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Metro runners get off to fast start in 2005

Trojans display fleet feet at Wolf Pack, Vaquero invitationals


By Phillip Brents

Posted Sept. 8, 2005

The Castle Park Trojans are about as ready as they can be to start the 2005 high school cross country season. The Trojans conducted high altitude training sessions, and runners put in between 30 and 40 miles each week over the summer to work on conditioning. Both should be key factors to Castle Park’s success this fall.

That much was evident at last weekend’s season-opening West Hills Wolf Pack Invitational and Vaquero Stampede as the Trojans made a spectacular back-to-back debut. In last Friday afternoon’s Wolf Pack Invitational, Eli Ledezma medaled by finishing 13th in the boys junior race. The next morning, running in the Vaquero Stampede in Lakeside, he won the boys junior/senior Division 2 race — a feat that has not been accomplished, in recent memory at least, by a Castle Park runner.

For good measure, Julia Hernandez — coming off a state qualifying performance last year as a freshman — placed fifth among sophomore girls at the Wolf Pack Invitational.

Castle Park captured a South Bay League co-championship last year with Otay Ranch after engineering a stunning first-place finish in the concluding league championship meet over the defending champion Mustangs. Castle Park produced a meet low score of 30 points to Otay Ranch’s 36 points. The higher finish at league finals balanced out Otay Ranch’s 22-36 regular season dual meet victory to hand both teams a share of the 2004 league title.

The Trojans’ late season success continued at the San Diego Section finals as 2004 South Bay League champion Edgar Medina moved up early in the Division II boys race and managed a 19th place finish among individuals.

Ledezma navigated the 2.15-mile Vaquero Stampede course in 11:12 to mark the third time in as many seasons that a CP runner had captured the division title. Jorge Diaz won the race in 2003 while Medina won it in 2004. Samuel Ledezma, Eli’s twin brother, finished eighth in this year’s race in 12:00.

Top runners this season include Medina, Diego Martinez, Antonio Estrada, Enrique Silva, Eli Ledezma, Maggy Padilla and Hernandez, who recently ran 19:08 in a 5K race.

Hernandez posted a highly decorated freshman season last year — placing second at the South Bay League finals before earning an 11th place finish at the Division II section championship meet and a trip to the state finals — and does not appear to be slowing down any time soon.

Castle Park’s girls team, keyed by Hernandez and junior Veronica Gonzales’ 19th place finish, placed 10th in last year’s Division II girls standings. Hernandez recorded a time of 9:42 over 1.6 miles at this year’s West Hills Invitational.

The Trojans boys team returns three all-league runners. Martinez was fourth at last year’s South Bay League finals while Eli Ledezma was ninth. Enrique Silva finished 18th in the senior race at the Wolf Pack Invitational while Mago Alvarado (19th) and Angel Marquez (24th) both ran to top 25 finishes in the boys frosh/soph Division 2 race at the Vaquero Stampede.

Chula Vista’s Spartans

The defending Mesa League champion Chula Vista girls team stepped off the 2005 season in equally high fashion as Virginia Madero finished third in the junior/senior Division 1 race (10:04 for 1.65 miles) and teammate Angelica Larios followed in fifth place (10:09). Jackie Villa finished 14th in the girls frosh/soph race, timing 10:38. El Capitan’s Christy James finished first in 9:44 to set the standard.

In the girls junior/senior Division 1 race, the Spartans had a pair of top 25 finshers: Priscilla Mares (22nd, 11:13) and Andrea Lopez (24th, 11:17).

On the boys side, Roberto Hernandez (sixth at last year’s Mesa League finals) placed fifth in the boys junior/senior race (10:45 for 2.15 miles). He tied with the same time with fourth-place finsher Matt Van Dyke of Vista but the two were well back of race-winner Jesse O’ Brien of San Pasqual (10:28).

The Spartans finished in a tie for second place (with Sweetwater) in last year’s Mesa League standings and could be looking to climb the ladder this season. Chula Vista had two other runners post top 20 finishes in the boys junior/senior race: Martin Jimenez placed 16th in 11:09 while Francisco Solano placed 19th in 11:29. Mikkel Conver placed 31st (among 68 finishers) in 11:59.

Eastlake Titans

Eastlake High’s boys and girls cross country teams took a bold step last year. Titan head coach Joe Stubbs hopes it is a step into a new era for the school. "We are building a tradition in cross country at Eastlake," he said.

The Titans girls team had a 4-1 league record in posting a runner-up Mesa League finish and the boys team finish 2-3. Included in the girls team’s victory total was a history-making dual meet win against perennial Metro Conference power Bonita Vista. The Titans dropped a 27-28 dual meet to league champion Chula Vista.

On the girls side, returning are all-league runners Heather Voigt, Tania Andrade and Daphnee Dion. Supporting them will be Maria Lisa Crimi, Anette De La Rosa, Sara McKinney and Sam Bankston. Stubbs said there are several newcomers who will make there presence felt.

Eastlake placed three runners among the top nine finishers at last year’s league finals: Andrade (fourth), Voigt (fifth) and Dion (ninth). McKinney finished 14th as the Titans’ fourth medal-winner (the top 15 finishers received medals).

The boys team is anchored this season by Eric Fujikawa and Jeff Welch. Challenging the top two will be Che Nevarez, Alex Oleata, David Flores, Scott Walling and Sean Szafarski.

Fujikawa turned in the highest finish at last year’s league finals by placing eighth to earn First Team All-Mesa League honors. Oleata was 30th and Welch was 35th in the combined field of 80 Mesa League and South Bay League runners.

However, youth will be served on the 2005 squad with more than two thirds of the team being freshmen or sophomores. Stubbs said there are only three seniors on the team’s 50 student-athlete roster. But the Eastlake coach feels that will not deter the team from having a successful season.

"More than half have never run a cross country race before. How do I like our chances? I like them a lot," Stubbs said. "These youngsters are pushing themselves every day. They are learning the fruition from good old fashioned hard work, dedication and the desire to do their best. They are learning the biggest enemy of great is good. You can never be satisfied with anything less than your best — and every day go out to work out with a burning desire to become better. That is what I see in this team. Last year we became respectable. This is a new year and Eastlake cross country teams do not want to just be good anymore."

The Titans certainly put their best foot forward at last Saturday’s Vaquero Stampede. Fujikawa got off to a particularly strong start to the season with his third-place finish in the boys frosh/soph Division 1 race, timing 8:29 for 1.65 miles. He trailed race-winner Jared Threw of Vista by 12 seconds and runner-up Mac Fleet of University City by eight seconds.

Overall, the Titans fared well in the boys junior/senior race, with Welch finishing 11th in 10:59 and teammates Oleata finishing 15th in 11:06 and Nevarez finishing 17th in 11:23. Just missing a top 20 finish was Walling, who placed 23rd in 11:39.

Eastlake showed promise in the girls junior/senior Division 1 race as well with a pair of top 10 placers: Andrade (eighth, 10:23) and Crimi (ninth, 10:28). McKinney finished 18th in 10:59.

Success went across the board for the Titans. Rachel Naranjo (10:28) and Anette DeLaRosa (10:30) were 10th and 11th in the girls frosh/soph Division 1 race (1.65 miles) while Voigt (10:41) was 16th among the 67 finishers.

Hilltop Lancers

The defending South Bay League champion Hilltop girls team showed well in its first race of the season. Tanya Valenzuela finished fourth in the girls frosh/soph Division 2 race, timing 10:37 for 1.65 miles. Two teammates followed among the top 25 finishers: Ashley Ledezma (15th in 11:44) and Jessica Torres (21st in 12:09).

In the girls junior/senior Division 2 race, Lisa Lane finished fourth in 10:39, followed by teammate Karla Atencio in seventh place in 11:15. Lane and Atencio are both returning All-South Bay League runners. Lane placed third at last year’s finals while Atencio was sixth.

Mar Vista Mariners

Mar Vista’s girls team also looks to show progress this season after a trio of runners engineered top 20 place-finishes in the girls frosh/soph Division 2 race: Adriana Moore (eighth, 11:12), Alexus Ortega (10th, 11:24) and Justine Moses (17th, 11:51).