The two fastest runners at the Central Section Cross Country Championships Thursday at Woodward Park won’t be racing against each other any time soon.
That’s because Division I champion Marcus Mota, a junior at Stockdale High School, and Division II winner Moíses Medrano, a senior at Highland High School, are in different divisions.
However, they are in an elite level.
Mota clocked 15:30.51 to run away with the Division I title, with Clovis North High sophomore Isaiah Galindo more than 10 seconds behind in second.
Medrano, who fought off a cold this week, defended his Division II title with a time of 15:35.11. Runner-up Iván Méndez, a Monache High junior, was second in 15:54.83.
“Honestly, I wasn’t expecting what I did today,” said Mota, whose plan was to go with the flow at the beginning.
On the downhills, he surged in front of the pack.
Mota likes the competition he has had with Medrano. They are “great friends” and ocassionally train together on the weekends.
“We always have a great competition,” said Mota. “It’s a good competition. Hopefully, we can race each other.”
Mota will be joined by top individuals and qualifying teams at the state meet Nov. 25 at Woodward Park.
“I’ll just do as best as possible there,” he said.
Mota said he struggled at the start of the season.
“I had like a rough patch. My ego’s a little high, but then I started putting in more work and saw the results. Now, I’m getting more confident with every race.”
A day after signing a scholarship offer with Cal, Medrano slowly pulled away from the pack to win easily.
“This year, I just tried to improve myself,” said Medrano. “Rather than the competition of defending my title, I came in more mental. I felt good as the race started.”
Medrano said he didn’t race as hard as he could have. He wants to save that extra for the state meet.
When Medrano ran away after the 2-mile mark, Iván Méndez figured out he couldn’t keep up with the eventual champion. Instead, he decided to go after the second-place runner.
The strategy paid off for the Monache High junior, as he finished second overall in 15:54.83.
“We wanted the team title,” said Ivan, whose goal at the state meet is a sub-15:30 time.
He has been hampered most of the year with tendon and knee injuries, but feels he’s healthy enough to enjoy the races.
Boys Division V
Junior Daniel Jiménez of Summit Collegiate Charter Academy (Porterville) ran his best race of the year in finishing second in 17:20.13.
That was good enough to qualify him for the state meet.
“I’m just glad I made it to state,” said Jiménez. “Whatever I can give, I’ll do.”
Jiménez ran the same Woodward Park course two weeks ago and finished about a minute slower than Thursday.
“I was just more prepared,” he said. “The second time around I had a better idea of the course, and I trained better for hills.”
In the race, Jiménez felt “a little nervous” in the first mile because he was with a pack of runners. “The hills separated people,” he said.
Garrin Schaap, a junior at Central Valley Christian, won in 16:44.77.
Other top 10 finishers included Granite Hills High senior Jonah Flores (5th, 17:41.77; and, Desert High sophomore Ethan Escamilla (8th, 17:51.97).
Chowchilla High School has never been in a Central Section cross country meet, but it acted as if the stage was theirs in dominating the boys team race.
Chowchilla, which resurrected its cross country team, got top 10 finishes from junior Kristian Robles (6th, 17:42.01) and sophomore Connor Borba (10th, 17:51.97) to ease past California City High, 85 points to 93.
Coach Kyle Martinez was confident his team would win, only if the fourth-through-seventh runners came through.
“We’ve held first all season, and came in expecting to win,” said Martinez, a former middle and long distance runner at Chowchilla High.
José Ramírez, the only runner from the original 2015 team, had an off day and finished seventh on the team with a time of 20:15.92. He expects to be ready for state.
“Today was a team effort,” said Ramírez.
Ridgeview High (Bakersfield) senior Austin García broke away in the final 800 meters to win Division III with a time of 16:09.24. But, he had company.
Garcia and teammate Bryan Gaxiola, a junior, kept together before deciding to break for it.
“We said, ‘Let’s go!,’” said García, whose time was a personal best.
Gaxiola was second in 16:13.09.
Prayer worked for the team, said García.
“We dedicated the race to a teammates’s grandmother. We pray every race,” he said.
Ridgeview dominated in the team race, placing five runners in the top 10 to win with 23 points. Runner-up Corcoran High, which was led by sophomores Marcos Ramírez (16:48.22) and Vicente Rojas (16:57.81), was second with 115 points.
Mohammed Ali, who finished third last year, ran away with the Division V race with a time of 16:28.36.