A year ago, Alex Cuevas was shaken up in a car accident that did more lasting damage to his psychic than to his body.
“It had a huge impact (on me). During that time period, my mentality was really down,” said the Ridgeview High School junior.
All that is in the past now.
Cuevas placed ninth overall in the boys Division III race at the CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park to pace his teammates to the division title.
It was the first state championship in any sport for the school that was founded in 1994 and whose enrollment is 69 percent Latino. It also marked the first cross country team title for any school from Bakersfield.
On Nov. 24, Cuevas clocked 15:40.2 on the 5-kilometer course while the next four Wolfpack runners finished within the top 25 team competitors to help Ridgeview edge Campolindo High of Moraga, 83-94, for the team title.
“It was expected,” said Cuevas after the team received its trophy and individual medals.
Yet, Ridgeview knew it had to rely on its legs and not on its reputation to pull off the team victory.
“The competition was tough,” said Cuevas, who went out with the lead pack but faltered in the final mile. “I just tired to hang on.”
Cuevas finished 45 seconds behind the division winner, Redwood High (Larkspur) senior Liam Anderson – the defending champion – who timed 14:55.3 for the day’s fastest time regardless of division.
The Ridgeview team’s purple-and-gold uniforms arrived in bunches: Junior Ased Adus (18th, 16:00.2); sophomore Gerardo Moreno (20th, 16:01.1); senior Bryan Gaxiola (25th, 16:05.2); senior Jonah Molina (32nd, 16:14.3).
Non-scoring teammates Jordann Bueno, a senior, and sophomore José González also ran.
Cuevas believes the car accident did more good in the long run because he used the recovery period as a motivational tool.
“I’m committed to work hard every day and make up for last season,” said Cuevas, whose team finished sixth last year. Cuevas was 56th last year.
“I use that as motivation,” said Cuevas after he won the CIF Central Section title the previous week.
At the state meet, Gaxiola, who placed ninth in last year’s race, was happy.
“It took a lot of energy, late practices,” said Gaxiola. “I’m proud of everyone. To bring (the state trophy) home shows who we are at state. It’s a blessing.”
▪ Tori Gaitán, a junior, won the girls Division I race to lead Great Oak to its seventh consecutive state title. Gaitán timed 17:19.4 to finish ahead of Buchanan High senior Meagen Lowe, who duplicated her second-place finish from 2017. Other top finishers were Ayala High’s Mikaela Ramírez (third, 17:36.4); Walnut High’s Chloe Arriaga (fourth, 17:39.4); Great Oak’s Fátima Cortes (seventh, 17:51.2); Mira Costa freshman Dalia Frías (eighth, 17:53.3); and, Santa Ana’s María Hernández (ninth, 17:53.8).
▪ McFarland High sophomore Hilda González, the only runner who qualified for the state meet from the legendary school program, placed 66th in 19:09.7. Her time in the Division I race was 40 seconds slower than her time at the section finals.
▪ Clovis North junior Isaiah Galindo placed seventh in the boys Division I race with a time of 15:12.6.
▪ Among the top finishers in the boys Division II race were Newport Harbor High senior Alexis García (seventh, 15:23.1) and Thousand Oaks High junior Michael Mireles (10th, 15:30.0).
▪ Audrey Suárez, a sophomore from Mayfield High, won the girls Division IV title with a time of 17:44.7 to beat Harvard/Westlake freshman Daniela Quintero (17:48.3. Diane Molina of Costa Mesa was fifth (17:58.5), and Lindsay High senior MaKaylie Caesar was 10th (18:24.9).
▪ Sunnyside High junior Jéssica Valles placed 10th in the girls Division III race with a time of 18:40.8. She was one of only four Valley runners (Cuevas, Galindo, and Lowe were the others) to win a medal at the state meet.
▪ Placer High senior Jesús Guerra-Reyes placed sixth in the boys Division IV race (15:46.0).