The District 1-4A Cross Country Championship went as expected on a crisp, peaceful Friday morning at Vista Hill Country Club.
It was quiet because spectators were not allowed on the course due to the pandemic, leaving only coaches and athletes to cheer on their teammates.
The San Elizario boys won the district championship for the seventh consecutive year. Senior Edwin Gomez earned his fourth district gold medal and Mt. View senior Kayhla Talavera defended her district title completing the 2-mile course in 13:01.80.
The Clint girls won the team championship scoring 23 points. San Elizario was second with 47, just nipping Riverside by three points for the final spot to regionals.
Clint had three runners – Janice Olivas (second, 13:12.89), Vivian Zapata, (fourth, 13:55.21) and Jacqueline Castillo (fifth, 14:03.90) – in the top five.
Other top 10 runners were Mt. View’s Madelaine Estrada (third, 13:13.68), San Elizario’s Ximena Jimenez (14:04.48), a pair of Riverside runners – Anel Aranda (seventh, 14:18.24) and Marcela Hernandez (eighth, 14:21.71) Athena Escobar from Fabens (14:29.27) and San Elizario’s Osmary Vazquez (14:34.07).
The Riverside boys qualified for regionals for the first time since 2005 behind a solid effort from junior Andrew Valdiviezo who finished second in 16:02.61.
San Elizario placed all five scorers in the top 6 including Gomez (15:51.11), Dilan Sanchez (third, 16:07.38), Alan Ceballos (fourth, 17:17.54), Irvin Vazquez (fifth, 17:24.53) and Matthew Maese (sixth, 17:27.58).
Rounding out the top 10 were Joshua Gonzalez from Mt. View (seventh, 17:28.02), Riverside’s Jayden Bustillos (eighth, 17:29.64 7), his teammate Paul Ayala (ninth, 17:48.84) and San Elizario’s Angel Maese (tenth, 17:56.65).
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the University Interscholastic League had to modify the 2020 cross country post-season structure.
This year, only two teams and the top ten individuals shall qualify from district to regionals. In the past, the top three teams would advance.
The Region 1-4A Cross Country Championship is Nov. 10 at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock.
“It was different this year because it was a new course,” Gomez said. “This was a real flat course, it’s not like the Chamizal with all the hills. This course was good, but I prefer the Chamizal because it’s much more difficult.”
Gomez said he is proud of the way the team performed.
“We’ve all worked really hard throughout the season,” he said. “We had a lot of injuries, myself included, but we kept on trying our best and staying focused.”
Being focused has not been easy during the COVID season.
“We didn’t know if we were going to even have a district race or a season at all,” he said. “But we continued to practice and put in the time to train as a team and by ourselves.”
Talavera is also grateful to be able to run this season. But her issues went beyond the restrictions of coronavirus.
“I had a torn ACL in my left knee that required surgery in January,” she said. “I didn’t even know if I was going to be able run this season. It all depended on my recovery. I started walking five months after surgery and little by little I started jogging and then started running and now I’m here.”
The injury occurred when Talavera went out for the soccer team and fell wrong after jumping in the air.
“It was a hard season because of COVID and my knee,” she said. “The whole summer we kept going back and fourth, ‘are we going to have a season or are we not?’ And at the same time I was worried about how my knee was going to heal.”
Without question, her knee healed just fine.
“I’m pretty excited that I got to run this year, and where I’m at right now,” she said.
Right now she is back on the course, doing what she loves with an opportunity to race at regionals and another state berth.
“I think I can make it back to state,” she said. “I’m hoping for a top 10 finish but if not, that’s OK, I got to run my senior year, that’s all that matters, I thought I wasn’t going to run this year.”