12 athletes seek state glory; Americas’ Laverty overcomes early-season struggles to advance

State Championship Previews

Today: Tornillo boys.

Thursday: San Elizario boys.

Friday: Eastwood boys.

Saturday: Franklin girls.

Sunday: Individual qualifiers. Class 6A – Americas senior Michael Mier; Americas junior Jared Laverty; Eastlake junior Israel David; Eastwood junior, Lauren Walls-Portillo and Montwood sophomore, Kassandra Jimenez. Class 5A – Burges junior, Pamela Ramirez; Jefferson junior, Monique Correa; El Paso High senior, Josep Ferret; Hanks sophomore, Alejandro Tarin; Chapin senior, Joaquin Ortega, Chapin. Class 4A – Riverside junior, Andrew Valdiviezo. Class 3A – Tornillo sophomore, Kylene Elias.

Make Plans

What: UIL State Cross Country Championship.

When:  Monday, Nov. 23. All times (MDT): Class 3A girls, 10:45 a.m.; Class 3A boys, 11:30 a.m.; Class 5A girls, 1:30 p.m.; Class 5A boys, 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24: Class 4A boys, 11:30 a.m.; Class 6A girls, 1:30 p.m.; Class 6A boys, 2:15 p.m.

Where:  Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

At Stake: State team and individual titles.

Americas Jared Laverty had to overcome a number of obstacles this season but persevered and earned a third state appearance.

The 2020 UIL State Cross Country Championship will be bit different for Americas junior Jared Laverty.

The previous two seasons, Americas had qualified as a team.

However, the Trailblazers finished fourth in Region 1, eight points out of state contention. In a non-pandemic year, Americas would have qualified for its third straight state championship meet.

“I would prefer to have my team with me like the past couple of years,” Laverty said. “I really don’t know what it’s going to be like without them. I don’t know what’s it going to be like to be in a race without a team but I think I’ll be more focused this time because we won’t have time to mess around.”

Laverty will not totally be alone. Americas senior Michael Mier qualified to his first state meet.

Laverty and Mier are two of 12 El Paso athletes who qualified for state as individuals – runners who finished in the top 10 at Regionals who are not part of a qualifying team.

Also qualifying are in Class 6A are junior Israel David, Eastlake; junior Lauren Walls-Portillo, Eastwood and sophomore Kassandra Jimenez, Montwood.

In Class 5A its junior Pamela Ramirez, Burges; junior Monique Correa, Jefferson; senior Josep Ferret, El Paso High; sophomore Alejandro Tarin, Hanks and senior Joaquin Ortega, Chapin.

In Class 4A, it will be Riverside junior, Andrew Valdiviezo and in Class 3A, Tornillo’s sophomore Kylene Elias.

Riverside junior Andrew Valdiviezo will race in the Class 4A divison at the UIL State Cross Country Championship on Tuesday.

“Right when I got on the bus after regionals I was locked in, already thinking about state,” said Valdiviezo, who will be racing in his first state championship. “I want to make sure that I compete to the best of my ability and make a name for myself at the state level.”

Laverty will be racing with added motivation.

He will be running in memory of his grandfather Fred Martinez, who passed away late in the season.

“He was always there for me,” he said. “It didn’t matter where I went, he would be there. I would race in Alabama and he was there. I could run in England and he would show up to watch me race.”

“Grandpa Fred” was one of Laverty’s biggest supporters.

“A couple of hours after he passed my dad told me,” he said. “My parents (Kim and Dale Laverty) told me if I didn’t want to run the next meet, that would be fine, they understood but my dad told me if he ever passed that he would want me to run in the next race and give it all I have. He told me he didn’t want me to stop racing and stop doing what I love. He said he was still going to be there for me, even though I might see him physically, he would still be there watching over me.”

Laverty said he continued with the season with a heavy heart, but he felt stronger as championship season approached.

“I kept him in thought as I continued training and racing,” he said. “I was doing it for him because I knew he wanted to see me go to state and do all these great things this season.”

Laverty finished 25th at last year’s championship in 15:21.72.

Montwood sophomore Kassandra Jimenez will be racing in her first UIL State Cross Country Championship. She won the TCAL state championship last year as a student at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy.

Montwood’s Jimenez is also no stranger to a Texas state cross country championship.

She ran one last year and won a Texas Christian Athletic League state championship while running for the Young Women’s Leadership Academy.

On Tuesday, she will be competing on a much bigger stage – the Class 6A UIL State Cross Country Championship in Round Rock.

“My times have improved a lot this year because the coaches at Montwood are great and they work really hard to help us out as a team,” Jimenez said. “I’ve also worked very hard with the girls on the team who pushed me when I needed it.”

Despite moving up in competition, Jimenez said she is optimistic about Tuesday’s race.

“I know there’s going to be a lot of competition so I’m hoping to PR and stay up with the girl’s from El Paso,” she said. “This season has been great for me and my teammates at Montwood. I had a great team to train and run with this season and for that I am grateful.”

Jefferson junior Monique Correa will race in her first UIL State Championship on Monday.

Also returning to state are Eastlake’s David who finished seventh in 15:05.63 to earn All State Class 5A honors, Eastwood’s Walls-Portillo had a top 50 finish in Class 5A (19:01.29, 46th place) and Tarin, who ran a 16:23.43 for Hanks in Class 5A.

Tornillo’s Elias won the school’s first girl’s state medal last year, finishing third in 11:37.79 on the two-mile course.

She said she is better prepared for it this year.

“I know how to race now,” she said. “Last year I was super, super nervous and I didn’t know any better and I got trapped behind a few runners. I had to use all my strength and I lost all my energy in the first mile. This year I have a better race strategy and I’m going to race smarter.”

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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