Eastwood senior Lauren Walls-Portillo had a milestone run on Saturday morning at Del Valle High School.
After years of training, Walls-Portillo finally ran a sub 18-minute 5K – finishing the Rudy Alvarez Invitational in 17:58.28.
“I ran an 18:04 at Vista Hills Golf Course and I was so bummed that I was four seconds away,” she said. “I’ve hunted for this 17 for so long and that I finally did it on a course that I love, I am so happy.”
Walls-Portillo picked up her first victory of the season out-distancing freshman teammate Adelynn Rodriguez (18:37.95) and Burges senior Pamela Ramirez (18:59.11).
Montwood junior Kassandra Jimenez was fourth in 18:59.84 and Pebble Hills junior Natalia Martinez was fifth in 19:08.03.
The long, flat course at Del Valle High School was ripe for fast times.
“I’ve been running this course since I was seven- or eight-years old running with the El Paso Wings; I’ve loved this course forever,” she said. “Breaking 18 on this course is so special to me. It really signifies how far I’ve come and I recognize how much progress I’ve made since I was a child so it was important to me to break 18 here.”
Walls-Portillo, who is a three-time state qualifier, said there was a little special motivation heading into Saturday’s race.
“I don’t think I did very well in my first race of the season,” she said. “I loved how I came back from that experience. To come out and push myself the way I did in practice and during this race, I’m really proud of myself – and my teammates.”
The Troopers dominated, placing four runners in the top eight including Walls-Portillo, Rodriguez, senior Adalia Olmos (sixth, 19:41.07) and junior Salma Licon (eighth, 19:54.44).
“Our team had a rough first race at the SAC on concrete, but now that we’ve come back together on this flat course and did amazing, it’s awesome.”
Not to be outdone, the varsity boy’s race was just as amazing with Pebble Hills junior Omer Ibrahim outlasting Eastlake senior Israel David at the end. Coronado junior Luis Pastor was two seconds behind and finish third.
“We were all pushing each other,” Ibrahim said. “Macho (David) was right next to me and Luis Pastor was there with us. We kept fighting and fighting and with about a half a mile to go, we all started pushing harder and harder.”
At the end, Ibrahim had just a tiny bit more winning in 15:02.15, David was second in 15:02.73 and Pastor third in 15:04.79.
“Heading into the final 50 meters, we all had to slow down around the corner so we wouldn’t slip,” he said. “We were able to pick up our speed and I saw that there were right there with me so I pushed even harder.”
David, who was a bronze medalist at last year’s Class 6A UIL Cross Country Championship, was all smiles after the race.
“Ah man, I tried to give it everything I had left,” he said. “I wanted to win my first race back; I’m really proud of my performance.”
He knew Ibrahim would be tough.
“We went to an elevation camp together in Cloudcroft so I knew he was training hard this summer,” David said. “He really pushed me in this race and that’s what I’m always looking for. There was a lot of excitement in the air with all the people cheering, it was really cool.”
David missed the first two weeks of the season after a positive COVID-19 test.
“During the first week I just couldn’t run, it would hurt so much,” he said. “But coming back and being in a race like that brought my motivation level up. It made me realize that this is my senior season and I have to make sure that this is my best season.”