A year ago, San Benito went into the Central Coast Section finals with high hopes. Both squads were coming off Tri-County Athletic League championships and expected to have good showings in the CCS race.
But sometimes, things you can’t control happen.
While running in the boys race, the entire San Benito team slipped and fell. The Balers got up and tried to catch up with the pack – but they couldn’t.
On the girls side, Vanessa Estrada continued to run well, but the Balers couldn’t place and advance to the CIF state championship.
This year, the team’s expectations are even higher as the team prepares for Saturday’s CCS final at Crystal Springs Cross Country Course in Belmont.
With pristine and perfect league records, both the girls and boys squads expect to make it to the state championship.
“I expect to be honest, I expect second to none. I have always said that,” head coach Jess Morales said. “With the confidence they have right now … we just have to put it together. We have nothing to lose.”
The boys squad, ranked third in the CCS to Carlmont and Bellarmine, has been among the section’s best all year long. After its showing in the TCAL championship, the Balers runners know they need to do better.
“We are just hoping to do our best and do much better than what we did at TCALs,” Said Hernandez noted “We messed up there. Although we won, we could have done much better. We are hoping to win it.”
And the Balers are using their disappointing first-place finish at the TCAL championship as motivation at the CCS finals.
“Actually, it’s a lot of motivation,” Hernandez said. “We want to push it. We are aggressive persons and we want to get better times every time.”
Morales expects his team to continue their season’s success and have the confidence to run hard.
“I hope they look at me like I have confidence in the team,” he said. “Because I do have confidence in the team – they are one of the fastest teams I’ve ever coached.”
He continued; “We just have to go out and run like the way we have been running all year. We have been running aggressive, strong. I expect them to run the race like we’ve been running all year long.”
Luckily for the Balers, it won’t be the first time they’ve raced at Crystal Springs this year.
In the home course for both Carlmont and Bellarmine, San Benito’s Victor Esqueda ran the Balers fastest time of 17:45 at an Oct. 8 Invitational. On the girls side, Vanessa Estrada finished in third place with a time of 17:40.
Morales believes that one-time experience will help the runners on the difficult, hilly course.
“We ran there and we aren’t too bad,” Morales said. “We aren’t too far from where they are running. I feel kind of good about it.”
On the girls side, Estrada is keeping her team confident.
“We want to be the best,” she said. “If we win it’s going to be a big thing for us. It will be the first time we won CCS and finished number one. That’s our goal and that’s what we want to do.”
If the Balers do make it to the state championships, it would be a special day for the program and Morales.
“I hope that people will understand that once they see Hollister up there in the top 15 or even the top 5 – there is a lot of high schools out there – we are ranked third, Morales said. “For a program that we have, it’s going to make a statement.”
A statement that Morales hopes is shared with the community.
“We want to have the community come out and watch us run,” he said. “Just come and watch us run because it’s going to be an exciting race. We need people out there to support us. If we do make it to state it’s going to be great for the program.”
The Balers first race is expect to take place at 11:30 a.m.