Region 1 roundup: Eastwood, San Eli boys, Tornillo girls and 16 individuals advance to state

What’s Next

What: UIL Cross Country State Championship.

When: Friday, Nov. 5 for Class 3A and 5A and Saturday, Nov. 6 for Class 4A and 6A at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

Who advanced?

Boys

Class 6A: Eastwood. Also, Omer Ibrahim, Pebble Hills; Luis Pastor, Coronado and Jared Laverty and Carmelo Corral, Americas.

Class 5A: Gael Alvarado and Alejandro Tarin, Hanks.

Class 4A: San Elizario and Riverside’s Andrew Valdivierzo and Jayden Bustillos.

Class 3A: Tornillo’s Daniel Romero and Angel Torres.

Girls

Class 6A: Lauren Walls-Portillo and Adelynn Rodriguez, Eastwood;Alyssa Laspada, Franklin.

Class 5A: Pamela Ramirez, Burges and Crystal Peterson, Jefferson.

Class 4A: Samantha Ramirez, San Elizario.

Class 3A: Tornillo.

All five men in this photo will be running for a Class 6A state championship on Nov. 6.

The Eastwood and San Elizario boys earned silver team medals and the Tornillo girls made school history – AGAIN – qualifying for state for the first time at the Region 1 Cross Country Championship at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock on Monday.

Sixteen individual runners not on a qualifying team also advanced to the UIL Cross Country State Championship Nov. 5 and Nov. 6 at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

Class 6A

Eastwood seniors Andres Gurrola and Isaac Mendoza paced the Troopers finishing fourth (15:46.0) and tenth (16:01.6) but could not overcome solid performances by Southlake Carroll’s 4-5-6 runners and eventually finished second with 98 points.

Southlake Carroll won the region with 75 points. Plano West was third with 123 points and Propser captured the final spot to state, scoring a 148.

Americas was sixth with 193 points and Franklin was 11th with 295 points.

“Anytime you make it to state and run that close to a team like Southlake Carroll it’s a good meet,” said Eastwood coach Mike McLain. “I’ve very proud of them. This team is very much overperforming expectations.”

McLain said there is room for improvement.

“We’ll switch some workouts up that can make us a little sharper,” he said. “I think they have an excellent chance to medal which is a big deal in 6A.”

This will be Eastwood’s eighth consecutive trip to state and the ninth time in 10 years.

Pebble Hills junior Omer Ibrahim led all El Paso runners, finishing third in 15:45.3. Coronado junior Luis Pastor was fifth in 15:47.0 and Americas’ seniors Jared Laverty and Carmelo Corral finished 11th (16:02.5) and 16th (16:08.0).

“I wasn’t at my best, I was struggling a bit but it felt good to finish in the top three,” Ibrahim said. “I was nervous before the race but I was still excited to be able to run regionals, I haven’t been able to do that in the past two years.”

Entering the race, Ibrahim said he was hoping for a top 10 finish and to qualify for state.

“I was happy that I qualified for state because that’s what I went there to do,” he said.

Hudson Heikkinen from Plano West won in 15:25.3 and Abilene’s Andruw Villa was second in 15:26.1.

Eastwood, Ibrahim, Pastor, Laverty and Corral all qualified for state.

Eastwood senior Lauren Walls-Portillo earned a silver medal, finishing in 18:05.1 at the Region 1-6A Championship. She has been to state all four years of her high school career.

On the girl’s side, Franklin narrowly missed out on its third straight state appearance.

The team finished tied for fourth with Northwest Eaton with 167 points but Eaton advances on the strength of its sixth runner finishing before Franklin’s sixth runner.

Eastwood was sixth with 198 points and Coronado was 20th with 480 points.

Three El Paso runners qualified for state as individuals.

Eastwood senior Lauren Walls-Portillo earned a silver medal, finishing in 18:05.1 behind Natalie Cook of Flower Mound (16:39.9), Eastwood freshman Adelynn Rodriguez was All Region after her sixth-place finish (18:28.6) and Franklin junior Alyssa Laspada advances to state placing 20th in 19:28.0.

“They have really driven each other this year,” McLain said of Walls-Portillo and Rodriguez. “With the boys, we’ve been able to create competition with each other. Competition will make you better.  Lauren has had great improvement through her four years but there really hasn’t been anybody on the team who is as fast as her. Adelynn has given her someone not only to workout with, but to compete with. That has made them both better.”

Jefferson’s Crystal Peterson finished 13th in 19:36.5 at the Region 1-5A Championship and advanced to her third state meet.

Class 5A

Four runners survived Region 1 and will be running at the state meet in two weeks.

Hanks’ teammates senior Gael Alvarado and junior Alejandro Tarin, Burges senior Pamela Ramirez and Jefferson senior Crystal Peterson earned spots to state.

Alvarado was 13th in 16:23.7, Tarin was 16th in 16:29.1, Ramirez was eighth in 19:16.4 and Peterson was 13th in 19:36.5.

The Hanks boys were the top El Paso 5A team, placing 14th with 384 points followed by Burges (16th, 399), Chapin (17th, 422), Horizon (18th, 466), El Paso (19th, 485) and Bel Air (22nd, 561).

Jefferson was the top El Paso 5A school placing seventh with 262 points followed by Canutillo (10th, 319), Del Valle (15th, 363), Hanks (16th, 369) and Burges (17th, 377).

San Elizario junior Chris Moreno won the Region 1-4A championship. He is the next in line in a long list of regional champions at the Cotton Valley School.

Class 4A

San Elizario junior Chris Moreno won the Region 1-4A championship in overwhelming fashion, racing to a 14-second margin of victory, finishing the course in 15:40.9.

Moreno also helped the Eagles to a silver team medal finishing 12 points behind Canyon with 97 points. Big Spring was third with 117 points and Argyle was fourth with 126 points.

“We lost Edwin (Gomez) and Dilan (Sanchez), our No. 1 and No. 2 runners so I knew this would be our rebuilding year,” San Elizario coach Cesar Morales said. “We start off slow almost every year because many of our kids go to Mexico or they work in the summer so we can’t workout. For us, our season begins when school starts, that’s why we start slow.”

 Morales knew the season would be difficult.

“I told the kids that regionals would be tough,” he said. “This was really an eye-opener for them. All we wanted to do was qualify so that would give us two weeks to prepare for state. I wanted to use this race to see if we really had a chance to medal at state. You have no idea how pleased I am. There was only a 15-second gap between my second and fifth guy, which was very good.”

Moreno’s individual regional title is San Elizario’s fourth in five years.

“Since Michael Johnson, Erick Arambula, Edwin Gomez and now Chris, I have been fortunate to always have a top runner,” Morales said.

The Eagles will be making its eighth straight trip to state.

Riverside seniors Andrew Valdiviezo and Jayden Bustillos also qualified for state – both finishing in the top 10.

Valdiviezo was fourth in 16:10.02 and Bustillos was sixth in 16:15.7.

Riverside was fifth with 173 and Valle Verde Early College was 23rd with 654 points.

San Elizario’s Samantha Ramirez finished in 15th place in 12:52.2 and qualified for her first state appearance.

“Since the beginning of the season she has been on a mission to qualify for state,” Morales said. “We know it’s going to be difficult but her goal is to finish in the top 20. She has been hitting personal bests every week for the past six weeks and she wants to do the same at state and hopefully earn a scholarship.”

San Elizario finished 12th in the region with 305 points, Riverside was 15th with 466 points and El Paso Young Women’s Academy was 22nd with 644 points.

Tornillo continues to write the cross country record back – advancing to state for the first time in school history.

Class 3A

Tornillo’s girls qualified as a team for the first time in school history, finishing fourth with 178 points – two points ahead of Bushland.

“When the unofficial results where published, we were up by one point,” said Tornillo coach Jesse Garcia. “The scary part is when its unofficial, you don’t know if they missed a kid at the finish line so they have to go back to the camera to make sure they didn’t. If they do, they fix it and then it becomes official. I’ve seen teams switch positions because they missed a kid. I’m glad that didn’t happen to us.”

Garcia waited to share the news with the team until it did become official.

“When we walked up to the girls, they looked spent, like they just went through a war,” he said. “They saw my reaction and heard me yelling with my phone up in the air and they yelled, ‘We made, it, we made it.’ It was a moment of euphoria, we were so grateful, it was feeling I can’t describe.”

Holliday won the region with 31 points followed by Crane (132) and Canadian (148).

Junior Kylene Elias ran a 2-mile time of 13:15.6, good for 10th place, to lead the Coyotes.

For the first time in nine years, the boys did not qualify as a team, finishing 13th with 326 points.

Tuscola Jim Ned won the region with 87 points followed by Presidio (120), Amarillo River Road (202) and Crane (203).

However, all is not lost as sophomore Daniel Romero and junior Angel Torres reached qualifying times to advance.

Romero was third in 16:48.0 and Torres 14th in 18:14.1.

“They had somewhat of a bad race, it happens, but they still have the potential to medal at state,” Garcia said. “Daniel was in the mix to the very end. It came down to last 400 meters and it got away from him. Angel’s bad race took Daniel by surprise because they always work together. Angel is going to redeem himself, he knows what he has to do, those lessons had to be learned. He was humbled by it but hopefully it will make him a better runner.”

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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