CROSS COUNTRY: Riddle-led Immanuel girls overpower section D-V field

Parlier’s Torres gives boys D-IV championship performance in front of large student throng, Reedley boys second in D-II race and advance to state meet

Reedley High’s Mauricio Herrera and El Diamante’s Devin Ibarra speed downhill as they jockey for position in the first mile of the Central Section Division II boys race at Woodward Park on Nov. 16. Senior Ibarra pulled away in the final quarter mile to defeat sophomore Herrera by seven seconds. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published November 17, 2023  • 
11:00 am

FRESNO – The powerful Immanuel High Eagle girls, Parlier High sensation Evan Torres and the Reedley High Pirates boys were the principal regional athletes making a statement at Thursday’s (Nov. 16) Central Section Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park.

The Eagles — reigning Division V section champions looking to improve on a seventh place state finish — posted seven of 10 top 10 finishers to dominate the Division V race with 15 points. Sophomore Clara Riddle, despite being off her season-best time by more than 16 seconds, still posted a winning time of 19 minutes, 4.89 seconds to take medalist honors for a second straight year.

Riddle was joined on the awards stand by teammates Gaby Ramirez (third in 19:38.5), freshman Ainsley Jackson (fourth, 20:02.3), Lexi Schartmann (fifth, 20:28.19), Macie Riddle (sixth, 20:35.65), freshman Bailey Robb (ninth, 21:07.08) and Sarah Larger (10th, 21:11.57).

“We were a little off today timewise, I know the girls can run a little faster but I’m proud with how they competed and how they finished today,” coach Connor Nolen said, “Their goal was to finish all seven of them in the top 10, so they should be really proud of their performance.”

It was a milestone day for Parlier High senior Torres, who bettered his second place finish from 2022 by scoring a 14-second victory over Morro Bay’s Otis Kelly to capture medalist honors for Division IV boys with a time of 15:53.23. He received loud vocal support from the school’s cheer squad, fellow students and school staff who lined the finish line area.

“I’m really thankful for my community, we’re big as a family,” Torres said just before posing for a post-race group photo with cheerleaders and fellow students. “I just really appreciate that they came here and supported me and cheered me on the whole race.”

The soft-spoken senior led the race from the start, methodically setting the pace from the front and still easily winning despite being off his best time by more than 13 seconds. He’s looking to improve on his 20th place state finish from 2022, but noted the importance of winning the section title this time around.

“It was a case of trusting my training, and having the mindset that I’m going to push everyday but stay healthy at the same time,” Torres said “But I (still) said to myself, this year I want to get first, I don’t want to get second.”

The other story was the qualification of the Reedley High boys team for the state meet in Division II. Led by top 10 finishers sophomore Mauricio Herrera (second in a personal record 15:56.63) and junior Brett Mitchell (eighth, PR 16:40.41) and three other top 18 finishers, the Pirates scored 52 team points and finished second to Monache High by just a single point.

Herrera challenged El Diamante senior Devin Ibarra for the majority of the race before Ibarra pulled away at the end to win by seven seconds, but Herrera still bettered his previous PR time in the 5,000 meters by nearly 25 seconds while Mitchell improved on his PR by 14 seconds. Other RHS runners in the top 20 were sophomore Joshua Alcaraz (11th in PR 16:50,58), senior Yeshua Ramos (12th, 17:01.90) and sophomore Luke Mitchell (18th, PR 17:11.19). Sophomore Justin Villa was 35th in a PR time of 17:52.15).

Here’s a recap of other Mid Valley Times runners at the section meet:

Division I

Sanger High’s girls placed third out of 10 teams, but managed to advance two runners to next week’s state meet in sophomore Kinsley Allen (ninth in a PR 18:57.55) and junior Alexa Vaca (10th, PR 19:09.3). Other Apache top 30 finishers were junior Zowie Hernandez (22nd, PR 19:50.4), freshman Genoveva Vaca (30th, PR 20:26.21).

For the boys, junior Sawyer Pugliese came on strong in the final mile to finish eighth and qualify for state with a PR time of 15:41.33. Senior Daniel Galvez challenged near the front in the first mile and finished 13th overall in 15:58.73. Freshman Anthony Rubio (43rd, PR 17:02.06) was next highest as the Apaches placed seventh in team standings with 186 points.

The Sanger High girls cross country team is off and running in the girls Division I race at the Central Section meet on Nov. 16 in Fresno. The Apaches finished third in the team standing with 117 points, and had two state qualifiers in sophomore Kinsley Allen (ninth in at PR 18:57.55) and junior Alexa Vaca (10th in a PR 19:09.22). (Jon Earnest)

Division III-IV

Dinuba High’s teams placed 14th in Division III boys and 14th in D-IV girls, with the top individual performance an 11th place finish by girls freshman Giselle Duarte (21:04.27). The next high girls finisher was senior Seyla Hernandez (78th in 23:46.40). Sanger West sophomore Gigiana Baker (25:45.35) placed 133rd out of 204 runners.

In Division III boys, senior Adolfo Collado was the top DInuba finisher placing 68th out of 150 runners with a time of 18:36.72. Among the girls, Reedley High junior Eva Luevano-Leyva finished 51st in a PR 23:05.72 as the Pirates finished 14th out of 21 teams.

Small Schools

Immanuel High’s boys placed third out of nine schools in Division V, scoring 65 points led by a 10th place finish from sophomore Reid Bishel (17:29.59). Also finishing in the top 20 were junior Christian Van Doren (11th, PR 17:37.11), sophomore Lucas Guzman (13th, 17:47.62), sophomore Koen Ensz (15th, 17:58.72) and freshman Noan Stumpfhauser (17th, 18:12.46).

Jon Earnest