Boys Region 1 Preview:  Traditional regional and state powers take on Region 1

What: Region 1 Cross Country Championship.

When: Monday, Oct. 25 at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock. Girl’s start times (Mountain Time): 4A, 8 a.m.; 5A, 9 a.m.; 6A, 10 a.m.; 3A, 1 p.m. Boys start times: 4A, 8:30 a.m.; 5A, 9:30 a.m.; 6A 10:30 a.m. 3A, 1:30 p.m.

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

At Stake: Top four teams and top 10 individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the UIL Cross Country State Championship, Saturday Nov. 6 at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

Who advanced?

The following boy’s teams and runners have advanced:

Class 6A: Eastwood, Americas and Franklin. Also, Omer Ibrahim, Pebble Hills; Israel David, Eastlake; Luis Pastor, Coronado and Sam Breceda, Coronado.      

Class 5A: Burges, Horizon, El Paso High, Hanks, Chapin. Bel Air. Also, Michael Castorena, Parkland; Efren Moncada, Parkland; Isai Barajas, Ysleta; Venancio Calderon, El Dorado; Omar Rivera, Canutillo.

Class 4A: San Elizario, Riverside, Valle Verde Early College.

Class 3A: Tornillo.

The Region 1 Cross Country Championship begins on Monday at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock with a trip to the UIL State Championship at stake.

The traditional El Paso and state powers will make their presence known at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock on Monday.

Eastwood and Americas in Class 6A, San Elizario in Class 4A and Tornillo in Class 3A will all be vying for another trip to the UIL Cross Country State Championship on Nov. 6 at Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock.

The Region 1 Cross Country Championship begins on Monday.

San Elizario is working toward defending its Class 4A state title, Eastwood is hoping to improve on their Class 6A runner-up finish from last year and Eastlake senior Israel David is shooting for another opportunity to return to the state medal stand after finishing with a bronze at last year’s Class 6A race.

But first, they must get through the toughest region in the state – Region 1, the Region of Doom.

Six individual runners – Riverside junior Andrew Valdiviezo, Eastlake junior Israel David Eastlake, a pair of Americas runners (junior Jared Laverty and senior Michael Mier), Eastwood junior Lauren Walls-Portillo and Montwood junior Kassandra Jimenez – also punched their tickets to Round Rock.

Here is what’s in store for this year’s regional boy’s races:

Eastwood seniors Andres Gurrola (left) and Isaac Mendoza (right), along with Americas senior Carmelo Corral (center), will race for a spot to state.

Class 6A

Eastwood finished three points away from its third straight Region 1 championship last year, finishing right behind Southlake Carroll in the Region of Doom.

Americas finished fourth with 109 points and would have advanced to its third straight state championship meet but due to the pandemic, only the top three teams advanced.

The Troopers won Class 5A regionals in 2018 and 2019 before leaping back to 6A last year.

With a healthy, senior-laden team, Eastwood looks to return to state for the ninth time in 10 years and its eighth in row.

After losing four of its top five runners, Eastwood has been in reload mode.

“Everyone had low expectations for us this year,” said senior Isaac Mendoza, the lone returning top five runner. “A lot of people thought we would be done this year and we wouldn’t be competitive. We wanted to prove them wrong so we put in the work in the summer and we held each other accountable. Nothing beats work.  If you don’t put in the work, you won’t go get the results – and all of us put in the work this year.”

Eastwood finished the 2020 season with a Class 6A state silver medal, just six points behind Southlake Carroll.

Americas and Franklin, Pebble Hills junior Omer Ibrahim, Eastlake senior Israel David, Coronado junior Luis Pastor and Coronado senior Sam Breceda will also compete for an opportunity to advance to state.

“The boys have made great strides this year,” Franklin coach Anthony Laspada said. “Last year we had some injuries at district but we had some young kids fill in nicely for them so that helped us going forward. Just to see that light click has been amazing. I’m really excited to see what they can do going forward.”

David finished sixth in 16:10.60 and Americas senior Jared Laverty finished 14th at last year’s regional (16:24.70) and both advanced to state.

Ibrahim, the District 1-6A champion, is looking forward to his first regional appearance.

“The Lubbock meet was kind of like a regional preview so I know the course,” he said of Mae Simmons Park. “We saw a lot of the teams that are going to be there on Monday so I’ll do what I did last time and I should be good.”

Ibrahim, who has won a city-best six individual titles this season, gained a huge confidence booster winning the Nike South Invitational at The Woodlands.

“I thought I was a lot farther behind the state and national runners,” he said. “I didn’t realize I was going to be able to compete with all the big teams and the runners. Knowing that I can has helped my confidence and now I know I can do more.”

Hanks and Chapin are two teams to watch at the Region 1-5A Championship on Monday.

Class 5A

Last year was a difficult one for the Class 5A boys when zero teams and only three individuals advance to state.

Hanks junior Alejandro Tarin is the only 5A runner (16th, 17:23.30 at last year’s regional) with an opportunity to return to state.

Tarin finished second (17:44.39) at this year’s District 2-5A race behind senior teammate Gael Alvarado who defending his title in 17:24.17.

Burges, Horizon, El Paso High, Hanks, Chapin and Bel Air, along with Parkland juniors Michael Castorena and Efren Moncada, Ysleta sophomore Isai Barajas, El Dorado senior Venancio Calderon and Canutillo sophomore Omar Rivera will do their best to advance to state.

“Last year, due to the COVID pandemic, my morale was 100 percent down and I didn’t have the motivation to run,” Tarin said. “It definitely helps now that the pandemic has subsided a little bit. Running together as a team again together has definitely brought my confidence and morale up. We’ll going to give it our all and see where we end up.”

Burges was the top El Paso team last year finishing seventh, Hanks was eleventh, Bel Air was fourteenth and and El Paso High was fifteenth.

San Elizario and Riverside will represent District 1-4A at the Region 1-4A Championship.

Class 4A

San Elizario, the defending Class 4A state champions, have won six of the past seven regional titles – its only blemish was a third-place finish in 2018.

“Regionals is going to very tough,” said Cesar Morales, San Elizario’s head coach. “We haven’t competed against any of those schools in the east but according to what we’ve seen in the statistics, they are all very good, just like every year. We just have to go out and do what we’ve been doing in practice.”

Also competing are Riverside and Valle Verde Early College.

The Eagles are seeking its eighth straight trip to state.

District 1-4A champion junior Chris Moreno finished 13th in 17:17.10 at last year’s regionals.

“From what we’ve seen, Argyle will be our toughest competition just like they were last year,” he said. “We know for us to win state, we have to continue to work hard in practice. This is not all we have to give; we have a lot more in the tank. Our goal is to win another state title but we’ll see what happens at regionals.”

Riverside’s Andrews Valdiviezo was fourth in 16:47.00 last year and advanced to state. Riverside finished seventh as a team.

Tornillo junior Angel Torres won the Class 4A Division at the Lubbock Invitational, earlier this year. He hopes to improve on his seventh place finish at the 2020 Class 3A regional.

Class 3A

Tornillo escaped Region 1 with a third-place finish and a trip to the UIL State Cross Country Championship last year.

It was the Coyotes 11th state appearance in 12 years.

At last year’s regional, Tornillo had two runners – sophomore Daniel Romero (fourth, 17:35.90) and junior Angel Torres (seventh, 17:42.70) – finish in the top 10.

With very little behind that 1-2 punch, Tornillo – as a team – could be left out.

However, Torres and Romero could very likely win individual medals at regionals and the state meet.

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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