South County runners excel on new home cross country course

Otay Ranch High School posted the highest place-finish among Metro Conference boys cross country teams at last Friday’s inaugural Ian Cumming/Tim Latham Invitational at Rohr Park. Photo by Phillip Brents

Last Friday’s inaugural Ian Cumming/Tim Latham Invitational at Rohr Park looks to have combined the best elements of its two predecessor events: the Mustang Invitational and the South Bay Invitational.

The former events were longtime staples for local runners to step off the cross country season.

The new event looks to do the same. By funneling two events into one certainly made for an impressive debut.

Forty schools and more than 1,300 runners participated in last Friday’s invitational, including 12 of the 13 schools in the Metro Conference.

The event also brought out several veteran coaches, including the event’s two namesakes: Cumming (Hilltop/Bonita Vista/Otay Ranch) and Latham (Sweetwater).

Veteran official Al Dandridge, a member of the San Diego County Sports Officials Hall of Fame, was on hand to start the meet.

“The nicest thing about today is having some of the best coaches in San Diego present,” explained Otay Ranch coach Julian Valdez, who served as meet co-director. “Both Ian and Tim were present. It was a solid event, and we had great weather.”

Five divisions were contested, with two races in each division for a total of 10 races on the day. The Mustang Division featured smaller programs while the Red Devils Division spotlighted larger programs.

Boys varsity races measured 5K distances while girls varsity, boys junior varsity and boys frosh/soph races were 2.5 miles and girls JV races were 2.0 miles.

Fleet feet
The big winners among the locals included Hilltop (first in the girls varsity Mustangs Division and second in the boys frosh/soph Mustangs Division), Otay Ranch (first in the boys frosh/soph Red Devils Division and second in the boys varsity Red Devils Division), Eastlake (first in the girls junior varsity Red Devils Division, second in the JV boys Red Devils Division and second in the girls varsity Red Devils Division) and Southwest (second in the girls JV Mustangs Division).

Five individuals captured first-place finishes in their respective divisions:

  • Eastlake sophomore Katherine Robinson finished first in the girls JV Red Devils Division.
  • Mar Vista senior Carnell Jelks finished first in the boys JV Mustangs Division.
  • Bonita Vista sophomore Moises Padilla finished first in the boys JV Red Devils Division.
  • High Tech High Chula Vista sophomore Valencio Coco captured first place in the boys frosh/soph Mustangs Division.
  • Otay Ranch sophomore Aydan Wohlford finished first in the boys frosh/soph Red Devils Division.

Additionally, Sweetwater senior Jose Galvan finished second in the boys varsity Red Devils Division while Eastlake sophomore Selena Wimbish placed runner-up in the girls JV Red Devils Division. Otay Ranch sophomore Ruben Baza Carrillo finished second in the boys frosh/soph Red Devils Division.

From left, Eastlake’s Kalena Garcia, Kate Robinson, Selena Wimbish and Bella Alcocer pose with their championship medals after winning their girls junior varsity division race. Photo by Phillip Brents

Teen Titans
Eastlake placed five of the top six finishers in the massive 230-deep girls JV Red Devils Division race to top the field with 18 points — well ahead of runner-up Oceanside’s 99 points.

Sophomores Robinson (13:37.22) and Wimbish (13:37.51) crossed the finish line in near simultaneous fashion to secure first and second place.

Scripps Ranch freshman Maddie Savary finished third in 13:52.62. However, three Eastlake runners were in the chase: freshman Isabella Parcel (fourth, 13:55.74) and juniors Kelena Garcia (fifth, 13:57.46) and Isabella Alcocer (sixth, 13:57.76).

The five-person spread among EHS scorers was just 20 seconds.

“The JV girls were great, just impressive,” EHS coach David Koopman said in praise. “They should be running varsity but our team is so strong. They’re varsity-caliber runners but they’re running JV.”

Young and talented seems to define this year’s Titan team.

Eastlake’s runners ran as a pack to find success in the girls varsity race. Photos by Phillip Brents

Eastlake fielded a lineup comprised of freshmen and sophomores for the girls varsity division. The group recorded a 28-second pack time to grab second place. An additional 13 seconds separated the team’s top seven finishers.

Sophomore Lake Merrifield led the EHS contingent with a time of 16:32.84 to place 15th in the 107-deep field. Freshman Amanda Challburg was right behind in 16th place in 16:33.17 while sophomore Melissa Mekitarian finished 18th in 16:37.32. Sophomore Natalie Borba finished 19th in 16:40.94 while sophomore Samantha Kipp was 25th in 17:00.39.

For good measure, freshmen Cameron Cruz (17:12.84) and Vanessa Wimbish (17:13.12) finished 28th and 29th.

Point Loma won the team title with 56 points, followed by Eastlake with 93 points and Ramona with 101 points.

Expectations are high for the varsity group, Koopman said. “We’ve had individuals qualify for the state meet in the past but we’d like to qualify as a team this year,” he said.

Improvement seems to be occurring on the boys side of the program.

Eastlake finished runner-up to division champion Scripps Ranch in the boys JV race. The Titans finished three points ahead of third place Valhalla, four points ahead of fourth place Olympian and seven points ahead of fifth place Otay Ranch.

Titan scorers included freshman Trevor Santiago (ninth, 15:20.27), Anthony Martinez (11th, 15:22.27), senior Sean Challburg (17th, 15:38.61), sophomore Benjamin Peraza (32nd, 16:07.93) and junior Kevin Thelen (35th, 16:18.98).

Otay Ranch’s boys frosh/soph team champions. Courtesy photo

Horse power
Otay Ranch placed the top four runners in the boys frosh/soph division: sophomores Wohlford (first, 14:25.210, Baza Carrillo (second, 14:28.52), Diego Vizcarra (third, 14:39.63) and Daniel Kim (14:45.90).

The Mustangs finished with the near perfect top score of 16 points to easily best runner-up Scripps Ranch (48 points).

Otay Ranch sophomore Austin Parise finished sixth in 15:15.05 to give the Mustangs five of the top six finishers in the 204-deep race.

Olympian finished fourth in the team standings, paced by freshman Jacob Juden (15:38.81) and sophomore Jacob Zaratan (11th, 15:40.17).

The Mustangs finished a close second in the boys varsity race with 85 points to 81 points for team champion Scripps Ranch.

Otay Ranch logged three runners among the top 15 finishers in the 107-deep field: juniors Dominic Garcia (ninth, 17:11.49) and Grant Bice (11th, 17:14.30) and senior Andrew Sison (14th, 17:19.43). Seniors Colby Parise (23rd, 17:38.15) and Chris Schafer (28th, 17:55.07) rounded out the Mustangs’ five scorers.

“We’re returning five of our top seven boys — we have a strong top six,” Valdez assessed. “We’re hungry. We really want to compete.”

Bonita Vista finished fourth in the division with 123 points, followed in order by Sweetwater (138 points), Olympian (141 points) and Eastlake (161 points).

Sweetwater’s Jose Galvan was the top Metro Conference finisher in the boys varsity Red Devils Division race. Photo by Phillip Brents

Galvan finished second in the race in 16:19.20 — 21 seconds behind runaway winner Jake Richardson, a junior from Point Loma (15:58.17).

Olympian freshman Carter Stuhlmacher finished strong to place seventh among individuals in 17:03.82.

Sweetwater senior Alberto Barraza finished 13th in 17:17.34, followed by Bonita Vista senior Noah Nafarrete (15th, 17:23.34), Bonita Vista sophomore Sam Hernandez (16th, 17:27.17), Eastlake junior Michael Patron (21st, 17:35.17:35.34), Bonita Vista sophomore Enrique Aranda (22nd, 17:35.97) and Eastlake junior Edgar Salazar (25th, 17:46.13).

Cracking the top 35 finishers were Olympian sophomore Andres Aguilar (26th, 17:53.27), Eastlake junior Justin Hoban (29th, 17:57.79), Bonita Vista sophomore Pierce Manson (31st, 18:00.45), Olympian senior Julio Leon (32nd, 18:03.22), Sweetwater senior Angel Rodriguez (34th, 18:10.61) and Olympian junior Andrew Garcia (35th, 18:11.25).

Both the Sweetwater boys and girls teams swept South Bay League championships last season.

“We are a senior heavy team on the boys side and about half and half on the girls side,” SuHi coach Jaime Romero said. “We’ve added many miles to our workouts over the summer and it’s paid off. The boys really run well together. They’re shooting for a goal at the end of the season and we’ll see where that takes us.”

From left, Hilltop’s Miguel Tisnado, Jimmy Byland, Antonio Quintana, Eddie Castaneda. Photo by Phillip Brents

Go Green
It was a very good day for the Hilltop as the Lancers captured the team title in the girls varsity Mustangs Division, placed second in the boys frosh/soph Mustangs Division and fourth in the boys varsity Mustangs Division.

Hilltop finished with a division best 103 points to shade runner-up Chula Vista (138 points) and third place Our Lady of Peace (139 points) for the girls varsity team title.

Hilltop’s Nicole Byland and Tamara Cornejo. Photo by Phillip Brents

Sophomore Nicole Byland (seventh) was the top finisher for Hilltop on the 2.5-mile course with a time of 17:14.31. Freshman Tamara Cornejo was 10th in 17:40.16, followed by sophomore Ana Zamitiz (22nd, 18:15.26), freshman Ariana Lieras (26th, 18:24.45) and sophomore Valeria Ceballos (38th, 19:18.96) to round out the Lancers’ top five scorers in the race.

Hilltop finished six points ahead of Mar Vista to secure the runner-up position behind team champion Francis Parker in the boys frosh/soph division.

Top finishers for the Lancers in the 115-deep field were freshmen Kyle Depratti (fifth, 16:03.88) and Luis Mejia (eighth, 16:19.43) and sophomore Leon McClain (18th, 16:40.92).

Hilltop finished with 118 points in the boys varsity field to finish behind third place San Ysidro (113 points).

Lancer sophomores Miguel Tisnado (17:19.22) and Jimmy Byland (17:21.72) finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in the 104-deep boys varsity field.

Senior Antonio Quintana (21st, 18:20.45) and sophomore Eddie Castaneda (24th, 18:28.48) followed their lead.

Nicole and Jimmy Byland are twins.

Hilltop twins Jimmy and Nicole Byland. Photo by Phillip Brents

Both have engineered strong starts to the 2019 season. Jimmy Byland won his division at both the preceding Vaquero Stampede and Wolf Pack Invitational while Nicole finished third in her division at the Wolf Pack Invitational.

“It felt great to finish first at Vaquero — most of the time I was leading,” Jimmy said. “I wanted to hold on. When the others speeded up, I speeded up.

“I tried sticking with the first guy at Wolf Pack. I got in first and ran until the end.”

Tisnado passed Byland toward the end of last Friday’s race.

Nicole said her goal is to keep leading her team from the front, with a goal to break 17 minutes on the course.

Castle Park’s Estela Bustollos drives toward the finish line in the girls varsity Mustangs Division race. Photo by Phillip Brents

CP’s Bustillos leads local runners in girls varsity division

Castle Park senior Estela Bustillos, a returning state meet qualifier, was the top Metro Conference runner in the girls varsity Mustangs Division, placing fourth in 17:05.32, immediately followed by High Tech High Chula Vista senior NaLiyah Bailey in fifth place in 17:07.48.

Mater Dei Catholic senior Christine Carey finished eighth in the 94-deep race in 17:30.07 while Chula Vista junior Clarissa Hoffas was 12th in 17:44.12. CP junior Andrea Sarabia finished 15th in 17:58.24.

Bustillos, who said she would like to continue her running career in both track and field and cross country in college, previously finished fourth in her division at the season opening Vaquero Stampede.

“My goal for cross country is to carry the team with me, go farther than last year,” Bustillos said. “I want to make it to state and enjoy the season with my cross country family.”

Bonita Vista sophomore Lauren Salt was the top Metro finisher in the Red Devils Division in sixth place in 15:58.51, followed by Otay Ranch senior Cristina Carrillo (11th, 16:22.03) and Olympian senior Rosanna Javier (12th, 16:24.43).

Raider Nation
Our Lady of Peace recorded a top score of 21 to win the girls JV Mustangs Division but Southwest edged Rancho Buena Vista by nine points to secure second place in the team standings.

Top finishers for the Raiders in the 123-deep race included senior Priscilla Aguiluz (13th, 15:32.15) and sophomore Jordan Singleton (20th, 16:03.29).

Seniors Drake Prince, left, and Aiden Ramirez provide a potent one-two scoring punch for the High Tech High Chula Vista Bruins. Photo by Phillip Brents

Prince aiming for state once more, this time with Hight Tech High-Chula Vista Bruins teammates

High Tech High Chula Vista was among the smaller schools present at the meet but one of the more successful teams at the same time.

Sophomore Valencio Coco won the 2.5-mile boys frosh/soph Mustangs Division race in 15:19.06, winning a duel to the finish line with Francis Parker freshman Quinn Spieker (15:19.47).

The Bruins finished fourth as a team, trailing second place Hilltop by six points and losing a tiebreaker for third place to Mar Vista. Other top finishers for HTH-CV included sophomore Alex Villavazo (10th, 16:28.95) and freshman Aidan Stirk (19th, 16:43.54).

Seniors Drake Prince (17:10.28) and Aiden Ramirez (17:26.31) finished fourth and 12th, respectively, in the 104-deep boys varsity Mustangs Division race.

Prince, who has been running since

High Tech High senior Drake Prince finished fourth in the boys varsity Mustangs Division race. Photo by Phillip Brents

the second grade, qualified for the state meet in both cross country and track and field last season and has goals to do the same this season.

He is a two-time state meet qualifier in cross country and would like to close out his senior year with his team joining him on the trip northward as the Bruins move from the Division IV to the Division V level.

“I think this is the strongest chance to make state as a team that we’ve had in school history,” Prince said. “We were one of the smallest schools in Division IV but we’re right there in Division V. It’s exciting.”

Prince made a little bit of personal history for himself at last spring’s state track meet after winning the boys 800-meter race at the San Diego Section finals (1:55.11) and then recording the top prelim qualifying time (1:53.22) in the event at the ensuing state meet.

He finished 10th at the state finals (1:54.71).

“State was fun,” Prince said. “The goal was a 1:54 to make it to the finals. I went out hard and was very happy with my time. It felt great to accomplish that. The next day my legs were tired. But 10th place at state … it was a great experience.”

Goals are to continue pushing boundaries. “I’m hoping to be a top runner in Division V cross country this year, hopefully the top,” he said.

Ramirez doesn’t expect to be far behind.

“It’s been Drake and I – one, two – since our sophomore year,” Ramirez said. “I’m definitely happy we’ve dropped to Division V. It offers us a better chance to qualify for state.”

San Ysidro junior Missael Felix roars ahead of High Tech High Chula Vista senior Drake Prince to finish third in the boys varsity Mustangs Division race. Photo by Phillip Brents

in the running
San Ysidro, Hilltop, Mar Vista and Castle Park finished third through sixth in the boys varsity Mustangs Division.

San Ysidro junior Missael Felix finished third on the 5K course in 17:08.20, winning a duel down the stretch against Prince by two seconds.

Hilltop sophomores Miguel Tisnado (17:19.22) and Jimmy Byland (17:21.72) finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in the 104-deep field.

Crawford, paced by race winner Byaombe Mioko (16:32.64) captured the team title by a two-point margin over Francis Parker, which was led by runner-up finisher Kenan Pala (16:58.28).

San Ysidro nosed out Hilltop for third place by five points.

Southwest sophomore William Wines finished 14th in 17:49.78, followed by Mar Vista senior Sebastian Pimentel (15th, 18:04.03), San Ysidro seniors Daniel Rodriguez (17th, 18: 07.34) and Joshua Talamantes (19th, 18:12.08) and Castle Park junior Anthony Halbert (23rd, 18:26.22).

Bonita Vista’s Moises Padilla powered from behind to win the Red Devils boys varsity race. Photo by Phillip Brents

Boys JV
Bonita Vista sophomore Moises Padilla won by 14-second margin over runner-up Zachary Zurmuhle, a junior from Scripps Ranch. Sweetwater senior Edgar Sanchez finished seventh in the 178-deep field in 15:17.49, followed by Otay Ranch junior Adrien Galuz (eighth, 15:19.64) and Olympian senior Joshua Quinones (12th, 15:22.67).

Carnell Jelks of Mar Vista won the Mustangs Division boys junior varsity race. Photo by Phillip Brents

Mar Vista senior Carnell Jelks passed the leaders in the field in the second half of the boys JV Mustangs Division race to win with a time of 15:59.72. Crawford senior Yosia Mmbumba was second in 16:03.83, followed by San Ysidro junior Oscar Montellano in third place in 16:19.88.

Southwest junior Brian Adams (seventh, 16:56.16) and Castle Park senior Rodrigo Parra (eighth, 17;09.94) both secured top 10 finishes in the 72-deep field.

Mar Vista finished third in the team standings, followed by Southwest (fourth) and Hilltop (fifth).

San Ysidro sophomore Christian Rojas finished third overall in the boys frosh/soph Mustangs Division while Mar Vista sophomore Erick Mellado finished fourth in 15:53.71.

Other top local finishers in the race included Mater Dei Catholic sophomore Hector Gastellum (12th, 16:31.66) and Mar Vista sophomore Levi Wold (15th, 16:35.85).

Girls JV
Otay Ranch sophomore Yasmine Balvaneda finished eighth in the Red Devils Division in 14:16.28 while Olympian senior Aylette Cisneros was 16th in 14:31.30.

Parade of champions
Division winners also included Christian junior Alaina Zamorano (15:42.30, girls varsity Mustangs Division), Escondido Charter freshman Hayley White (13:22.76, girls JV Mustangs Division) and Ramona senior Amy Brown (15:16.53 varsity girls Red Devils Division).

Next up is the Mt. Carmel Invitational Sept. 21 at Morley Field.


Helix High School senior Jaden Forester medalled as the highest placing boys varsity runner among East County schools at the inaugural Ian Cumming/Tim Latham Invitational. Photo by Phillip Brents

Helix runner setting the pace in cross country

Helix High School senior Jaden Forester is off and running to start the 2019 high school cross country season.

So far, it’s been so good.

Forester was the top East County place-finisher in the Red Devils Division at last Friday’s inaugural 40-team Ian Cumming/Tim Latham Invitational at Rohr Park in Chula Vista, finishing fourth overall in the 110-deep field with a time of 16:43.35 on the 5K course.

Point Loma junior Jake Richardson won the race with a breakaway time of 15:58.17 – a full 21 seconds ahead of runner-up Jose Galvan, a senior from Sweetwater. Scripps Ranch junior Giancarlo da Silva was third in 16:33.12.

Forester ranked among the leaders throughout the race.

The Highlander runner is shooting to become a two-time state meet qualifier after finishing sixth among individuals at last year’s San Diego Section Division I finals. He subsequently finished 69th out of 185 runners at the state meet in Fresno.

“It felt really great to make it as a junior,” Forester said of qualifying for last year’s elite state meet. “Knowing that I have one more year to go, it was a big confidence-maker.”

He seems to be running with a lot of confidence this year.

Helix’s Jaden Forester bolts toward the finish line. Photo by Phillip Brents

Forester stepped off the season by placing second among senior boys at the Wolf Pack Invitational Aug. 30 at West Hills High School. He finished the 2.1-mile course in a personal record 10:09 — eight seconds behind race winner Andrew Sager of El Capitan and one second ahead of third-place finisher Devin Provence of Grossmont.

The Helix harrier bettered his time by seven seconds from last year. His goal is to cut time throughout the season.

“I want to go to state one more time and get in the top 10,” Forester said in listing his goals for his senior year. “I want to win CIF this year in Division I. I think I have a good chance since I was sixth last year and most of the kids ahead of me were seniors.”

Soaring Eagle
Granite Hills junior Manuel Garcia finished sixth overall in the Red Devils Division at last Friday’s cross country invitational with a time of 17:00.87. Garcia finished 17 seconds behind Forester.

Garcia finished eighth among junior/senior boys at the season opening Vaquero Stampede in Lakeside on Aug. 24.

Garcia and senior Matt Henry are the top returners on this year’s Granite Hills boys team, which coach Walter Bueno said is in a rebuilding mode this season.

“We have four returners on the boys team,” Bueno said. “We have seven freshmen; five are looking to run on varsity this year.”

Helix’s Jaden Forester holds a lead on East County rival Manuel Garcia of Granite Hills. Photo by Phillip Brents

Bueno is a 2006 graduate of Granite Hills, competing in both cross country and track and field for the Eagles.

He called it “awesome” to coach at his alma mater.

“This is my fifth year with cross country, to be here is a joy,” he said. “To return and share what I’ve learned, and share my passion for cross country with a new generation is fantastic.”

Christian junior Alaina Zamorano finished first among varsity girls runners in the Mustangs Division at last Friday’s invitational with a time of 15:42.30 for 2.5 miles. She finished 21 seconds ahead of runner-up Rachel White (16:03.63) of Escondido Charter.

Valhalla finished third among boys junior varsity teams in the Red Devils Division, placing just three points behind second place Eastlake. Freshman Leonardo Talia was the top Norseman runner to cross the finish line in the 2.5-mile race in sixth place in 15:16.81. The race featured a total of 178 finishers.


South County runners excel on new home cross country course