Monday Cooldown: Franklin girl’s determined to return to state; Pastor sets high standards

Franklin started the season with a perfect score.

It’s no secret, the Franklin girls were supposed to be strong this year as they attempt to regroup after narrowly missing out on its third straight state appearance in 2021.

But what they did Saturday morning on a slippery, muddy course at Mary Frances Keisling Park was downright astonishing.

The Cougars opened the 2022 campaign with a perfect score, placing runners in the first nine spots and 10 out of the first 11.

Pebble Hills junior Natalie Franco was the only non-Franklin runner to crack the top 10, placing tenth in 21:06.64.

“It was fun and muddy,” said senior Alyssa Laspada who won the individual title in 20:07.26. “I was a little nervous but also excited.”

She has every reason to be excited.

Laspada was followed by two freshmen – Emily Orr and Abigail Pinon who finished second (20:36.10) and third (20:38.16).

Sophomore Tessa Gibbons was fourth in 20:41.73 and senior Sofia Camacho was fifth 20:42.09, senior Abigail Barraza was eight in 21:04.83 and junior Brooke McCune was ninth in 21:06.07.

“The freshmen did really well,” Laspada said. “I have high expectations for myself and for the team.”

Laspada was the lone runner to represent Franklin at the Class 6A state meet last year.

“It’s been challenging to rebuild after losing some quality seniors the past two years, but we’re getting there,” she said. “Now, as seniors, Sofia (Camacho) and Abby (Barraza) and I have gained the respect of the girls because they saw how hard we worked which ultimately led to success.”

Orr, who was at Wiggs Middle School last year, said the course was difficult but fun.  

“It was really muddy and really steep, and I couldn’t find good footing, but I felt strong,” she said. “I just came off an injury, so it felt good to be back.”

Orr understands the responsibility of running as a freshman on a team as talented as Franklin.

“I really like the team; we’re really close and strong,” she said. “Everyone is fast and talented. I take a lot of advice from Alyssa and Abby. I look up to them and try to keep up with them and try to do what they do.”

Orr said she understands her role.

“I’m hoping good things happen to us this year,” she said. “It’s an amazing team. Me and the other freshman are going to have a huge role. I think we’ll be able to get to state and be able to pull the team together.”

Pinon, who ran at Canutillo Middle School, is also excited to run varsity as a freshman.

“It’s really special, I love running with them,” she said. “It’s something that I’ll cherish forever. My role is to work hard and stay determined. We have to keep on pushing each other and ourselves.

Luis Pastor.

Franklin boys; Coronado’s Pastor shine

Coronado’s Luis Pastor has started his senior season off strong, following up his 2.7-mile Irvin Invitational championship with another at Mary Frances Keisling Park.

“I’ve been saying I wanted to run 15 (minutes) here all week because I knew it was a flat course, but the conditions didn’t allow for that, so I had to adjust and run tough,” Pastor said. “I fell behind in the first 800 meters, so I had to make a quick kick to be where I wanted to be. I passed the front runners and that drained a lot of me, but I was able to hold strong for the rest of the race.”

Pastor posted a 15:46.25 on the muddy course.

Franklin easily won the team championship with 31 points.

Junior Matthew Engle and senior Diego Flores placed second and third in 16:04.89 and 16:20.54, junior Juan Leal was seventh in 16:51.01 and senior Denovan Estrada was eighth in 16:56.69      

Hanks senior Alejandro Tarin was fourth (16:22.89), Tornillo junior Daniel Romero was fifth (16:39.06), his senior teammate, Angel Torres was sixth (16:44.41), Coronado junior Edgar Valles was ninth in 16:57.66 and Parkland senior Michael Castorena had his second top 10 finish, placing tenth in 16:58.51.

“In terms of placement, first is always great but I’m not happy with the time,” Pastor said. “It could have been a lot faster; I could have pushed myself a little more. Even in these conditions there is always a little bit left. I needed the guys to push me, but I was out there by myself for most of the race.”

 Pastor, who finished 10th at state last year in 15:19.9, earning him All State honors, was named to the Texas Milesplit Preseason All State team on Friday.

“People tend to get comfortable once they run the time they want to,” he said. “Last year, I was gunning for (Alan) Culpepper’s school records. For the longest time, that was my motivation. But once I got them, I had to figure out what other carrot I could chase; what will motivate me and push me?”

Pastor set two new school records at the UIL Class 6A State Track and Field Championship his junior year – racing to a 9:03.83 in the 3,200 meters, and a blazing 4:11.34 in the 1,600 meters.

He is now focused on Bel Air’s Sergio Oaxaca’s 1,600 city record of 4:08.9 he set in 1980 and Eastwood’s Daniel Bernal’s 3200-meter city record of 8:54.21 he set in 2017.

“I’ve been setting my sights on either winning state or take both El Paso city distance records in track,” he said. “That’s what’s really motivating me.”

He said there is no greater motivator than fear.

“I’m really afraid of being bad, not improving or giving my best,” he said. “If you’re not going to give it your best, then why are you out here? There are times in workouts where we treat it as a race. There’s never been a workout where we go easy. Even on our easy pace, we’re going hard, we’re trying to outrace each other on the daily at practice and that breeds amazing competitive spirit. You always have something else to push for.”

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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