McFarland junior Devianna Salcedo has a different outlook after a 34th place finish in Division I at the CIF State Cross Country Championships.
Salcedo was the Cougars’ top finisher on the 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) course at Woodward Park on Saturday (Nov. 25) with a time of 18:44.4 in a field of 193 high school runners. Buchanan (Clovis) sophomore Corie Smith won the Division I race at 17:16.7, and Bears’ teammate Meagan Lowe came in second with a time of 17:19.8.
A week ago, McFarland finished third in the team standings at the Central Section finals, but the controversial bump to Division I remains an issue.
“We didn’t run as well as last week,” said McFarland head coach Amador Ayón.
McFarland freshman Hilda González crossed the finish line at 19:05.3 for 62nd place.
Brianna Valles and Kaitlyn Hernández finished 144th and 145th positions, respectively, at 20:17.3 and 20::17.4.
“I exceeded my expectations. I PR’d (personal record) by 30 seconds. I knew I was going a little bit faster, but I didn’t think 30 seconds faster,” said Salcedo.
McFarland has already appealed the decision to move the girls’ team to Division I. The Central Section’s competitive equity rule permits moving a school up-or-down in division based on performance. The rule permits ignoring of school size, which normally places schools in their respective divisions based on enrollment.
“I would be happy going back to D-2. I like D-1 a lot, but it’s just not our division,” said Salcedo.
McFarland has an enrollment of less than 800. Great Oak, the Division I champion, has an enrollment of more than 3,300; runner-up Buchanan has almost 2,700. A higher enrollment means a bigger crop of athletes to choose for teams. (One McFarland runner, freshman Kayli Gonzales, plays on the school’s volleyball team and limits her cross country training).
“I’m really proud of my team, we really pushed through. I think we proved everyone wrong,” said Great Oak sophomore Tori Gaitán, who finished sixth with a time of 17:35.9.
Gaitán, a former soccer player up to about a year ago, said plenty was proven at the state finals.
“We graduated a lot of our team last year, so we came in as a young team,” she added.
Great Oak teammate Fátima Cortes, an alternative on her squad last season, led the team with a fourth-place finish among 193 runners.
“My goal throughout the season was to work in the top five for Great Oak. I saw that I had a lot more in me than I thought I did,” said Cortes, a junior who won the CIF Southern Section title in Temecula the previous week.
Great Oak, ranked No. 2 in the nation by milesplit.com, won the team standings with 71 points. Buchanan finished in second with 103 points.
“It’s just so amazing. We’ve all worked so hard for this,” said Buchanan senior Clare Hernández, “I just think about how much work we’ve put into it, and we care so much about each other.”
Hernández is undecided on her choice of colleges, but will pursue cross country.
Representing Saugus from the Southern Section, Mariah Castillo ended Division II behind winner Haley Herberg of Capistrano Valley.
Herberg crossed the finish line at 17-minutes flat and Castillo trailed at 17:15.7.
Saugus topped Capistrano in the standings for second place with 100 points, while Herberg led her squad to fourth place with 123 points. Claremont of the Southern Section earned the first place honor with 69 points. Granada of the Northern Coast Section was third with 102 points.
“It’s been great to be on this team, all my teammates. I’ve been here (at state finals) for four years now,” said Castillo.
Oak Park junior Sylvia Cruz-Albrecht led her squad with a third-place finish with a time of 18:14.6.
Just over a week ago, Cruz-Albrecht earned the Southern Section Division III title.
Gillian Wagner, a senior from Redwood (NCS), won the race at 17:49.3; McKenna Brown, of La Costa Canyon, finished second at 18:02.5.
Campolindo (NCS) won the team standings with 101 points. Vista Del Lago (Sac-Joaquín) finished in second place with 132 points and La Costa Canyon rounded off the top-three with 142 points.
New to cross country running is Mayfield freshman Audrey Suárez from the Southern Section. Suárez began the sport less than two years ago.
Suárez crossed the finish line in third with a time of 18:04.1 behind Mari Friedman, of Central Coast Section Santa Cruz, and new record holder Claudia Lane, who earned the top honor in 16:30.3.
“Coming into the race, my coach kind of told me who I should stay close to; I was definitely looking out for those people,” said Suárez.
“All of our team had high expectations for ourselves; I definitely told myself I wanted to be in the top five, or so.”
Rylee Bowen of Sonoma Academy earned a third state cross country title finishing the course at 18:17.9.
St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) junior Emily Pérez, finished second with a time of 18:24.2. Bowen’s little sister and teammate, Kate Bowen, rounded off the medalists with a 10th-place finish at 18:49.4. Rylee won the state title as a freshman then again as a sophomore.
Washington Union freshman Caliska Avila finished her first state final in 138th place at 22.14.7. Avila won the Central Section title a week earlier with a time of 21:03.57.
“I think I could have done a lot better. If I put a little more effort into it, next season, I feel I can do a little better,” said Avila.