Cross Country: Garcia makes state; Balers solid again

Angel Garcia finished in 13th place in the CCS Championships to earn a second straight berth to the CIF State Meet.

Angel Garcia waited. And waited. And waited. Sweat dripping down his face after a grueling run, the Anzar High senior stood near the score post for what seemed like an eternity waiting to see if he had qualified to the CIF State Cross Country Championships for the second straight year.

Garcia was with his coach, mom and some friends at the Crystal Springs Course in Belmont last Saturday, the site of the Central Coast Section Championships. From the end of a race—in this case, the Division V boys—it usually takes about five minutes for the results to get posted.

When Garcia found out that he had finished 13th and earned a trip to state, he was more relieved than anything else.

“Waiting for that felt like I finished another race again,” said Garcia, who finished in 17 minutes, 14.8 seconds over the 2.95-mile course on a warm day in Belmont. “I was so scared when I passed the finish line because I went out too fast and a lot of guys passed me. Now I have one more chance at redemption.”

Garcia was referring to his showing in the state meeting a year ago, when he left disappointed after what he deemed a poor race. Garcia, who ran the same Belmont course 29 seconds faster in last year’s CCS Championships, survived a rough start to punch his ticket to state.

“About three-fourths of a mile in, I was just trying to hold on at that point,” he said. “I felt really tired and tried to hold on as best as I could.”

In Division I action, the San Benito High girls finished one spot out from making it to state—they placed third but was a distant 70 points behind runner-up Monta Vista for the last state berth.

Despite coming up short, the Balers ran well. Elli Kliewer and Samantha Cortez crossed the finish line in 11th and 12th place, respectively. Afterward, the two juniors smiled at each other, knowing they had given everything they had. Kliewer finished in 19:48.1 and Cortez in 19:54.4. Teammates who also counted in the scoring included Brianna Martin (30th in 20:29.1), Hailey Cross (43rd in 20:52.5) and Makenna Parks (63rd in 21:24.6).

Kliewer got injured halfway through the season and slowly made her way back to almost peak form. Cortez has been healthier this season compared to 2015, resulting in consistent times. Physically and strategically, Cortez and Kliewer felt satisfied with the outcome.

“Actually, everything did work out,” Cortez said. “I didn’t die where I thought I was going to die (on a hill just past the two-mile mark).”

Said Kliewer: “The plan was to stick together, but it doesn’t always work out that way. We didn’t want to do a dead sprint from the start or else you’ll be tired right away. We conserved energy and gave it our all in the last 800 yards or so.”

The San Benito boys also had a solid showing, placing 13th out of 20 teams in the packed Division I field. Once again, Joseph Loredo led the way with a 40th-place finish in 16:57.1. He was followed by Angel Cortes (60th in 17:15.2), Nico Tapia (68th in 17:21.4), Elliot Ruiz (76th in 17:27.7) and Christian Casarez (92nd in 17:45.5).

If everything goes to form, the Balers will field a loaded team next season. Loredo, Casarez, Ruiz and Tapia are all sophomores, as is Gerald Maresh, who was the team’s sixth-place runner. Junior Luis Mendoza was the team’s seventh placer, meaning San Benito will return six of its top seven runners next year.

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