The district championships that almost never happened produces many storylines

Who advanced?

The top two teams from each district and the top 10 individuals make it to the Region 1 Cross Country Championships. The following teams and runners have advanced:

Boys

Class 6A: Eastwood and Americas. Also, Israel David, Eastlake and Luis Pastor, Coronado.

Class 5A: Burges, Hanks, Bel Air and El Paso High. Also, Joaquin Ortega, Chapin; Jarrett Ketchmark, Andress; Denovan Estrada, Canutillo; Ivan Hernandez, Horizon; Noah Gutierrez, Horizon; Miquel Avila, Del Valle and Kenneth Lamar Golston, Parkland.

Class 4A: San Elizario and Riverside. Also, Joshua Gonzalez, Mt. View.

Class 3A: Tornillo.

Girls

Class 6A: Franklin and Montwood. Also, Lauren Walls-Portillo, Eastwood, Adalia Olmos, Eastwood and Kyra Walker, Coronado.

Class 5A: Jefferson, Bel Air, Canutillo, El Paso High. Also, Angie Marrufo-Lujan, Parkland; Pamela Ramirez, Burges; Annette Guzman, Burges; Morayma Montes, Austin; Elizabeth Hernandez, Austin; Andrea Villagomez, Horizon; Natalie Rivera, Hanks and Mila Rivera, Hanks.

Class 4A:  Clint and San Elizario. Also, Kayhla Talavera, Mt. View; Madelaine Estrada, Mt. View; Anel Aranda, Riverside; Marcela Hernandez, Riverside; Athena Escobar, Fabens.

Class 3A: Tornillo.

What’s next

The Region 1 Cross Country Championship will be Nov. 9 for Class 3A and 5A and Nov. 10 for Class 4A and 6A at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock.

The Championship season begin on Saturday as runners from District 1-6A, 1-5A nad 2-5A competed for an opportunity to race at Regionals.

On a day that many El Paso cross country runners, coaches and supporters thought would never come, 12 individual district championships and six team titles were earned Saturday morning at Vista Hills Country Club.

Districts were in doubt early this week when – because of the surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations – County Judge Ricardo Samaniego urged the independent school districts in El Paso County to suspend athletics for at least two weeks.

Superintendents of the Socorro, El Paso and Canutillo school districts choose to postpone athletics for the next two weeks putting the district cross country championships in limbo.

Superintendents in Ysleta, Fabens, Clint, San Elizario, Anthony and Tornillo decided not to abide by the judge’s recommendation and proceed with athletics.

However, after a meeting of the district’s principals on Thursday morning, the decision to race was made.

“When they canceled the meet, I was really disappointed,” said Eastlake junior Israel David, who won the District 1-6A individual championship. “I trained all those months for no one to see where I’m at was hard to take. I did all those months of training just to see it go away.”

David won his first district championship in 15:20.1, 12 seconds ahead of Eastwood’s Sergio Leon Cuartas (15:32.3) and Aaron Perez (third, 15:41.7),

“The course was perfect,” he said. “It was a great mix of hills, grass and hard flat surfaces – it was a real cross country course,” David said.

Eastwood, the two-time defending Class 5A state champions, returned to 6A this year and won its tenth straight district championship.

The Troopers had runners finish in the 2-3-4-8 and 10 spot – Cuartas, Perez, Isaac Mendoza. (fourth, 15:43.7), Victor Parra (eighth, 16:21.9) and Andres Gurrola (tenth, 16:27.3).

“Our goal each year is not to win district, regionals or state,” said Mike McLain, Eastwood’s head coach. “Our goal is to do the best we can, be good teammates, run for each other and let the other stuff fall where it may.”      

It’s not only 10 straight district championships, but  a 10 year El Paso unbeaten streak, as well.

Americas was second with 48 points with its top three runners – Michael Mier (16:03.8),

Carmelo Corral (16:06.0) and Jared Laverty (16:15.8) – finishing 5-6-7. The Trailblazers

Coronado sophomore Luis Pastor was ninth in 16:27.1 and punched his ticket to regionals.

Franklin was third with 97 points followed by Coronado (121), Eastlake (127), Montwood (164), Pebble Hills (180) and Socorro (188).

The Region 1 Cross Country Championship will be Nov. 9 for Class 3A and 5A and Nov. 10 for Class 4A and 6A at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, only two teams and the top ten individuals qualified from district to regionals. In the past, the top three teams would advance.

The Franklin girl’s won its third straight team title on Saturday.

The Franklin girls won its third consecutive District 1-6A team title, scoring 28 points followed be Montwood (41) and Eastwood (51). Coronado was fourth (130), Americas was fifth (143), Pebble Hills sixth (162), Eastlake was seventh (175) and Socorro was eighth (179).

“It’s been a long time since my first district meet. Back then, I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t really know how good I was my freshman year. I’m so happy about the seasons I’ve had in high school and I’m sad that they are almost over, but I’m ready for college, too. I had a great time competing for Franklin and I’ve met many great friends over the past four years.”

Franklin and Montwood will advance.

The race was tight in the first mile between Jess and Eastwood junior Lauren Walls-Portillo, who had beaten Jess two Saturdays ago. But Jess opened the gap at that point and sailed to a 31 second victory.

“I felt really good,” Jess said. “Stronger than I’ve felt over the past several weeks.”

Jess finished the race in 18:11.3 followed by Walls-Portillo (18:42.7) and Franklin senior Ally Little (19:03.5).

Three other Franklin runners finished in the top 10 – Michelle Paillard (sixth, 19:48.5), Jenna Saunders (eighth, 20:00.1) and Alyssa Laspada (tenth, 20:07.9).

Montwood placed three runners – Kassandra Jimenez (fourth, 19:33.8), Karyme Garcia (fifth, 19:47.7) and Alexa Rangel (seventh, 19:48.5).

Coronado sophomore Kyra Walker was ninth in 20:06.1 and will advance to regionals for the second year in a row.

District 1-5A

Jefferson, led by junior Crystal Peterson, won the District 1-5A team title for the third straight year. It was also, Peterson’s third individual title.

Jefferson junior Crystal Peterson won her third District 1-5A championship, racing out to 19:57.4 to lead the Silver Foxes.

Senior Melody Tsutsumi was fourth in 21:01.0 and Monique Correra was fifth in 21:18.8 to help Jefferson to its third straight district championship with 34 points. El Paso High was second (48) and Burges was third (67).

“It’s been a strange season,” Peterson said. “First off, we didn’t even know we were going to have a season and when we found it we were really happy and we knew it was going to be special because of our senior Melody who is going to graduate and we wanted to win this for her as her sending away gift.”

Peterson said racing a different district course was a challenge.

“This is was a lot faster,” she said. “There were less hills with more dirt, it was very different than the Chami (Chamizal National Memorial Park).”

El Paso High had three runners – Shayla Cohen Jones (sixth, 21:28.7), Alissa Kennedy (seventh, 21:42.3) and Jezarae Valenzuela (ninth, 22.20.7).

Burges’s top runners, Pamela Ramirez (20:22.4) and Annette Guzman (20:47.0) finished 2-3 and Austin qualified two runners Morayma Montes (eighth, 22.07.7) and Elizabeth Hernandez (tenth, 22.24.7).

Tsutsumi, who has run varsity all four years, said just being able to run this season has been a blessing.

“I really didn’t think we were even going to have a season so just being able to run has been great,” she said. “It was really nice to be able to run with my teammates one last season. Winning three straight district championships has been real special. Crystal and Monique have both grown as runners and have really strengthened our team.”

The Burges Mustangs won its fourth consecutive boy’s district championship, placing six runners in the 10 for 28 points.

Dylan Walker was the low stick for the Mustangs, finishing second in 17:02.1. David Gonzalez was fifth (17:22.7), David Herrera was sixth (17:29.3), Aaron Gomez was seventh (17:32.1), Julian Maldonado was eighth (17:43.9) and Luis Holguin was tenth (18:07.4)

El Paso High was second with 58 points. The Tigers had two in the top 10 – Josep Ferret (fourth, 17:15.7) and David Ramirez (ninth, 17:52.8).

Andress runner Jarrett Ketchmark was third in 17:13.0.

Chapin senior Joaquin Ortega won his first district championship racing the course in 16:50.4.

Chapin senior Joaquin Ortega won his first district championship racing the course in 16:50.4.

“This week has been a roller coaster,” Ortega said. “I really didn’t know how the district was going to play this out. Luckily I was able to do well, so I’m happy we got to run.”

Ortega said he was mentally prepared for this race.

“I always like to picture myself in the front winning it,” he said. “Dream it and it can happen, I guess. “

District 2-5A

The Bel Air girls won its first district championship since 1982 and a new district champion was crowned.

The Highlanders placed four runners – Abigail Murillo (third, 20:43.9), Jaylee Levario (fifth, 21:04.7), Rosemary Torres (seventh, 21:17.9) and Sara Armendariz (sixth, 21:14.2) – in the top 10 to score 40 points, well ahead of second place Canutillo (75).

Hanks was third with 81 points, Del Valle fourth (92), Ysleta fifth with 150 and Parkland was sixth (157).

“The last time the girls made it to regionals as a team was in 97 or 98, and they went as a third-place team,” said Bel Air coach Jerry Schaffer. “We’ve had lots of very good individual runners advance to regionals but this is my first district championship.”

For Schaffer, having both boys and girls advance is dream come true.

“We are finally going to put two teams on the bus to have the regional experience,” he said. “The kids always want to have their teammates around them. The girls kind of knew they took care of business earlier and we waited around for the boys results to be official because we didn’t want assume anything.”

Parkland senior Angie Marrufo-Lujan won the individual title – her first district championship –  in a 19:37.8.

“It’s always been my goal to win a cross country district title so it feels really good,” Marrufo-Lujan said. “I’ve worked really hard this entire season and my work has finally paid off. I feel really blessed and accomplished for what I have done.”

 Canutillo’s top two runners were Chondra Espino (second, 20:42.1) and Ivy Lara (ninth, 21:40.0),

Three individual runners – Horizon’s Andrea Villagomez (fourth, 20:49.6) and a pair of Hanks runners Natalie Rivera (eighth, Hanks, 21:37.7) and Mila Rivera (tenth, 21:41.5) – will also advance to regionals.

The Hanks boys won their first district title since the 90s.

On the boy’s side, the Hanks Knights continued its streak of seven straight individual district champions as junior Gael Alvarado won the race in 16:49.0.

Alvarado, Alejandro Tarin (second, 17:06.0) and Michael Antuna (ninth, 18:01.1) also led the Knights to its first district championship since 1995, scoring 48 points.

“This is definitely not an easy course,” Alvarado said. “The first time we ran here was extremely difficult, very grassy, the hills were a little difficult and then the change from grass to concrete is definitely unsettling but it was a good, fun race.”

Alvarado is now the fourth consecutive runner from Hanks to win a district championship joining Isaiah Hernandez (2014), Solomon Weatherby (2015), and Michael Abeyta who won four in a row (2016-2019).

“It was an honor to run with Michael and Rodger (Rivera),” he said. “Not many people have the privilege to be able to run with two of the best in the state. To see them run and watch their work ethic helped me.”

Bel Air had two runners in the top 10 – William Moreno (third, 17:11.5) and Bryan Gunter (seventh, 17:45.5) – was second with 58 points, Del Valle third (102), Ysleta fourth (109) and Parkland was fifth with 125 points.

Other runners who advanced to regionals are Canutillo’s Denovan Estrada (fourth, 17:17.0), Horizon runners Ivan Hernandez (fifth, 17:20.6) and Noah Gutierrez (tenth, 18:15.0), Del Valle’s Miquel Avila (sixth, 17:39.2) and Parkland’s Kenneth Lamar Golston (eighth, 17:48.0).

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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