The season ended a step below the ultimate goal for the San Benito boys and girls cross-country teams Saturday. The teams failed to place in the top two of the Division I Central Coast Section championship at Belmont, finishing their season before the state championship.
But, one Baler – Vanessa Estrada – qualified for the state race at Fresno’s Woodward Park on Nov. 26.
At the beginning of both races, the Balers looked like they would advance. R.J. Collins and Estrada both got off to quick starts, pacing the first mile of each race.
Collins was joined by the rest of his team in the front pack of the boys race. But after that quick first mile, the team slowly started to fall behind.
“We started really good overall,” noted Said Hernandez. “We were doing good but I don’t know what happened at the end. We just started dying out.”
Collins said the quick start – the first mile was timed under five minutes – could have tired out the team.
“The first mile was definitely fast – it really made it hard to keep it,” he said. “So we lost a lot of energy doing that and the guys behind us could pass us.”
Eventually, Collins dropped to 13th place with a time of 15:49, nearly a minute slower than winner Yohaness Estifanos of Militias. Steven Velarde (16:02) finished in 19th place and Hernandez (16:18) finished in 22nd place.
Ricardo Esqueda (16:24) and Omar Vasquez (16:25) rounded out the boys top five.
The times placed the Balers in a disappointing third place with 111 points. Carlmont and Bellarmine placed first and second to earn spots in the state championship.
Despite the Balers finish, head coach Jess Morales was proud of his team.
“We had a good year and I’m proud of all the guys and stuff,” he said. “They ran their hearts out. It’s real tough when you come to a race like this and the top four teams out of the top 15 are in my division. I was hoping to sneak in at second place.”
He continued, “The whole year was good, and we did the best we could.”
On the girls side, Estrada started with a big lead in the first mile, but as the race continued, the All-Tri-County League runner started to labor.
In the last mile, as the Crystal Springs course maneuvered through a hilly terrain, Estrada started to drop. Estrada collapsed at the finish line in eighth place with a time of 18:49.
Estrada was treated inside an on-site ambulance after finishing the race. Estrada was also the only Baler to qualify for the state championship on Nov. 26 in Fresno.
Maura Forbush (19:33) finished 15th for San Benito and freshman Amy Quinones (20:12) finished 27th. Molly Lamanna (20:30) and Anjelica Collins (21:31) rounded out the Baler scoring.
The Balers finished in fifth place with 148 points. Carlmont and Gun took the top two spots.
“I’m really proud of the girls. They tried their hardest and that’s all I could ask,” Forbush said. “We have bad days, it sucks that it was today but everyone has bad days. And today was that day.”
Girls coach Josh Morales called the season a success.
“We did really good overall,” he said. “It would have been great to go to state, but the season was awesome, you couldn’t ask for more. It was a great group of girls and guys. It was like a family atmosphere and that’s all you can ask for. We all did awesome. It all ends today but we’ll be back next year stronger.”
Despite finishing fifth in the team standings, the Hawks will send two boy runners to the state championship in Fresno.
Diego Leon and Diego Avila finished with identical times of 17:20 to place fifth and sixth in the Division V standings. The two runners were the fastest group of runners not to have their team qualify for a berth in the state championship.
The next Anzar finisher, Christian Monroy, finished in the No. 23 slot with a time of 18:17. Crystal Springs and York finished first and second overall.
The girls team placed sixth overall with a score of 155. Monica Medina led the way for the Hawks finishing in 17th place with a time of 22:45. Carly Zako finished with a time of 24:03, good for 31st place.