State Championship Preview: It’s a family affair in San Elizario

Today: Tornillo girls.

Tuesday: San Elizario boys.

Wednesday: Eastwood boys.

Thursday:  Individual qualifiers. Class 6A – Pebble Hills junior Omer Ibrahim; Coronado junior Luis Pastor; Americas senior Jared Laverty; Americas senior Carmelo Corral; Eastwood senior Lauren Walls-Portillo; Eastwood freshman Adelynn Rodriguez and Franklin junior Alyssa Laspada. Class 5A – Burges senior Pamela Ramirez; Jefferson senior Crystal Peterson; Hanks junior Alejandro Tarin; Hanks senior Gael Alvarado. Class 4A – Riverside seniors Andrew Valdiviezo and Jayden Bustillos. Class 3A – Tornillo sophomore Daniel Romero and junior Angel Torres.

Make Plans

What: UIL State Cross Country Championship.

When:  Friday, Nov. 5. All times MDT: Class 3A girls, 9 a.m.; Class 3A boys, 9:30 a.m. Class 5A girls; 10:30 a.m., Class 5A boys, 11:10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 6. Class 4A girls, 9 a.m.; Class 4A boys, 9:30 a.m.; Class 6A girls, 10:30 a.m.; Class 6A boys, 11:10 a.m.

Where:  Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

At Stake: State team and individual titles.

The Maese Clan – nephew Jacob Ordonez, Jorge Maese Jr., Daniel Maese, Matthew Maese, Angel Maese and coach Jorge Maese.

The competition on the cross country course pales in comparison to how competitive the home of Jorge and Perla Maese is.

The San Elizario assistant coach is the father of three varsity runners – junior Matthew Maese, sophomore Angel Maese and senior Jorge Maese Jr.

“They’re boys so by nature they are going to be competitive,” Maese said. “Everything has to be a game – who can finish their meal first, who can run up the stairs first, it doesn’t matter – every thing has to be a competition.”

As San Elizario prepares to defend its Class 4A UIL State Cross Country title at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, there is no doubt that at least one of the Maese boys – senior Jorge Jr., junior Matthew or sophomore Angel – will play a major factor in the outcome.

Last year, it was Matthew – the Eagles’ sixth runner – who finished 63rd overall breaking the 57-57 tie with Melissa to help San Elizario earn its fifth state championship since 2014.

“We wouldn’t have a team without them,” Chris Moreno, the District and Regional champion joked about the Maese brothers.

This year’s edition – Moreno, seniors Alan Ceballos and Irvin Vazquez, sophomore Julian Guerra and the Maese brothers – hope to carry on a solid Cotton Valley tradition.

San Elizario won state titles in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, finished third in 2018 and second in 2019.

‘They are always trying to out-do each other,” Jorge Maese said. “There is a natural rivalry between them, but when its race day, they are focused on their competition and they know they have to do well because our team depends on it.”

This is the second season Matthew and Angel have raced with the varsity and Jorge Jr. first year.

“It’s a great feeling knowing that our family is there supporting each other,” Jorge Jr. said. “Being as competitive as we are really helps use push each other. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing, we’re going to push each other to the limit.”

San Elizario Junior Matthew Maese had a strong Region 1-4 Championship race, finishing in 21st place in 17:01.4. The Eagles are seeking back-to-back state championships.

The Maese brothers have a deep understanding of the tradition-rich culture of distance running at San Elizario.

“When we won state for first time in 2014, all three of his boys were in elementary school,” said Cesar Morales, San Elizarios head cross country coach. “When they would play, they would pretend they were my runners and say, ‘I’m Michael Johnson,’ or ‘I’m Erick Arambula’ or “I’m Ulises Cardoza.’ And, now look at them, they are going to compete for a state championship.”

Jorge Jr. chuckles at the memory.

“I wanted to be like Michael,” he said. “He set so many records and was one of the best runners to come out of San Eli.”

Matthew said he admired Arambula.

“I liked Erick because he would always talk to us so I got to know him better,” he said.

Angel said he models his running philosophy after Cardoza.

“Ulises was always a team runner,” Angel said. “He always put the team first before his accomplishments. I talked to him a lot, he would always make us feel part of the program.”

Matthew, who has been a solid two/three runner for San Elizairo, said running with his brothers and having his father as a coach has made the season special for him.

“Running with the team is great, but obviously it doesn’t compare with running with your brothers,” he said. “We know how to leave personal matters out of the sport. We try to keep everything professional when we run.”

Matthew said he has also learned to respect the blurred lines of having a father as a coach.

“I treat him with even more respect on and off the field,” he said. “Sometimes it’s better for us because he gives us extra motivation knowing that he’s our dad and our coach.”

Angel agrees.

“It’s been a special season being able to run with my brothers,” he said. “There’s a lot of positive energy that comes from my family. Knowing that they are there makes a big difference.”

He said having father as his coach provides that extra push sometimes.

“After every race, we reflect on how we did and how we can do better for the next race,” he said. “That’s something a lot of families don’t have.”

Maese said it is sometimes difficult to differentiate coach from parent.

“When I’m out there, I have to treat them like every other athlete,” he said. “We expect them to do whatever we tell them to do. They don’t get any special treatment.”

Matter of fact, when it’s time for Morales to pick the top seven – Jorge Sr. leaves the room.

“I excuse myself when he picks the top seven,” Maese said. “That’s the fairest thing to do. I don’t want to be bias about anything. But the results show that my three boys have earned a spot in the top seven. They have been able to prove it every week with their times and the consistency of their training.”

With three competitive boys, sometimes dad and coach becomes a referee.

“They’re brothers so of course if one of the boys has a bad race they’ll give each other a hard time, but that’s when I have to take the dad approach to the situation,” he said. “That’s when I have to remind them that all three of them did well but obviously one had a better day then the other two so I have to remind the other two that there’s going to be another race and they need to continue to work hard and next week might bring different results.”

What’s not lost to Maese is the possibility of experiencing a state championship with his three boys.

“I’ve thought about it,” he said. “Every year has been very special, but obviously if we do earn a medal it’s going to be a hell of lot more special since all three of my boys would hopefully contribute to another state championship. I don’t think there would be any words to describe how happy I would feel. It wouldn’t only be a team effort; it would also be a family effort.”

Senior Jorge Maese (center) and junior Julian Guerra will be racing in their first UIL State Cross Country Championsip.

Jorge Jr. said earning a ring with his little brothers would be a great way to cap his senior year.

“It would mean a lot because it’s my first time running at state,” he said. “And if we win, I’ll have a ring too, just like my brothers.”

Matthew said earning a ring with his little brother last year was great, but earning another one with his big brother would be amazing.

“It would be a great way to end the season with all three of us winning a ring,” he said. “Last year it was only me and Angel but this time it’s going to be all three of us so we’re going to be able to share that experience. Nothing can really compare with the feeling when you win state, hopefully we all get to experience it together.”

Angel agrees.

“It would be amazing,” he said. “It would give us a sense of accomplishment and it would feel great to be able to share that with the family.”

Jorge and Perla have another boy, 11-year-old Daniel and a nephew – Jacob Ordonez who was part of the 2018 bronze medal team.

 “He’s a distance runner, too,” Maese said. “So we expect him to go out there and help us out at some point.”

However, this Maese will run alone.

“He won’t be able to run with his brothers; we didn’t calculate that one correctly,” Maese joked. “So as of now, he’s the only one missing a state appearance in our house.”

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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