Districts begin Thursday at Tornillo; continue Saturday at Vista Hills CC

Make Plans

What: District Cross Country Championship.

When: 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 14. District 4-3A at Tornillo High School (girls, then boys); 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 16. Rolling schedule (girls first, then boys) – District 1-4A, District 1-5A, District 2-5A, District 1-6A.

Where: Vista Hills Country Club.

At Stake: Top three teams and top 10 individuals make it to the Region 1 Cross Country Championship, 8 a.m. Monday, Oct. 25 at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock.

There are many compelling storylines heading in to Saturday’s district cross country championships including:

  • Will the Eastwood boys chase down its 11th straight district championship – and continue its 11-year unbeaten streak in El Paso?
  • Will the Burges Mustangs win its fifth consecutive boy’s District 1-5A title?
  • Hanks is seeking its eighth individual title – will senior Gael Alvarado defend his championship?
  • The San Elizario boys are racing for its eighth consecutive district championship at the Class 4A level, will they be able to pull it off?
  • Will the Franklin girls win its fourth consecutive District 1-6A team title?
  • How about Jefferson senior Crystal Peterson going after her fourth District 1-5A championship?

These questions will be answered at the district cross country championships at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Vista Hills Country Club.

The top three teams and top 10 individuals from each district will advance to the Region 1 Cross Country Championship, Oct. 25. Last year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, only two teams qualified to regionals.

Here is a breakdown of the boy’s and girl’s district races.

Championship season is upon us. Who’s ready to take the next step? We’ll find out this weekend!

BOYS

District 1-6A

2020 District Champion: Eastwood.

2020 Individual District Champion: Israel David, Eastlake.

2020 Regional qualifiers: Eastwood and Americas.

The Eastwood Troopers hope two competitive out-of-town invitationals – Woodbridge (Calif.) Classic and Desert Twilight, the Nike Pre-Southwest Regional meet in Queen Creek Ariz. – have prepared them for championship season.

Seeking its 11th straight district championship, the Troopers are led by seniors Andres Gurrola, Isaac Mendoza, Devon Paez, Victor Anchondo and junior Joaquin Chavez – all top 10 runners in El Paso.

The Troopers are nationally recognized as well – garnering the attention of DyeState which ranks them third in the South Region and MileSplit which ranks Eastwood at No. 22 in the nation.

Americas, behind seniors Jared Laverty and Carmelo Corral, pose the biggest threat to Eastwood. Franklin, behind juniors Diego Flores and Austen Percifull and Coronado – with juniors Luis Pastor and Sam Flores – will fight it out for the third and final qualifying spot to regionals.

The individual race could be the closest – and fastest – in memory.

Eastlake senior Israel David looks to defend his title with heavy competition from Pebble Hills junior Omer Ibrahim, Coronado’s Pastor, Americas’ Laverty and Gurrola and Mendoza from Eastwood. This is anybody’s race.

Senior Julian Maldonado hopes to lead the Burges Mustangs to its fifth consecutive boy’s District 1-5A championship.

District 1-5A

2020 District Champion: Burges.

2020 Individual District Champion: Joaquin Ortega, Chapin.

2020 Regional qualifiers: Burges and El Paso High.

The Burges Mustangs are chasing its fifth consecutive boy’s district championship. Seniors Julian Maldonado and David Herrera will be depended on heavily in order to make that happen.

David Ramirez and Leo Valenzuela look to help El Paso High return to the Region 1-5A championship. The third and final spot to regionals will be a toss up between Chapin, which is led by sophomores Seth Truax and Dauntae Herrera and Jefferson led by junior Isaac Ortega and sophomore Francisco Reyes.

The individual title should come down to Truax, Herrera or Maldonado.

Chapin sophomore Seth Truax has had a solid year and looks primed to compete for a spot to the Region 1-5A championship.

District 2-5A

2020 District Champion:  Hanks.

2020 Individual District Champion: Gael Alvarado, Hanks.

2020 Regional qualifiers: Hanks and Bel Air.

Hanks won the district championship in 2020 for the first time since the 1990s. The team shouldn’t have to wait another two decades for another one.

The team is led by senior and defending district champion senior Gael Alvarado and junior Alejandro Tarin.

The Knights biggest challenge will come from Bel Air which is led by junior William Potter and senior Hector Garcia. Watch for Horizon seniors Yahir Barrios and Juan Linares to make a push for a spot to regionals along with Del Valle which has been led by seniors Kevin Rivera and Omar Salais for much of the season.

The individual title will be a race between Hank’s teammates Alvarado and Tarin.

District 1-4A

2020 District Champion: San Elizario.

2020 Individual District Champion: Edwin Gomez, San Elizario.

2020 Regional qualifiers: San Elizario and Riverside.

An eighth district championship for San Elizario is within reach – but it could be the Eagles toughest team race to date with Riverside nipping at their heels.

San Elizario junior Chris Moreno and seniors Alan Ceballos and Irvin Vazquez and brothers Matthew Maese (junior) and sophomore Angel Maese have been consistent all season.

Riverside counters with seniors Andrew Valdiviezo and new comer Jayden Bustillos.

Moreno and Valdiviezo will fight it out for the district individual crown.

The last spot to regionals will come down to Clint, Mt. View or Fabens.

District 4-3A

2020 District Champion: Presidio.

2020 Individual District Champion: Emilio Rios, Presidio.

2020 Regional qualifiers: Presidio and Tornillo.

The Coyotes could potentially have two of the top 5 Class 3A runners in the state in sophomore Daniel Romero and junior Angel Torres.

Both should easily qualify for the Region 1-3A Championship. The big question is, will they take a team with them?

In any other year – with top-tier runners such as Romero and Torres leading the way – Tornillo would be the odds-on favorite to finally win its first state championship. But unlike other years, the Cotton Valley school seriously lacks depth which could put the school’s streak of 13 years qualifying to regionals at risk.

Romero and Torres are the favorites to win individual titles but must watch for Presidio sophomore Eddie Flores, who finished fourth at last year’s district championship.

Saturday will be a full day of exciting races. This is what the schedule looks like – 8 a.m. 1-4A girls, 8:30 a.m. 1-4A boys; 9 a.m. 1-5A girls, 9:30 a.m. 1-5A boys; 10 a.m. 2-5A girls, 10:30 2-5A boys; 11 a.m. 1-6A girls, 11:30 a.m. 1-6A boys. All races will be at Vista Hills Country Club.

Girls

District 1-6A

2020 District Champion: Franklin.

2020 Individual District Champion: Eva Jess, Franklin.

2020 Regional qualifiers: Franklin and Montwood.

The Franklin girls are going after its fourth consecutive District 1-6A team title.

Junior Alyssa Laspada, seniors Jenna Saunders, Abby Barraza and Jordan Torres and junior Sofia Camacho make up solid five.

Eastwood counters with senior Lauren Walls-Portillo and freshman Adelynn Rodriguez who are the state’s fourth-ranked 1-2 punch and third in Region 1-6A. Juniors Salma Licon and Sophia Watts and senior Adalia Olmos all have top 15 times in the city.

The team championship will come down to the placement of the 4-5-6-7 runners for each school.

Montwood, the district runner-up last year, are led by juniors Kassandra Jimemez and Jazmine Miranda and senior Alexa Rangel. The struggle for the Rams is consistency in the 4-7 runners. With the top three girls, the Rams should have enough for another Region 1-6A appearance.

There are several individual runners who could claim a top 10 spot and a trip to regionals.

One thing is for sure, there will be a new individual champion as Franklin alumni and four-time district champion Eva Jess is now competing at Texas. It could come down to Walls-Portillo, Rodriguez and Laspada.

Other runners who could crack the top 10 and advance include Pebble Hills junior Natalia Martinez, Socorro senior Ana Rojas, Americas freshman Lexee Salas and Coronado sophomore Alexa Lawrence and junior Kyra Walker.

District 1-5A

2020 District Champion: Jefferson.

2020 Individual District Champion: Crystal Peterson, Jefferson.

2020 Regional qualifiers: Jefferson and El Paso High.

Jefferson senior Crystal Peterson is going after her fourth District 1-5A championship and a back-to-back team title for the Foxes. Peterson and classmate Monique Correa have led the Foxes the entire season with seniors Camila Prieto, Sofia Hernandez and Jelia Lugo rounding out the top 5.

El Paso High and Burges will battle for runner-up honors with both having legitimate opportunities to advance to regionals.

The Tigers – with sophomores Andrea Castillo and Sofia Ramirez and junior Jezarae Valenzuela – are a little deeper than the Mustangs but at a district race, anything goes.

Burges senior Pamela Ramirez leads the Mustangs and should contend for individual honors against Peterson and Correa. Austin senior Elizabeth Hernandez could also finish in the top 10 and advance to regionals.

Hanks’ senior Mia Rivera will contend for the District 2-5A individual title and possibly help her team to a regional berth.

District 2-5A

2020 District Champion:  Bel Air.

2020 Individual District Champion: Angie Marrufo-Lujan, Parkland.

2020 Regional qualifiers: Bel Air and Canutillo.

This could be the most wide-open team race of the district championship races with no-clear cut favorite.

Canutillo and Del Valle have been improving every week, Hanks has been steady and consistent but you can’t sleep on defending champion Bel Air.

Eagles junior Natalie Rivera has emerged as one of the top 10 runners in the city. Juniors Dania Cano and Jennifer Najar and freshmen Arania Castaneda and Mia Covarrubio round out Canutillo’s top five.

Del Valle counters with two top 25 runners – junior Valeria Loo-Kung and senior Anisa Sanchez. From there, the Conquistadores struggle with depth. Senior Bianca Parker, top 10 sprinter in track field, sophomore Bobbi Guillen and senior Anahi Lara are working their hardest to move up a few spots.

Hanks’ seniors Mia Rivera and Madison Spencer and freshman Elizabeth Aguirre should be enough to get the Knights to regionals.

Seniors Abigail Murillo and Jaylee Levario will need plenty of help in order to get Bel Air a return team visit to regionals.

The individual race could be the most entertaining of the district meets with Canutillo’s Natalie Rivera going head-to-head with Hanks’ Mia Rivera and Bel Air’s Abigail Murillo and Levario.

District 1-4A

2020 District Champion: Clint.

2020 Individual District Champion: Kayhla Talavera, Mt. View.

2020 Regional qualifiers: Clint and San Elizario.

San Elizario had an impressive showing at the District Preview on September 18 at Vista Hills.

Senior Samantha Ramirez won the two-mile event boosting the Eagles to a team championship. Sophomores Katelyn Montoya and Osmary Vazquez and Ximena Holguin all had top 10 finishes.

Riverside could contend for the title if seniors Marcela Hernandez and Lauren Perez get some help from sophomore Hillary Hernandez and senior Daniela Luna who need strong races.

The final spot to regionals will come down to Clint and Mt. View who are pretty even.

Mt. View does have senior Madeline Estrada, one of the top runners in the district. Clint’s top runners are freshman Ileana Maldonado and seniors Natalie Frausto and Jessica Herrera.

San Elizario’s Ramirez and Mt. View’s Estrada will make for a great two-mile duel.

Tornillo senior Olivia Garcia has been steady all season. She is looking to help guide the Coyotes to its first District 4-3A championship on Thursday at Tornillo.

District 4-3A

2020 District Champion: Presidio.

2020 Individual District Champion: Kylene Elias, Tornillo.

2020 Regional qualifiers: Presidio and Tornillo.

The Coyotes fell seven points short of winning its first district championship in school history.

With Kylene Elias, the two-time defending district champion, returning to an already strong team, Tornillo has a legitimate shot.

Along with Elias, sophomore Nataly Escajeda, junior Brianna Ibarra and seniors Olivia Garcia and Abetsi Blanco hope to bring home a golden trophy to the Cotton Valley.

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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