The 37th South Bay Invitational shone a bright spotlight on South Bay runners last Friday at Rohr Park. Local teams collected four division titles and four area harriers strode to individual championships in the five single-division races totaling nearly 900 entrants.
The South County honor roll included the following:
Otay Ranch captured championship titles in the girls varsity and boys junior varsity divisions.
Eastlake captured the championship title in the girls junior varsity division.
Bonita Vista captured the championship title in the boys frosh/soph division.
Metro Conference individual champions included Eastlake sophomore Sarah Garces (girls JV), Hilltop freshman Austin Johnson (boys frosh/soph), girls varsity Otay Ranch sophomore Catie LeDesma (girls varsity) and Otay Ranch junior Steven Martinez (boys varsity).
Otay Ranch got a small measure of respect by moving up one position to No. 13 in the latest San Diego Section coaches poll. But it might not be enough after last Friday’s power-packed showing. The Mustangs topped runner-up Bonita Vista by 20 points to win the 21-team division despite missing one of their top runners, sophomore Carina Gillespie, who was unavailable because of dental surgery. Gillespie, ahem, won the girls varsity title at the 15th annual Mustang/Phair Co. Invitational two weeks previously.
Instead, LeDesma went into cruise control after the first mile to cover the 2.5-mile course in 15:53. She finished 16 seconds ahead of Valley Center sophomore Kaylee Hudson, who placed second, and 19 seconds ahead of Bonita Vista senior Cristina Hernandez, the race’s third-place finisher.
Otay Ranch’s top five scorers finished among the top 15 percent of the 144-deep field, with sophomore Andie LeDesma placing fifth in 16:36, senior Karla Gadea placing 12th in 16:53, sophomore Julia Corrao finishing 14th in 17:04 and junior Blanca DeLaRocha placing 22nd in 17:15.
Bonita Vista’s top five scorers finished among the top 30 percent of the field, with sophomore Kristen Lamprecht placing sixth in 16:41, followed by senior Sofia Garcia (eighth, 16:48), sophomore Elena Jurado (17th, 17:08) and freshman Denisse Bautista (40th, 18:01).
“Our team had a lot of injuries last year and we have some injuries this year but we’re a much improved team over last year,” BV coach Ed Winczowski said. “Hopefully, our girls can improve even more.”
Eastlake finished well behind both Metro front-runners in fourth place, led by senior Olivia Davis (13th, 17:03) and freshman Ridley Gaitlin (29th, 17:27). Other Titan medalists (top 35 finishers) included sophomore Carly Graff (31st, 17:31) and junior Carly Hintz (34th, 17:41).
Sweetwater placed eighth while Hilltop was 13th, Mar Vista was 16th, Mater Dei Catholic was 18th, Southwest was 20th and Olympian was 21st.
Of the 35 medalists in the girls varsity field, 19 were Metro Conference runners. Also earning medals were San Ysidro senior Carla Hernandez (seventh, 16:43), Mar Vista junior Karley Tena (19th, 17:11), Sweetwater sophomore Maira Crespo (24th, 17:23), Montgomery sophomore Kristine Jiao (26th, 17:25) and Otay Ranch sophomores Bailie LeDesma (28th, 17:26) and Brenda Hernandez (35th, 17:43).
The latest edition of “As the Course Turns” featured 12th-ranked Bonita Vista edging 10th-ranked Otay Ranch for second place in the 20-team division. The Barons had stepped off the season ranked sixth in the section, followed by the seventh-ranked Mustangs before Otay Ranch out-pointed Bonita Vista in the season-opening Mustang Invitational.
The teams were to meet again on Oct. 1, as the dual meet season got under way.
The bragging rights apparently now belong to the Barons, who had their top three runners finish in a tight 31-second group and their top five scorers within 58 seconds.
Otay Ranch’s Martinez was engaged in an elbow-to-elbow battle, at times, with El Cajon Valley senior Namer Yousif and BV senior Shin Agbede for most of the 5K race before Martinez and Yousif pulled away to finish within one second of each other.
Martinez crossed the electronic beam in 16:05, followed immediately by Yousif in 16:06.
“My strategy for this race was to go out really fast, run a sub-five-minute first mile and just relax on my pace ... and it worked,” said Martinez, who also earned honors as the top finishing Metro boys runner at the preceding Mustang/ Phair Co. Invitational.
Valley Center senior Nicasio Westlund finished third in 16:17, followed by Agbede in fourth in 16:22.
From there, it was a matter of counting the order of Otay Ranch and Bonita Vista runners crossing the finish line. Mustang senior Josh Roach was seventh in 16:35 while Baron junior Casear Castillo was eighth in 16:41. With three scorers remaining for each team, Otay Ranch held a four-point edge.
Bonita Vista turned that edge in its favor by finishing the next two runners between the teams: junior Jose Suarez (10th, 16:53) and senior Jason Hardin (14th, 17:06). The next two Mustang finishers were junior Carlos Rangel (17th, 17:10) and senior Salvador Salinas (19th, 17:13).
With one runner left for each team, the Barons now owned a 36-44 scoring edge.
Otay Ranch placed its fifth scorer (junior Zachary Velasquez, 22nd in 17:18) ahead of Bonita Vista’s fifth man (junior Erik Hernandez, 24th in 17:19) but the time spread wasn’t enough to cancel out the Baron lead as BVHS claimed a final 60-66 scoring edge.
All five of the Mustang and Baron scorers finished among the top 16 percent of runners in the 149-deep field.
Valley Center edged Bonita Vista by six points for the team title.
“We’re a much improved team,” Winczowski said. “We have some injuries but I like where we’re at. Someone is showing improvement each week. But as for Friday, I don’t know where we’ll be at because some kids are on vacation because of intercession.”
Eastlake, featuring an 11th-place individual finish by senior Trent Warren, placed fifth in the team standings, followed by Castle Park (ninth), Hilltop (11th), Mar Vista (12th), Southwest (13th), Montgomery (17th), Olympian (19th) and Sweetwater (20th).
Warren is racing cross country for the first time after having major reconstructive knee surgery following a basketball injury. “It’s a miracle he can run at all,” EHS coach Joe Stubbs said. “He’s the most amazing athlete out there.”
Warren timed 16:53 at Rohr Park before going on to win the chariot race later that evening during Eastlake’s homecoming ceremonies on campus.
Overall, 19 Metro runners also grabbed medals in the boys varsity race. Also leaving the field with shiny metal were Castle Park sophomore Miguel Lopez (ninth, 16:44), Mar Vista senior Ernesto Sanchez (16th, 17:09), Southwest junior Andrew Palacios (21st, 17:17), Hilltop junior Jeremy Lara (23rd, 17:19), Eastlake sophomore Zach Zacueta (26th, 17:23), Bonita Vista junior Alejandro Dominguez (28th, 17:26), Eastlake junior Steven Perez (30th, 17:30) and Eastlake sophomore Matt Tong (34th, 17:33).
Eastlake placed the top four runners in the 233-deep girls JV race to win by a 31-point margin over runner-up Otay Ranch. The Titans top five scorers finished among the top eight finishers. Race-winner Garces finished the 2.5-mile course in 17:19 —one second ahead of teammate Aina Corona.
Bonita Vista out-pointed Sweetwater 103-122 to win the boys frosh/soph team title. Hilltop, led by Johnson’s first-place 5K finish in 17:53, was third with 132 points.
Otay Ranch, led by senior Richard Martinez’ second-place individual finish in 18:01, finished with a six-point bulge on runner-up San Pasqual to win the boys JV team title.
San Diego Section Coaches Poll
Boys teams: 1. Torrey Pines, 2. Rancho Bernardo, 3. Poway, 4. Rancho Buena Vista, 5. La Costa Canyon, 6. Mt. Carmel, 7. Fallbrook, 8. Patrick Henry, 9. Carlsbad, 10. Otay Ranch, 11. Escondido, 12. Bonita Vista.
Girls teams: 1. Torrey Pines, 2. La Costa Canyon, 3. Rancho Buena Vista, 4. Rancho Bernardo, 5. Vista, 6. Westview, 7. Mission Hills, 8. Poway, 9. Cathedral Catholic, 10. Mt. Carmel, 11. Valhalla, 12. Escondido, 13. Otay Ranch.