STATE CROSS COUNTRY: Immanuel girls finish close second in Division V

Sophomore Riddle has top five finish as Eagles beaten out in tiebreaker, Parlier’s Torres sets PR while posting 13th place finish in Division IV boys race

Immanuel High’s girls cros country team poses with the CIF State Championships second place team trophy and their team medals on Nov. 25 after finishing second in Division V for 2023. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published November 27, 2023  • 
11:00 am

FRESNO – The Immanuel High girls cross country team came tantalizingly close to becoming the California state champions for Division V at the CIF State Championships.

On Nov. 25, the two-time Central Section champion Eagles actually tied Crystal Springs Uplands High in the team standings, each with 97 points, but was edged out in the tiebreaker process by the Hillsborough school going to the sixth scoring runner.

Still, Immanuel’s second place state finish equaled the Buchanan High girls’ Division I performance for best showing among Central Section schools. It also improved on the Eagles’ seventh place state team finish in 2022.

“This was our best team time ever, five out of seven were new PRs on this course, so I’m extremely proud of them,” Eagles head coach Connor Nolen said of the girls. “They said it was the most competitive Division five race ever (at the state meet), so that’s just fuel for the fire.”

Sophomore Clara Riddle led Immanuel’s girls with a fifth place finish, clocking a personal best 5,000-meters time of 18 minutes, 30.3 seconds to improve on her 10th place state finish last year. She was joined on the PR list by senior Gaby Ramirez (19th place, 19:13.4), sophomore Lexi Schartmann (23rd, 19:22.5), senior Sarah Larger (39th, 19:49.0) and freshman Bailey Robb (70th, 20:18.6).

Freshman Ainsley Jackson (47th, 19:56.4) and senior Macie Riddle (74th, 20:22.6) rounded out the team’s combined overall time of 1 hour, 36 minutes and 52 seconds. Immanuel led the team points standings at the 2.1-mile mark, and were right around the top throughout the race.

“We’ll  be back, hopefully this will motivate us and allow us to work harder at practice to come back next year and fight for it. I’m really proud of them,” said Nolen. “Clara did a great job leading the way, that was a new personal best for her. She battled, and we had some girls step up today. Sarah Larger, I would say, (was) probably the hero of the group. She had a near minute PR.”

Nolen said Riddle and some of the team members will travel to the Foot Locker Cross Country Regional Championships at Mt. San Antonio College in Southern California on Saturday, Dec. 2. “Then, we’ll start preparing for the track season and hopefully we’ll build on that for the next cross country season,” he said.

Immanuel’s performance may have been the brightest, but wasn’t the lone shining moment for Mid Valley Times area schools at the state meet. Parlier High senior Evan Torres followed up his Division IV section title with a solid 13th place, showing with a personal best time of 15 minutes, 38.76 seconds. That topped his previous record for the distance by more than a second.

“I thought on the first mile I was around 4:36, I felt comfortable,” Torres said. “On the second mile I just tried to hold on and maintain the pace. I tried to make something happen, and then everyone was going faster. At the last 800 meters, training with 800 I tried to push it with everything I had.”

Also coming through big was the Reedley High boys, who were barely edged out by Monache High for the section Division II crown. But the Pirates extracted revenge at the state meet, posting the top section team finish of 19th place out of 24 teams with 456 points.

Three runners posted personal best times, including top runners in sophomore Mauricio Herrera (41st in 15:52.7) and junior Brett Mitchell (83rd, 16:26.1). Soph Justin Villa (186th) also had a PR of 17:50.7. Other finishers were sophomore Joshua Alcaraz (134th, 16:54.4), sophomore Luke Mitchell (161st, 17:19.1), senior Yeshua Ramos (167th, 17:28.5) and sophomore Moses Quevedo (198th, 18:26.3).

In Division 1, Sanger’s girls placed 18th out of 21 teams with 434 points, and had two runners place in the top 70. Junior Alexa Vaca rallied in the final mile to move up to 63rd place with a PR of 19:05.3, while sophomore Kinsley Allan finished 67th in a time of 19:10.1. Also running for the Apaches were freshman Genoveva Vaca (124th, PR of 20:09.4), junior Zowie Hernandez (149th, 20:42.6), senior Makenna Alvarez (160th, PR 21:04.8) and sophomore Gabriela Munoz (175th, PR 22:15.1).

“The girls ran great, I thought we ran really well,” said Sanger coach Sean Marzolf. “We managed the race really well. D-1 gets very crowded very quickly and is very fast. We got a bunch of  lifetime bests, which is not easy to do at a state meet. To be (top 20) in the state of California – you can’t complain about that.”

Junior Sawyer Pugliese was Sanger’s lone boys runner, but he posted a personal best time of 16:11.3 to finish 95th out of 182 runners. San Clemente High won the team title with 48 points, with Clovis East and Buchanan placing seventh and 11th, respectively.

“Sawyer ran well. It’s just a fast start and he kind of got caught back, but it’s faster than he ran last year,” Marzolf said.

Reedley High runners including Mauricio Herrera (1353) bolt from the starting line along with El Diamante’s Devin Ibarra (558, left) during a first aborted start of the boys Division II race at the CIF State Championships in Fresno on Nov. 25. Ibarra finished third in the race while Herrera led Pirates runners with a 41st place finish. (Jon Earnest)

Immanuel High had two boys run in Division V, and both posted PR times. Sophomore Reid Bishel finished in 55th place with a time of 16:44.0, while junior Christian Van Doren finished 100th while clocking 17:18.5.

“Both boys competed well and got new personal bests on that course, so I’m really happy for those two,” Nolen said. “I’m excited to see how they lead the boys to hopefully have a team here next year. They’re really hungry – Reid, immediately after the race (said) ‘ Coach, I’m going to work so much harder for next year.’”

Jon Earnest