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Thrills and chills on the Metro Conference cross country course Phillip Brents | Fri, Oct 14 2011 02:17 PM

The prep cross country season took an exciting turn for both the Bonita Vista Barons and Sweetwater Red Devils and, for that matter, both the Otay Ranch Mustangs and Castle Park Trojans, as league dual meet action stepped off for the second week.

In a celebrated encounter Oct. 6 at Discovery Park, Bonita Vista and Otay Ranch crossed paths for early season supremacy in the Mesa League while in an equally much anticipated match-up the following day at SDG&E Park near the Castle Park campus, Sweetwater and Castle Park went toe-to-toe in a key South Bay League dual.

The outcomes produced their share of chills, especially for the Barons and Devils.

Mesa League showdown
Keyed by a surge in the last half-mile of the 3.0-mile boys varsity race at Discovery Park, Bonita Vista overcame a decided Otay Ranch numerical advantage to capture a stunning 25-30 victory over the defending champions.

The Barons’ fourth runner, sophomore Austin Johnson, was eighth in the line of harriers heading up the brutal second hill while BV junior Christian Kelley, the eventual fifth scorer, was 13th.

But a sudden burst of energy over the last half-mile reversed the host team’s numerical disadvantage. Johnson finished sixth while Kelley, drum roll, finished eighth, passing five runners, including one teammate.

 “He did it again — Christian was our spark last year to get us to state,” a glowing BVHS coach Ed Winczowski said.

The top two runners from each team — Otay Ranch senior Steven Martinez and Bonita Vista senior Caesar Castillo — both held back surprisingly near the end of the pack the first mile. But both opened it up shortly thereafter and it quickly became a dash for numerical supremacy on the two-hill course.

Heading up the second hill, the Mustangs appeared in good shape to score a victory with six harriers positioned among the top 10 runners (and leading 26-30).

But on the final straightaway, the Barons (2-0 in league duals) pulled off a magical finishing kick. The order of finish beyond the first five placers (two Mustangs and three Barons) changed dramatically, thanks greatly to the efforts of Johnson and Kelley.
“I knew I just had to keep running,” Kelley said succinctly.

Otay Ranch’s Martinez (16:15) and Brandon Velasquez (17:11) finished first and third, respectively, to give the Mustangs a huge advantage in the scoring column.

Castillo (16:32) was second for the Barons and Bonita Vista swung its scoring might with three runners crossing the finish line after Velasquez. For BVHS, Jose Suarez (17:15) was fourth, followed by Jacob Sherman (17:17) in fifth and Johnson (17:30) in sixth.

Otay Ranch’s Michael Barker (17:31) was seventh, but here came the hard-charging Kelley (17:32), who passed a fourth Mustang, Anthony McGough (ninth,17:35), within sight of the finish line.

Otay Ranch’s fifth scorer, Andres Fernandez, was 10th in 17:44.

“I think we were still ahead by two or three points with a half-mile to go,” ORHS coach Ian Cumming said. “It was a great race. They did what they had to do to win. Bonita is a good team. They ran absolutely incredible that last half-mile.”

With one-half of a team’s final score determined by dual meet finish and one-half determined by finish at the league finals in November, the Barons appear in the driver’s seat for potentially no worse than a league co-championship.

“It’s a great position to be in now but we’ve got to repeat it in November,” Winczowksi said.

The BVHS girls gave it their best shot in the 2.5-mile girls race, establishing virtually all season-best marks, but were simply overwhelmed by an Otay Ranch squad that could be rewriting the record books in the Metro Conference before the season is over.

The Mustangs prevailed, 15-47, by placing all five of their scorers ahead of the Barons’ No. 1 runner.

Finishing in order for ORHS, which remained perfect in league duals at 2-0, were Katie LeDesma (first, 14:38), Carina Gillespie (second, 14:39), Brenda Hernandez (third, 14:40), Julianna Corrao (fourth, 14:46) and Marlene Gadea (fifth, 14:56). The Mustangs’ five-person spread of a jaw-dropping 18 seconds was impossible to beat.

Bonita Vista’s Kristen Lamprecht was sixth in 15:07 while teammate Jennifer Yang was eighth in 15:16. But Otay Ranch had an answer for that with their sixth and seventh runners, Andie LeDesma (15:08) and Blanca Dela Rocha (15:35), respectively, to cause further displacement in the team scoring.

The Mustangs had flexed their collective muscle and had to be pleased by the showing against a very good BVHS squad.

“This is the most talented girls team I’ve ever coached,” Cumming said flatly. “One year at Hilltop I had a girls team that was ranked No. 1 in the state for a month, and that should tell you something about this (Otay) team.”

South Bay League showdown
Sweetwater swept its dual against Castle Park, winning the boys varsity race by a score of 19-37 and the girls race 28-29. The Devils improved to 2-0 in dual competition on both sides after sweeping Montgomery the previous week.

Sweetwater continued to prove it possesses one of the Metro’s top boys units by placing their top five scorers among the race’s top seven finishers.

Carlos Ponce won the 3.1-mile race in 17:49, followed by teammate George Martinez in 17:56.

Castle Park’s Jesus Ortiz was third in 18:10 but two more Devils — Elias Amador (fourth, 18:16) and Abinadi Castellanos (fifth, 18:24) — finished ahead of the Trojans’ second scorer, Miguel Lopez (sixth, 18:27).

Gerrardo Marquillo secured the SuHi victory by finishing seventh in 18:34.
The Trojans entered the meet as the defending league champions and 1-0 in duals this season after defeating league newcomer Chula Vista, 19-37, the previous week.

The girls race came down to the sixth and seventh runners, who do not score points but can displace opposing runners. And that is exactly what happened for Sweetwater, as the Devils placed all seven of their runners ahead of Castle Park’s fifth scorer to conclude the 2.5-mile race.

The Trojans looked to have a heavy advantage based on a 1-3-4 finish but Sweetwater responded by placing four runners in succession from fifth through eighth. CP’s fourth scorer finished ninth but was followed by two SuHi runners to hand the Trojans’ fifth runner a 12th-place scoring spot.

Defending South Bay League champion and returning individual state meet qualifier Keeshawna Jackson won the race with a strong performance in 17:34 ahead of the Devils No. 1 Amparo Gavarain (second, 18:02).

Amanda Cason (18:29) and Aurea Obeso (18:33) finished third and fourth for the Trojans while Edna Carrillo (18:56), Kimberly Arellano (19:14), Brianna Coronado (19:29) and Stephanie Beltran (19:32) put their team in position to pull out a dramatic win by finishing fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively.

Sweetwater’s unsung heroines proved to be Sofia Barrera (10th, 20:10) and Mari Garcia (11th, 20:13). They finished well behind CP’s Brianna Diaz (ninth, 19:39) but displaced the Trojans’ final runner, Nina Ni (12th, 20:27), by two vital spots.

Castle Park had led 26-29 heading into the second and final loop.

The Devils have won three consecutive league titles but look to be challenged by a strong Chula Vista girls team this season. The teams meet Oct. 28 at Rohr Park.

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