After a 2017 season that was marred by a previous injury, Hailey Cross entered last Saturday’s Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division Championships with plenty of motivation. Even though Cross didn’t record a personal-record (PR) at Toro Park in Salinas, her time of 21 minutes, 1 second was good enough for eighth place and the fastest mark for the San Benito High girls cross country team.
The Haybalers were 14 spots/positions off from Gilroy, which totaled 66 points to win the league championship. Even though San Benito entered the race seeking another title, it had to take solace in the fact that it gave everything it had. In a sport like cross country—where pain is plentiful—giving a maximum effort should leave one’s head held high.
“Obviously, we wanted to go and perform well,” Cross aid. “We got second, but we gave it our best effort.”
The sentiment was similar for the boys team, as it took third behind Alisal and Pacific Grove. Senior Joseph Loredo, who is the No. 1 runner for the Balers, finished ninth overall in 17:05. It’s been an up and down season for Loredo, whose times at the beginning of the season were slower than at any point he ran in his junior season. However, Loredo continued to put in the miles and slowly saw his times get faster as the season went on.
“I was expecting to run a little faster,” he said. “When I came through (the finish line), I was a little disappointed with my time. But I gave it my best.”
Cross has come full circle. After suffering a stress fracture during her sophomore season while competing during track season, the injury lingered into the following fall for her junior cross country season. She still managed to race through it and produced some strong performances, given her condition. This season, Cross was healthy from the outset, and it showed. In the league finals, Cross felt strong and made sure to stay mentally tough throughout the race.
“This year I felt a lot better,” she said. “I felt I was in better shape than last year and it showed in practice and my races. I’ve loved every second of running cross country and track since I entered high school because they’re my preferred sports.”
Freshman Cynthia Tena finished 12th overall in 21:26, senior Mariah Changco placed 16th in 21:40, senior Joanna Macias took 21st in 21:51 and sophomore Lauren Okamoto finished 23rd in 22:03. Cross played soccer in her freshman and sophomore years before closing that chapter in her life last year. In the league championships, Cross played a vital leadership role in trying to lead her teammates to stay with the lead pack for as long as possible.
“I felt like I had to push myself harder than I usually do,” she said. “The plan was to stay up with her (Okamoto) because we wanted a lot of us to come in together. In my head I told myself I felt good, the legs felt good and my breathing was OK.”
When Loredo lined up at the start line, he felt great. Afterward, not so much. That’s a byproduct of running hard at a physical course like Toro Park. Despite not being at his best, Loredo still ran a solid time as he raced together with teammate Christian Chavez for the majority of the race. Chavez, a junior, finished 12th overall in 17:19. A couple of teammates followed closely behind, with senior Elliot Ruiz taking 13th in 17:23, sophomore Josue Murillo Gonzalez finishing 14th in 17:25 and sophomore Anton Borges rounding out the team’s scoring by placing 18th in 17:29.
“I started off pretty good and just wanted to stay with the lead pack,” Loredo said. “I knew if I could stay with them, it would be a pretty good run.”
However, Loredo started to suffer at around the 2-mile mark, as a couple of runners passed him on the back side of the course. Still, Loredo maintained a steely focus to finish with his third best time ever at Toro Park.
“Christian and I were working together in trying to stay with the Alisal people, knowing they were the team that would be there at the end,” Loredo said.
Cross and Loredo have been stalwarts for the last couple of years, and they know they’ll be leaving the program in good hands, er, legs. On the girls team, freshmen Tena has dazzled at times this season, while Gonzalez and Borges are sophomores who have the potential to finish among the top 10 individuals in next year’s league finals.