taking first place by nearly a minute
The San Benito boys cross country team had a simple strategy going into Tuesday’s meet with Palma.
Let Chieftain Tyre Johnson run his own race.
Arguably the area’s top harrier, Johnson did just that when he clocked a 15:21 at the four-way meet at Natividad Creek Park in Salinas, where he took first place by nearly a minute against runners from Hollister, North Salinas and Everett Alvarez.
But San Benito, with perhaps a trick up their sleeve, ran their own race as well Tuesday and followed Johnson’s lead by taking second, third, fourth and fifth place to beat Palma, 24-31.
“It was a good victory for the boys,” said boys coach Jess Morales, noting that Palma was ranked two spots ahead of San Benito at No. 11 in the latest polls by the San Jose Mercury News.
“It was real good,” he added. “The kids went out and challenged them.
“We responded well as a team.”
The ‘Balers ran in bunches as Adrian Rodriguez finished second overall at 16:20, while teammate Frankie Rivera followed in third at 16:21. Jose Castillo took fourth at 16:43 and Eddie Guzman finished fifth at 16:44.
“If they hadn’t done that,” Morales said of the bunching, “it would have been tough to beat Palma.”
Omar Vasquez rounded out San Benito with a 17:30 and Jorge Aguilar clocked an 18:01.
“Like I told the guys, ‘We need to win if we want a chance at league finals,'” Morales said. “It’s more of a challenge for us now because now the kids can run for something at finals.
“We needed the win just to show the guys we have a chance.”
San Benito also defeated North Salinas 22-34 and Everett Alvarez 15-45.
On the girls side, the Lady ‘Balers made quick work of their three opponents, as they defeated Notre Dame 19-37, beat Everett Alvarez 15-45, and ran past North Salinas 19-39.
“Our girls did awesome,” girls coach Josh Morales said. “We swept the whole thing.”
Courtney Allen occupied her usual spot at the top when she ran an 18:58 to take first overall, while the bulk of the remaining runners stayed together and finished within the 20-minute marker.
Grace Tobias followed Allen shortly after in 20:09, Dayna Casillas clocked a 20:13, Ana Rosa Duarte recorded a 20:37, Rachel Shimabukuro a 20:42 and Vanessa Farias rounded out the team with a 21:51.
“We had some really good performances,” Morales said. “We had a couple of girls under the weather, but they still came in second and third.
“If they hadn’t run, we might have not taken first so it was big for the girls to step it up.”
San Benito will have their final meet of the regular season on Monday when they host Alisal at Park Hill in Hollister. Race time is 3:30 p.m.