 12. Obviously, every year our goal is to win a championship. We want to do our best. Bonita Vista and Otay Ranch will be our two strongest rivals. We hope to be ready.”
Otay Ranch opened defense of its Mesa League title by overpowering the visiting Mater Dei Crusaders by identical 15-50 scores in boys and girls varsity competition.
Steven Martinez won the 3.1-mile boys varsity race in 16:56 while Carina Gillespie won the 2.5-mile girls varsity race in 16:09.
The Mustangs had the first 12 finishers in the boys varsity race and the top eight finishers in the girls race.
Caesar Castillo (18:02) and Kristen Lamprecht (15:21) were the top finishers for Bonita Vista in its 15-50 varsity sweep against Hilltop at Discovery Park.
The Barons top eight finishers in the boys varsity race included Castillo, Jose Suarez (18:03), Austin Johnson (18:04), Jacob Sherman (18:14), Kevin Yen (18:31), Jeff Aptalategui (18:43), Christian Gutierrez (18:49) and Christian Kelley (18:53).
The top BVHS girls finishers included Lamprecht, Raelene DeArmas (15:25), Jennifer Yang (15:30), Denisse Bautista (16:09), Marissa Ayala (16:15), Claudia Hernandez (16:49), Ana Skomal (17:08) and Cynthia Rendon (17:16).
South Bay League
Sweetwater defeated Montgomery, 15-50, in the boys varsity meet and, 25-30, in the girls varsity meet. Carlos Ponce earned medalist honors ion the boys meet with a time of 17:26 on the 3.1-mile Luckie Waller course while SuHi’s Amparo Gavarain was the girls race winner with a time of 17:16 on the 2.3-mile course.
The Sweetwater girls are the defending league champions while the SuHi boys finished runner-up to Castle Park for last year’s top league finish. At the South Bay Invitational, it was a reversal of fortunes for the two teams as the Red Devil boys finished 68 points ahead of the Trojans and the CP girls finished 20 points ahead of the Sweetwater girls.
The teams are scheduled to meet in a high profile dual on Friday, Oct. 7, at the CPHS SDG&E Park.
The top five boys varsity finishers for the Red Devils against the Aztecs included Ponce, Abinadi Castellanos (second, 17:58), George Martinez (third, 18:21), Elias Amador (fourth, 18:25) and Gerrardo Marquillo (fifth, 18:39).
The girls meet was much closer. Gavarain was the top scorer for SuHi but Montgomery’s Ivette Larios finished second in 17:43. Erika Gonzalez was third in 17:49 for the Red Devils but Montgomery placed the next two runners: Kristine Jiao (fourth, 18:05) and Brandi Sanchez (fifth, 18:23).
But Sweetwater returned to the scoring column with the next three finishers: Kimberly Arellano (sixth 18:48), Mari Garcia (seventh, 19:06) and Elda Carrillo (eighth, 19:10).
Gavarain, a senior, missed last year’s league final due to injury, but finished fourth in league as a sophomore after winning the junior varsity championship as a freshman. SuHi coach Raul Galindo feels she is going to make a run for South Bay championship this year.
Arellano, a sophomore, and Carrillo, a freshmen, are among the team’s impact newcomers. Arellano was last year’s JV champion.
Galindo labels Carrillo, a first-time runner and new to the team, with the potential to become his “secret weapon” this year.
Four-year performer Sirena Diaz also returns to the team after recording a 10th place-finish at last year’s league finals.
Galindo admits there will be challenges this year, and his team already received one from the Trojans at September’s SBI.
“We are defending league champions the last three years, but it will be a challenging year as we are rebuilding,” he said. “We only have one returner from our final seven varsity league finishers. However, we are ready to defend as we have in previous years.”
Castellanos (seventh) and Martinez (10th) recorded impressive top 10 finishes in the 193-deep field at the SBI. Marquillo was 29th to help buttress the Devils’ sixth-place team finish ahead of Castle Park.
“We have been training hard and the guys are anxious to compete in league,” Sweetwater coach Adrian Garcia said. “I think we will be ready.”
The Trojans return three of their top seven runners from last year’s league championship team, including team captain Miguel Lopez (eighth at this year's SBI).
“We’re doing a good job so far, we have been working hard,” Lopez said. “We’re looking forward to league finals and going to state as a team.”