Boys Region 1 Preview: Five teams hopeful for a return trip to state

What: Region 1 Cross Country Championship.

When: Monday, Nov. 9, Times (MST):  3A Girls, 10 a.m. 3A Boys, 10:30 a.m.;  Class 5A Girls, 1 p.m.; Class 5A Boys, 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10:  Class 4A Girls, 10 a.m.; Class 4A boys, 10:30 a.m.; Class 6A Girls, 1 p.m.; Class 6A Boys, 1:30 p.m.

Where: Mae Simmons Park, MLK Blvd. and 24th Street in Lubbock.

At Stake: Top three teams and top 10 individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the UIL Cross Country State Championship, Monday, Nov. 23 (3A, 5A) and Tuesday, Nov. 24 (4A and 6A)  at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

Who advanced?

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.

The race to state commences on Monday and Tuesday at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock.

For decades, El Paso’s boys have more than held their own at theRegion 1 Cross Country Championship.

Region 1, known as the Region of Doom because of the number of talented teams and individual runners, is the last stop before the UIL Cross Country State Championship Nov. 23-24.

The region is home to some of the top cross country programs in the state including Eastwood, Americas, Southlake Carroll, Flower Mound, Coppell and Lewisville Marcus.

Due to the pandemic, only the top three teams and top 10 individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the state championship at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

Last fall, six teams enjoyed the state experience – Americas’ boys and the Franklin girls in Class 6A, Eastwood and Hanks boys in Class 5A, San Elizario boys in Class 4A and Tornillo boys in Class 3A.

Fifteen individuals also advanced to the UIL State Cross Country Championship last year.

Of those six teams, Eastwood and San Elizario won Region 1 team titles.

Americas finished second in District 1-6A. The team is seeking its third consecutive state appearance.

Class 6A

Eastwood is seeking its fourth consecutive trip to state while Americas is looking for its third.

The Troopers are also racing for its fourth straight Region 1 championship, winning in Class 6A in 2017 and in Class 5A in 2018 and 2019.

Eastwood moved up to Class 6A this year.

“It’s no different than running in 5A,” said Eastwood coach Mike McLain. “Our goal every year is to schedule races where we’ll see the best teams possible which is why we go to Woodbridge (California) and Desert Twilight (Arizona). We want to run in these big races and compete at the highest level.”

He said even when the Troopers were at the 5A level, the team would compete against Texas powers such as South Lake Carroll, The Woodlands and Flower Mound.

“We would do well against those bigger schools at Nike regional and other national meets after the Texas state championships,” he said. “Racing in those big race environments helps our kids develop, and run with confidence. We know our region is tough and we’ll have to beat some good teams to qualify.”

Eastwood finished third at the Class 6A state meet in 2017 and won the Class 5A championship in 2018 and 2019 before moving back to Class 6A this season.

The team is lead seniors Sergio Leon Cuartas, Aaron Perez and Victor Parra and juniors Isaac Mendoza and Andres Gurrola (tenth, 16:27.3).

Americas top runners are juniors Carmelo Corral and Jared Laverty and senior Michael Mier.

Eastlake junior Israel David, who was fifth last year (14:59.10) in Class 5A, will race in the state’s biggest division this year.

“I know there are bigger schools in 6A and much better competition, and I’m prepared for that,” David said. “I always have to give it my best, no matter what. Going against these bigger schools motivates me. I always want to go up against the best, that’s what makes me better.”

Coronado sophomore Luis Pastor – who will be racing in his first regional – is the only other 6A runner competing.

Hanks junior Gael Alvarado was the seventh consecutive District 2-5A champion for the Knights. He looks to continue his winning ways at regionals.

Class 5A

Last year, Eastwood and Hanks took the top two spots out of the region while Burges finished seventh.

Of the four qualifying teams – Burges, Hanks, Bel Air and El Paso High – the Mustangs and the Knights have the best opportunity for an El Paso team to advance to state.

The Mustangs won its fourth consecutive District 1-5A championship, placing six runners in the 10 for 28 points.

Dylan Walker was second in 17:02.1, David Gonzalez was fifth (17:22.7), David Herrera was sixth (17:29.3) and juniors Aaron Gomez (seventh, 17:32.1) and Julian Maldonado (17:43.9) was eighth.

Hanks won its first District 2-5A title since 1995 and continued its streak of seven straight individual district champions as junior Gael Alvarado won the race in 16:49.0. Sophomore Alejandro Tarin and Alvarado have been swapping the low stick for the Knights all season with senior Michael Antuna being a steady third man.

Also watch for Chapin senior Joaquin Ortega, who won his first district championship racing the course in 16:50.4, who could advance individually.

“I’ve been able to finish in the top 10 in all my races this season, so hopefully that’s where I’ll end up at regionals and hopefully advance to state,” Ortega said. “Last year I missed going to state by two spots so that’s something I’m shooting for.”

Individual runners looking for a spot to state areAndress’ Jarrett Ketchmark, Canutillo’s Denovan Estrada, Ivan Hernandez and Noah Gutierrez from Horizon; Miquel Avila from Del Valle and Parkland’s Kenneth Lamar Golston.

Andress junior Jarrett Ketchmark was third in District 1-5A. He is one of several individual runners racing for a berth to state.

Class 4A

San Elizario is looking to defend its 2019 Region 1 championship.

The Eagles have won five of the past six regional titles – its only blemish was a third-place finish in 2018.

They are also seeking their seventh straight trip to state where the team has won championships in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. The team finished third in 2018 and second last year.

Edwin Gomez, who was second last year (14:53.50), is looking to unseat Canyon senior Samuel Ashley at regionals on Tuesday.

But his focus remains on the team.

“The team has worked really hard throughout the season,” he said. “Even though we had a lot of injuries, we continued to try our best and to be focused. We have a good team, and our goal is to win another state title.”

Mt. View senior Joshua Gonzalez is also looking to get back to Round Rock. Last year he finished 14th (16:09.50) at regionals.

Burges senior David Gonzalez hopes to help deliver the Mustangs another state berth in Class 5A.

Class 3A

Three points over two years separates Tornillo from being six-time defending Region 1-3A champions.

After winning four consecutive titles – the Coyotes missed out by two points in 2018 and by one point in 2019.

 After battling COVID-19 issues for the past month, Tornillo appears to be prepared to return the regional hardware bac to the Cotton Valley.

Tornillo will look to senior Bryan Garcia, junior Angel Torres and freshman Daniel Romero for leadership and another trip to state.

The Coyotes have made the trip to Round Rock ten times in 11 years.

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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