Monday Cool Down: Eastwood’s Lauren Walls-Portillo establishes personal best in biggest win of her high school career – so far

Eastwood junior Lauren Walls-Portillo Walls-Portillo turned in a personal best 18:04.35, to win the inaugural Parra Law XC Classic at Vista Hills Country Club.

Eastwood junior Lauren Walls-Portillo could not hear her mother Stacy Walls’ words of encouragement at Saturday’s Parra Law XC Classic at Vista Hills Country Club.

But she felt them.

As her daughter was finishing the final half mile of the 3.1-mile course, Wall’s implored to her daughter, “don’t lose this opportunity.”

The “opportunity” in question was not losing a slim lead over Franklin senior Eva Jess, who in her four-year career has never lost in El Paso.

Walls-Portillo turned in a personal best 18:04.35, to win the inaugural Parra Law XC Classic – her biggest win of her high school career.

“She told me she said that, but I was so focused on what I was doing, I couldn’t hear her,” Walls-Portillo said with a laugh. “I thought that was amazing, even if I didn’t hear her.”

Jess, who verbally committed to the University of Texas last week, was second in 18:20.41.

“Eva has been a person that I have looked up to for so long because we started at a young age together,” Walls-Portillo said. “She has been so amazing all these years. She has driven me to work so much harder. In my mind, it wasn’t that I beat her. In my mind, it was that I worked hard enough to get to her level which was really good for me.”

Walls-Portillo came into Saturday’s race feeling at the top of her game.

“Honestly, I felt great the entire race, but it wasn’t until the start of the second lap is when I felt ‘oh my gosh, this could really happen,’” she said. “I felt so good and I felt I had a lot of energy to kick, that’s when I started to think ‘Ok, I got this, I’m going to be OK.’”

The Cougars won the team championship with 21 points, followed by Eastwood (59), Montwood (64), Class 3A Tornillo (124), Bel Air (130) and Hanks (157).

Franklin placed six runners in the top 8 including Jess, Ally Little (third, 18:44.19), Alyssa Laspada (fourth, 19:03.19), Michele Paillard (fifth, 19:50.57), Sofia Camacho (seventh, 19:55.96) and Jenna Saunders (eighth, 19:56.83).

Montwood had three in the top 10 – Karyme Garcia (sixth, 19:53.12), Alexa Rangel (ninth, 20:08.85) and Jazmine Miranda (tenth, 20:09.54).

Two weeks ago Walls-Portillo was 10th in the girl’s Sweepstakes Division finishing in 18:14.62 at the 13th annual Desert Twilight Cross Country Festival in Arizona.

“We didn’t know any of the teams there so there wasn’t anyone we had to specifically beat so our coach said run smart and you’ll run good,” she said. “I performed really well because I had no pressure to beat anyone because I didn’t know any of the girls there. I ran my best and so did my team. I watched them run as fast as I have ever seen them run because we finally got the chance to run an out of town and race.”

Walls-Portillo’s 18:04.35 on Saturday was 10 seconds faster than what see ran in Arizona.

“Eva pushed me hard, she pushed me to my limit,” she said. “I knew Eva was not going to let me go. I knew she was going to strive and push me the entire race. I could not have hit that 18:04 if it wasn’t for her. She is such a strong runner, so being up there with her gave me that extra push that I needed. Being up there with her gave me an adrenaline rush for the finish.”

The Eastwood boys were just as impressive as Franklin’s girls – winning the team championship one spot short of another perfect score.

San Elizario, who was without Edwin Gomez, was second with 76 points, Tornillo third (82), Franklin fourth (83), Hanks fifth (133) and Bel Air sixth (137).

Eastwood took seven of the top 10 spots including invitational winner senior Sergio Leon Cuartas (15:42.04). San Elizario’s Dilan Sanchez (third, 16:1138) was the only non-Eastwood athlete in the top seven.

Sergio Leon Cuartas.

Eastwood runners in the top 10 were Isaac Mendoza (second, 15:53.15), Nathan Hernandez (fourth, 16:16.85), Victor Anchondo (fifth, 16:17.94), Victor Parra (sixth, 16:20.38), Andres Gurrola (seventh 16:26.93) and Devon Paez (ninth, 16:34.51).

Hanks’s Alejandro Tarin was eighth in 16:32.73 and Tornillo’s Angel Torres was tenth 16:37.60.

Leon Cuartas has developed into a team leader for the Troopers. Two weeks ago, he led a group of five runners in the top 14 to win the Sweepstakes Division of the 13th annual Desert Twilight XC Festival in San Tan Valley, Ariz. with 53 points. Leon Cuartas who was third in 15:15.53.

“Working hard and trusting in my coach and in my team has made a major difference in my development,” Leon Cuartas said. “Every time I race, I race for my team. I really want to do well for them. We all run better knowing that we are doing it for each other. It’s all about the team-first mentality. It’s about running for your team, that’s what separates us from other people. We all know our role and we accept it. It all comes down to that team mentality.”

Americas Invitational (SAC)

Eastlake junior Israel David returned to racing on Friday morning with his fourth individual championship at the Americas Invitational at Socorro’s Student Activities Complex.

Israel David.

David, who is unbeaten and unchallenged this fall, won the race in 15:48.8.

The Americas boys continued its surge winning the team championship with 30 points. The team was led by junior Carmelo Corral who was second in 16:13.7. Other top 10 finishers for the Trailblazers were Michael Mier (fourth, 16:17.9), Jared Laverty (fifth, 16:30.1) and Aaron Saenz (seventh, 17:14.3).

Coronado was second with 42 points followed by Eastlake (63), Del Valle (132), Socorro (149) and Ysleta (155).

Coronado sophomore Luis Pastor was one of four T-Birds to finish in the top 10. He was third in 16:16.6, Corey Dubrule was sixth in 17:06.6, Sam Breceda was ninth in 17:46.6 and Stephen Pitchkolan was tenth.

Del Valle’s Miguel Avila was eighth in 17:38.2.

Coronado sophomore Kyra Walker won her second meet of the season racing to a 21:56.9. Eastlake’s Megan Kirtley was second in 22:11.0 and Americas’ Isabella Medina was third in 22:17.5.

Eastlake’s Giselle Rubio crossed the finish line in 22:59.2, good for the seventh spot. Her late push provided vital points as the Falcons took the team championship with 58 points, two better than Amercas. Socorro was third with 75 followed by Del Valle (77), Ysleta, (173), and Young Women’s Leadership Academy (184).

Coronado did not run a full team but still managed to have three top 10 runners – Walker, Alexa Lawrence (sixth, 22:59.0) and Sonya Lee (ninth, 23:11.6).

Other top 10 runners were Samantha Ramirez, Socorro (fourth, 22:36.7),  Mia Vargas, Americas (fifth, 22:57.4),  Ana Rojas, Socorro (eighth, 23:10.6) and Jaslyne Ramirez, Del Valle (tenth, 23:21.3).

Cathedral/Harmony Invitational (Veterans Park)                                              

Parkland senior Angie Lujan-Marrufo won her fifth consecutive race winning in 20:36.2.

Jefferson won the team title with 20 points, placing runners in the second through sixth spots – Monique Correa (second, 21:01.5), Crystal Peterson (third, 21:35.7), Melody Tsutsumi (fourth, 21:55.5),  Jelia Lugo (fifth, 23:30.6) and Irma Munoz (sixth, Jefferson, 23:55.3).

Angie Lujan-Marrufo.

Parkland had four in the top 10 including Lujan-Marrufo, Paola Bolanos Hernandez (seventh, 25:25.1), Claudia Vargas (eighth, 25:54.1) and Yulianna Anahi Martinez (tenth, 27:21.7).

Chapin’s Bianca Quintero was ninth in 26:28.7.

Parkland scored 37 points and took second place.

Chapin senior Joaquin Ortega won his third championship of the season finishing the race in 16:41.3 while Cathedral won the team title with 20 points.

The Irish had seven runners in the top 10 led by Luis Gomez (second, 17:25.1), Bernard Martinez (third, 17:27.9), Elija Noble (fourth, 17:28.5), Jacob Noble (fifth, 17:37.9), Dylan Lorilla, Cathedral (sixth, 18:11.5), Preston Arnett (eighth, 19:05.6) and Marcos Garcia (ninth, 19:05.9).

Chapin’s Cesar Sandoval was seventh in 18:36.3 and Jefferson’s Isaac Ortega was tenth in 19:17.3.

Bowie was second with 87 points and Parkland was third with 99 points.  

Clint ISD Invitational (Horizon High School)

Horizon, El Dorado, Clint, Riverside, Fabens, Burges and Canutillo participated. However, results were not reported.

Austin Invitational (Skyline Park)

Austin, El Dorado, Irvin, Andress, Valle Verde and Loretto participated. However, results were not reported.

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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