Fifteen El Paso runners seek individual state medals

State Championship Previews

Saturday: Tornillo boys.

Sunday: San Elizario boys.

Monday: Hanks boys.

Tuesday: Eastwood boys.

Wednesday: Franklin girls.

Thursday: Americas boys.

Friday: Individual qualifiers.

Make Plans

What: UIL State Cross Country Championship.

When:  Saturday Nov. 9. All times (CST): Girls Class 3A, 10:50 a.m.; Boys Class 3A, 11:20 a.m.; Girls Class 4A, noon;  Boys Class 4A, 12:30 p.m.; Girls Class 5A, 1:10 p.m.; Boys Class 5A, 1:50 p.m.; Girls Class 6A, 2:30 p.m.; Boys Class 6A, 3:10 p.m.

Where:  Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

At Stake: State team and individual titles.

Chapin senior Angel Contreras (Bib No. 1609), will try to improve on his 23rd place state finish. His time last year was 15:48.70.

The Region 1 cross country championship can be excruciating, especially if you are not part of a state-qualify team and you have to wait until the final results are revealed to find out if you advanced or not.

You see, only the top four teams and the top 10 runners not on a qualifying team advance so you can cut the tension with a knife as runners from all across the region wait anxiously for the results.

As always, El Paso will have a full delegation with 15 individual runners headed to state. 

From Class 6A –  Americas senior Mariana Guzman; Montwood junior Karyme Garcia, Coronado senior Nick Gonzalez and freshman Kyra Walker and Franklin senior Fernie Morales, Franklin.

From Class 5A – Jefferson sophomore Crystal Peterson and junior Melody Tsuitsumi; Lauren Walls-Portillo, sophomore, Eastwood; Eastlake sophomore Israel David and Angel Contreras, senior, Chapin.

From Class 4A- Mt. View junior  Kayhla Talavera, senior Nicole Estrada and junior Joshua Gonzalez and Karina Gallegos, junior, San Elizario.

Class 3A – Freshman, Kylene Elias, Tornillo.

Jefferson sophomore Crystal Peterson is making her second trip to the UIL State Cross Country Championship. She was 43rd last year in 19:21.03.

Last year, Eastwood sophomore Lauren Walls-Portillo ran her first state championship as part of the Troopers team in Class 5A.

“I’m going to pretend my team is with me right there because they are my motivation,” she said. “I know how much they wanted to make it but they will be with me in my heart and spirit.”

She finished 45th in 19:25.55 last year.

“It was a great opportunity for me,” she said of the 2018 meet. “Just being there was an amazing feeling. I ran pretty good but this year and I feel much stronger so I’m shooting for a higher finish.”

Knowing the course is going to be an advantage for her.

“It’s flat so that’s good,” she said. “I’m thankful that I made it. I want to go into the race with confidence and work just as hard as I did last year. I didn’t have a race strategy last year, I was just so excited to be there, but this year I actually do. I’m going to try to stay with the front pack and hopefully not die out.”

Coronado’s Gonzalez, who ran varsity all four years, will also be running his second state meet. Last year he was 21st in 15:29.16.

“Running at state has always been a dream, ever since freshman year,” he said. “Getting to regionals each year, but not making it until junior year, and now being able to make it again, is really great.”

He is looking for an All State, top 10 finish.

“I think I can do very well,” he said. “I’ve been able to continue to grow each year and each year I’ve improved. My cross country experience at Coronado has been amazing. I’ve been able to see myself progress and it really feels good seeing the work pay off.”

Mt. View junior Joshua Gonzalez will try to make the most of his first state meet at the Class 4A race. He was 14th at the region 1 race finishing in 16:09.50.

Eastlake sophomore Isreal David was 43rd at last year’s Class 5A state race in 16:09.56.

He was able to experience the state experience which should serve him well his second time around.

“There’s a lot of competition there with a lot of fast runners who are going to push me pretty hard,” he said. “I’m in better shape this year because I’ve been improving a lot, working on my training and fixing what I need to fix. I going for a top 10 finish, I think I’m physically and mentally prepared for that.”

New to the state championship are Tornillo freshman Kylene Elias, Americas senior Mariana Guzman and Franklin senior Fernie Morales.

“I couldn’t believe I qualified,” said Guzman. “It felt like a dream come true. I’ve very thankful and really happy I get to represent not only my school but all of the hard work my coaches have put into coaching me.”

Guzman was 13th in the Class 6A race at regionals, racing to a 18:14.40, the second best finish from El Paso.

“It was intimidated going into the race,” she said. “I felt I was a little bit conservative towards the middle of the race thinking I might die out. I could have done a lot better so I’m looking to improve on Saturday.”

Guzman’s successful senior campaign comes after suffering through a season of injuries her junior year.

“I love running,” she said. “I love having my teammates there all the time. It was positive environment that I wanted to come back to, they are the ones that kept me going.”

Tornillo’s Elias, all  4-feet, 11-inches and 80 pounds of her, won the 2-mile, Class 3A Region 1 championship in 11:57.60 to become the first Tornillo girls to win regionals and advance to state.

“Regionals was a very cool experience  because  Hannah Spears (from Holliday) was there and she is a very good runner,” she said. “She gave me a lot of competition.”

Tornillo freshman Kylene Elias will race for a state championship in Class 3A. She hopes to become the first girl from Tornillo to win a medal at state.

Elias’s first love was basketball but after this season, that’s changed.

“It’s not really my favorite sport anymore,” she said, laughing. “I lot of people have supported me this season. Plus, I don’t think I was really good in basketball.”

Despite her success, she remains humble.

“I don’t think that I’m that good,” she said. “Still, to this day, I don’t think I’m that good. I know I can still get better.”

She is looking forward to making more Tornillo history.

“I’m very excited because no one has ever gone to state from Tornillo from the girl’s side so this is a really good opportunity for me to make school history,” she said. “I want to get on the podium, that would be a nice way to finish my freshman year.”

Also new to the sport – and to the state meet – is Franklin senior Fernie Morales,

“For the past three years I played football,” he said. “My junior year I did really well in the 800 (in track),  so I  decided running was better suited for me going into college than football. Also, that season, a lot of my teammates where getting ACL and MCL tears, I didn’t want to risk anything that might effect my running so I decided to get out of football.”

And that decisions has paid off.

“My coaches  told me in order to get ready for track season in the 800, they thought I should try cross country and see how I did,” he said.

He earned a top 20 Class 6A Region 1 finish and a trip to state

“I’m  nervous and excited-  and honestly a bit surprised,” he said of the state meet. “On Saturday, I’ll be happy running my race to the best of my ability and PR  or better than I did at regionals.”

Author: Victor R. Martinez

My love of running began with my son Deric. His passion and talent for distance running opened my eyes to a sport I never imaged I would embrace with such enthusiasm. As a journalist at the El Paso Times, I was the lead writer for cross country and track for several years and I was able to tell the stories of these amazing unsung athletes. Never a runner myself, I decided to change that when I turned 50 in 2016 when I trained for my first 5K. I've been running ever since and I love every minute of it - well - sort of.

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