El Paso’s top runners compete at NXR South; Ibrahim earns Top 10 finish

Pebble Hills’ Omer Ibrahim capped his junior year with a top 10 finish in the Championship Division at the Nike Cross South Regional, placing sixth in 15:40.4.

Pebble Hills junior Omer Ibrahim (left) was El Paso’s top runner at the Nike Cross South Regional, placing sixth.

Coronado junior Luis Pastor (14th, 15:54.9), Eastwood senior Andres Gurrola (19th, 16:01.6) and Americas senior Jared Laverty (24th, 16:08.9) were the only other top 25 runners.

Coronado’s Luis Pastor (in blue) had a top 15 finish at NXR South.

Grapevine, the Class 5A UIL state champion, won the team event with 66 points followed by Class 6A state champ Southlake Carroll (73 points), Class 6A runner-up The Woodlands (127 points) and Class 6A fourth place team Humble Atascocita, with 170 points.

Eastwood, which won Class 6A bronze, was fifth with 171 points and Class 4A state champion San Elizario was 19th with 449 points.

Eastwood, which won Class 6A bronze, was fifth at NXR South.

Sahil Dodda, from Dallas St. Marks, won the individual title in 15:15.3.

In the girls Championship Division, three El Paso runners finished in the top 25 including Eastwood senior Lauren Walls-Portillo (11th, 18:34.70), Eastwood freshman Adelynn Rodriguez (13th, 18:39.8) and Franklin junior Alyssa Laspada (24th, 19:07.0).

Lauren Walls-Portillo

Shewaye Johnson from Prosper won the individual title in 17:45.9.

Southlake Carroll won the team event with 95 points, Eastwood was 10th with 265 points and Franklin was 11th with 276 points. The Troopers are only the second girl’s team to finish in the top 10 at NXR. The other was Eastwood in 2013.

Alyssa Laspada

In the boys Open Division, four El Pasoans finished in the top 15 including Franklin junior Diego Flores who won the event in 16:36.8. A pair of teammates – junior Denovan Estrada (fifth, 16:49.0) and sophomore Matthew Engle (ninth 16:54.8) – had top 10 finishes and Riverside senior Jayden Bustillos was 11th in 16:57.0.

Franklin junior Diego Flores won the boys Open Division. The team finished second overall.

The Woodlands won the team title with 91 points followed by Franklin (108 points). Eastwood was 11th overall with 406 points and Cathedral was 16th with 462 points.

In the girl’s Open Division, San Elizario senior Samantha Ramirez was 14th in 20:26.7.

Samantha Ramirez

Keller Bear Creek’s Vivien Boehmer won the individual title in 19:21.7.

High School Boy’s XC Poll: Final

Every Thursday, El Paso Running will utilize a point system to highlight El Paso’s top boy’s cross country runners.

The system is as follows: In a race of less than 150 runners, first place gets 10 points, second gets 9 points all the way down to 10th place which gets 1 point. For meets with between 150 to 300 runners, double points will be rewarded meaning 20 points for first, 19 for second all the way down to 1 point for 20th. For every additional 150 runners, another 10 runners will be included in the points.

For those who like raw times, we also list the Top 25 girls race times and the meets and dates that they occurred.

For questions, videos and photos email vrmart66@gmail.com.

Cathedral finished the season with a bronze medal at the TAPPS State Championship.

Top 10

1. Eastwood: The Troopers won its fifth consecutive state medal winning bronze n Class 6A. Seniors Andres Gurrola and Isaac Mendoza had top 20 finishes to lead Eastwood – Gurrola 12th in 15:28.6 and Isaac Mendoza, 17th in 15:37.8. Eastwood will race at the NXN South Regional Championship in The Woodlands on Nov. 20 and the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championship in December.

2. San Elizario: The Eagles defended its Class 4A UIL state championship – its sixth championship in eight years.  Junior Chris Moreno was second in 15:45.8. Junior Angel Maese was 29th in 16:41.3 and sophomore Matthew Maese (39th, 16:53.5) were the only other top 40 finishers for San Elizario. The Eagles will race at the NXN South Regional Championship in The Woodlands on Nov. 20.

3. Americas: The Trailblazers finished sixth at the Region 1-6A Meet. Americas did send two runners to state.  Senior Jared Laverty was 45th in 15:58.4 and teammate Carmelo Corral was 71st in 16:17.8. As Americas looks ahead, the team will only return two of its top seven – juniors Stefan Alvarez and Rene Renteria.

4. Franklin: The Cougars finished the season with an 11th place finish at the Region 1, Class 6A Championship. Their future looks bright as the team returns all but one of the top seven including juniors Diego Flores and Austen Percifull and Rai Lopez and sophomores Matthew Engle and Juan Leal.

5. Coronado: Junior Luis Pastor had an Al State race at the Class 6A State meet, finishing 10th in 15:19.9. The team will return three of its top five runners including Pastor, sophomore Carlos Mendez and junior Sam Flores.

6. Cathedral:  The Irish finished with a bronze medal at the TAPPS State Championship with 69 points. Elijah Noble was eighth in 17:08.5 followed by Bernard Martinez (ninth, 17:12.6 12), Jacob Noble (12th, 17:22.3), Preston Arnett (14th, 17:55.2 ) and Dylan-John Lorilla (26th, 18:06.3).

7. Riverside: The Rangers seniors – Andrew Valdiviezo and Jayden Bustillos – had top 20 finishes at the Class 4A State Championship. Bustillos was 16th in 16:18.5 and Valdiviezo was 19th in 16:28.7.

8. Pebble Hills:  Junior Omer Ibrahim was eighth in 15:17.3 and finished All State at the UIL Class 6A Championship. His 15:17.3 was the fastest of any El Paso runner in all classifications. Four of its top five will return including Ibrahim, junior Noah Castorena, freshman Ameen Ibrahim and sophomore Robert Dickerson.

9. Hanks: The Knights duo of junior Alejandro Tarin and senior Gael Alvarado finished their season at the Class 5A state meet where Tarin was 27th in 16:05.6 and Alvarado was 51st in 16:30.8. Four of the top five runners will return for Hanks including Tarin, juniors Andres Garcia, Gael Ornelas and Angel Gomez.

10. Burges: The Mustangs placed 16th in the Region 1-5A race. Burges had two top 50 runners – senior Julian Maldonado (45th, 17:19.8) and junior Mathew Guerra (46th, 17:21.0). With only two of the top five returning (Guerra and junior Esteban Armendariz) – it looks to be a rebuild at Burges.

Dropped out:  None.

On the brink: None.

Coronado junior Luis Pastor, Eastwood seniors Andres Gurrola and Isaac Mendoza and Pebble Hills junior Omer Ibrahim, have been the top runners in El Paso since the beginning of the season. All ran at the UIL Class 6A state meet.

Top times (3 mile or 5K)

1, Andres Gurrola, Eastwood, 14.43.8 (Woodbridge, 9/18).

2, Isaac Mendoza, Eastwood, 14.49.7 (Woodbridge, 9/18).

3, Omer Ibrahim, Pebble Hills, 15:02.15 (Del Valle, 8/28).

4, Israel David, Eastlake, 15:02.73 (Del Valle, 8/28).

5, Luis Pastor, Coronado, 15:04.79 (Del Valle, 8/28).

6, Devon Paez, Eastwood, 15:13.6 (Woodbridge, 9/18).

7, Victor Anchondo, Eastwood, 15:16.8 (Woodbridge, 9/18)

8, Jared Laverty, Americas, 15:24.83 (Canutillo, 8/21).

9, Joaquin Chavez, Eastwood, 15:28.0 (Woodbridge, 9/18).

10, Chris Moreno, San Elizario, 15:38.71 (Del Valle, 8/28).

11, Angel Torres, Tornillo, 15:41.47 (Clint, 10/2).

12, Carmelo Corral, Americas, 15:41.95 (Canutillo, 8/21).

13, Daniel Romero, Tornillo, 15:44.07 (Del Valle, 8/28).

14, Andrew Valdiviezo, Riverside, 15:44.47 (Clint, 10/2).

15, Jacob Becket, Eastwood, 15:44.8 (Woodbridge, 9/18).

16, Diego Flores, Franklin, 15:51.32 (Mary Francis Keisling, 9/11).

17, Anthony Casillas, Eastwood, 15:52.3 (Woodbridge, 9/18).

18, Alejandro Tarin, Hanks, 16:01.51 (Shawver Park, 9/4).

19, Aaron Saenz, Americas 16:04.0 (Cleveland, 8/28).

20, Preston Arnett, Cathedral, 16:15.52 (Clint, 10/2).

21, Jayden Bustillos, Riverside, 16:15.7 (Mae Simmons, 10/25).

22, Austen Percifull, Franklin, 16:16.35 (Mary Francis Keisling, 9/11).

23, Gael Alvarado, Hanks, 16:19.03 (Shawver Park, 9/4).

24, Isaac Romero, Franklin, 16:22.86 (Southlake, 8/28).

25, Matthew Maese, San Elizario, 16:28.43 (Clint, 10/2).

A great season in Class 4A came to end with San Elizario’s Chris Moreno earning a state silver medal.

Power rankings
(number parenthesis indicate meets won):

1, Luis Pastor, Coronado, 89 (3).

2, Omer Ibrahim, Pebble Hills, 86 (6).

3, Chris Moreno, San Elizario, 76 (3).

4, Jared Laverty, Americas, 66 (4).

5, Angel Torres, Tornillo, 58 (3).

6, Alejandro Tarin, Hanks, 57.

7, Andrew Valdiviezo, Riverside, 55.

8, Daniel Romero, Tornillo, 54.

9, Andres Gurrola, Eastwood, 45.

10, Gael Alvarado, Hanks, 45 (1).

Diego Flores, Franklin, 40 (1).

Carmelo Corral, Americas, 40.

Isaac Mendoza, Eastwood, 40.

Jayden Bustillos, Riverside, 38.

Israel David, Eastlake, 34.

Austen Percifull, Franklin, 20.

Aaron Saenz, Americas, 19.

Seth Truax, Chapin, 19.

Matthew Maese, San Elizario, 17.

Julian Maldonado, Burges, 17 (1).

Preston Arnett, Cathedral, 15.

Israel Quintana, Immanuel, 15.

Devon Paez, Eastwood, 15.

David Ramirez, El Paso High, 15.

David Herrera, Burges, 14.

Jacob Noble, Cathedral, 12 (1).

Omar Rivera, Canutillo, 12.

Irvin Vazquez, San Elizario, 13.

Bernard Martinez, Cathedral, 10.

Elijah Noble, Cathedral, 10.

Rai Lopez, Franklin, 9.

Angel Maese, San Elizario, 9.

Matthew Engle, Franklin, 8.

Matthew Marshall, Eastwood, 8.

Sam Breceda, Coronado, 8.

Leo Valenzuela, El Paso High, 8.

Michael Castorena, Parkland, 8.

Joaquin Chavez, Eastwood, 7.

Frank Lozano, Franklin, 7.

Efren Moncada, Parkland, 7.

Carlos Mendez, Coronado, 6.

Matthew Guerra, Burges, 6.

Oscar Guzman, Franklin, 6.

Diego Espinoza, Cathedral, 6.

Alan Ceballos, San Elizario, 6.

Juan Linares, Horizon, 6.

Denovan Estrada, Franklin, 5.

Mario Elias, Eastlake, 5.

Sam Flores, Coronado, 5.

Aidan Hernandez, Eastlake, 5.  

Aydan Lugo, El Paso High, 5.

Aaron Gomez, Burges, 5.

Isai Barajas, Ysleta, 5.

Anthony Casillas, Eastwood, 4.

Dauntae Herrera, Chapin, 4.

Dylan Lorilla, Cathedral, 4.

Venancio Calderon, El Dorado, 4.

Bryan Estrada, Eastlake, 3.

Antonio Palos, Irvin, 3.

Jorge Maese, San Eli, 3.

Alexander Flores, Eastwood, 2.

Victor Anchondo, Eastwood, 2.

Sebastian Gonzalez, Franklin, 2.

Rene Renteria, Americas, 2.            

Juan Leal, Franklin, 2.

Luis Martinez, Irvin, 2.

Kevin Perez, Riverside, 2.

Heiden Pereda, Eastwood, 2.

Braulio Torres, Chapin, 2.

Yahir Barrios, Horizon, 2.

Isaac Romero, Franklin, 1.

Jesse Morales, Americas, 1.

Mauricio Cuartes, Eastwood, 1.

Evan Avitia, Americas, 1.

Jostin Briones, Riverside, 1.

Santiago Cadena, Horizon, 1.

High School Girl’s XC Poll: Final

Every Wednesday, El Paso Running will utilize a point system to highlight El Paso’s top girls cross country runners.

The system is as follows: In a race of less than 150 runners, first place gets 10 points, second gets 9 points all the way down to 10th place which gets 1 point. For meets with between 150 to 300 runners, double points will be rewarded meaning 20 points for first, 19 for second all the way down to 1 point for 20th. For every additional 150 runners, another 10 runners will be included in the points.

For those who like raw times, we also list the Top 25 girls race times and the meets and dates that they occurred.

For questions, videos and photos email vrmart66@gmail.com.

What a season for El Paso runners – all culminating at the UIL State Cross Country Championship.

Top 10

1. Franklin: Franklin continues to create its own identity not only in El Paso but in the region. The team narrowly missed out on its third straight state appearance and it appears some serious help is on the way.  Junior Alyssa Laspada was the lone runner to represent Franklin at the Class 6A state meet where she placed 62nd in 19:08.1. With Laspada and fellow juniors Sofia Camacho and Michele Paillard and sophomore Abby Barraza returning, the future remains bright.

2. Eastwood: Eastwood finished its team season in fifth place at the Region 1-6A championship. Freshman Adelynn Rodriguez and senior Lauren Walls-Portillo turned in All State performances at the Class 6A division of the state championship. Rodriguez finished seventh in 17:49.2 and Walls-Portillo was 10th in 18:10.3. Rodriguez will be the top returning runner for the Troopers with juniors Salma Licon, Sophia Watts and Andrea Limon, along with sophomore Giovanna Zubia also returning.

3. Montwood:  Juniors Kassandra Jimenez and Jazmine Miranda will return next season for the Rams.

4. Jefferson: The Foxes are going to have to reload after losing all six of its top runners including four-year varsity and state runners Crystal Peterson and Monique Correa.

5. Coronado: The T-Birds, which finished its season 20th in the Region 1, Class 6A championship, will be loaded next fall with six of its top seven returning. Senior Banah Abdeljaber will be missed, but juniors Kyra Walker, Sonya Lee, Isabella Galindo and Christina Duncan will return along with super sophomores Alexa Lawrence and Caroline Pitchkolan.  Watch from some great things from this group in 2022.

6. Pebble Hills: The Spartans were the surprise team of the season. All its runner will return in 2022 including the top three – junior Natalia Martinez, sophomore Carolina Zarrabal and freshman Krystal Talavera.

7. Canutillo: The Eagles finished 10th at the Region 1, Class 5A championship with 319 points. The team returns three of its top five including juniors Natalie Rivera, Dania Cano and Jennifer Najar.

8. Del Valle: After winning District 2-5A for the first time since 2010, the Conquistadores finished 15th at regionals. It looks like another rebuild is in order for Del Valle with only junior Valeria Loo-Kung and sophomore Bobbi Guillen returning from the team’s top five.

9. Americas: The Trailblazers season ended at district but freshman Lexee Salas finished 62nd in 20:38.3 at the Region 1-6A championship in Lubbock. Americas will lean on Salas and fellow freshman Natalie Tolliver in a very competitive District 1-6A.

10. Tornillo: The Coyotes made school history by winning their district, finishing fourth at the Region 1-3A Championship and advancing to its first ever state meet where they finished 11th.  The team returns juniors Kylene Elias and Brianna Ibarra and sophomore Nataly Escajeda.

Dropped out: None.

On the brink: None.

Franklin senior Jenna Saunders finished the season with the city’s 11th fastest time, clocking a 19:22.86 at the SAC in October.

Top times (3 mile or 5K)

1, Lauren Walls-Portillo, Eastwood, 17:17.6 (Woodbridge, 9/18).

2, Adelynn Rodriguez, Eastwood, 17:20.1 (Woodbridge, 9/18).

3, Kassandra Jimenez, Montwood, 18:28.29 (Mary Frances Keisling, 9/11)

4, Alyssa Laspada, Franklin, 18:30.07 (Southlake, 8/28).

5, Natalie Rivera, Canutillo, 18:52.86 (Clint, 10/2).

6, Pamela Ramirez, Burges, 18:59.11 (Del Valle, 8/28).

7, Jordan Torres, Franklin, 19:07.10 (Mary Frances Keisling, 9/11).

8, Natalia Martinez, Pebble Hills, 19:08.03 (Del Valle, 8/28).

9, Salma Licon, Eastwood, 19:10.4 (Woodbridge, 9/18).

10, Sophia Watts, Eastwood, 19:11.6 (Woodbridge, 9/18).

11, Jenna Saunders, Franklin, 19:22.86 (SAC, 10/2).

12, Abby Barraza, Franklin, 19:25.63 (Mary Frances Keisling, 9/11).

13, Crystal Peterson, Jefferson, 19:36.05 (Mae Simmons, 10/25).   

14, Ana Rojas, Socorro, 19:38.94 (Mary Frances Keisling, 9/11).

15, Adalia Olmos, Eastwood, 19:41.07 (Del Valle, 8/28).

16, Alexa Rangel, Montwood, 19:51.64 (Mary Frances Keisling, 9/11).

17, Mia Rivera, Hanks, 19:53.20 (Shawver Park, 9/4).

18, Jazmine Miranda, Montwood, 19:57.39 (Mary Frances Keisling, 9/11).

19, Anisa Sanchez, Del Valle, 19:57.84 (Mary Frances Keisling, 9/11).

20, Kyra Walker, Coronado, 19:58.38 (Mary Frances Keisling, 9/11).

21, Carolina Zarrabal, Pebble Hills, 19:58.92 (Del Valle, 8/28).

22, Sofia Camacho, Franklin, 20:03.13 (Canutillo, 8/21).

23, Giselle Rubio, Eastlake, 20:03.35 (Mary Frances Keisling, 9/11).

24, Valeria Loo-Kung, Del Valle, 20:04.76 (Clint, 10/2).

25, Monique Correa, Jefferson, 20:06.17 (SAC, 10/2).   

Hanks senior Mia Rivera had an amazing season, finishing as District 2-5A champion, a top 20 city best time and a No. 5 power ranking.

Power rankings
(number parenthesis indicate meets won):

1, Lauren Walls-Portillo, Eastwood, 74 (3).

2, Adelynn Rodriguez, Eastwood, 64 (1).

3, Pamela Ramirez, Burges, 63 (2).

3, Alyssa Laspada, Franklin, 63 (2).

5, Mia Rivera, Hanks, 52 (2).

6, Kassandra Jimenez, Montwood, 49 (2).

6, Crystal Peterson, Jefferson, 49.

8, Jordan Torres, Franklin, 47.

9, Natalie Rivera, Canutillo, 46 (2).

10, Jenna Saunders, Franklin, 42.

Natalia Martinez, Pebble Hills, 41 (1).

Samantha Ramirez, San Elizario, 39 (2).

Monique Correa, Jefferson, 39.

Anisa Sanchez, Del Valle, 39.

Valeria Loo-Kung, Del Valle, 31.

Kylene Elias, Tornillo, 29 (1).

Abby Barraza, Franklin, 29.

Alexa Rangel, Montwood, 27.

Disany Sandoval, Del Valle, 20.

Katelyn Montoya, San Elizario, 20.

Andrea Castillo, El Paso High, 17.

Madelyn Estrada, Mt. View, 17.

Sofia Camacho, Franklin, 16.

Carolina Zarrabal, Pebble Hills, 16.

Dania Cano, Canutillo, 15.

Olivia Garcia, Tornillo, 15.
Elizabeth Hernandez, Austin, 14.

Abigail Murillo, Bel Air, 13.

Ana Rojas, Socorro, 11.

Sofia Ramirez, El Paso High, 11.

Brooke McCune, Franklin, 10 (1).

Lexee Salas, Americas, 10.

Jaylee Levario, Bel Air, 10.

Osmary Vazquez, San Elizario, 10.

Olivia Elder, Franklin, 9.

Lauren Perez, Riverside, 9.

Jeanette Rivera, YWLA, 8.

Wendy Garcia, Tornillo, 7.

Camila Prieto, Jefferson, 7.

Sarah Lopez Touchy, Ysleta, 7.

Marcela Hernandez, Riverside, 6.

Alexa Lawrence, Coronado, 6.

Tessa Gibbons, Franklin, 6.

Brianna Ibarra, Tornillo, 6.

Adalia Olmos, Eastwood, 5.

Jennifer Najar, Canutillo, 5.

Mariah Martinez, Loretto, 5.

Sofia Hernandez, Jefferson, 5.

Salma Licon, Eastwood, 5.

Abigail Murillo, Bel Air, 5.

Natalie Franco, Pebble Hills, 4.

Kyra Walker, Coronado, 4.

Natalia Valdez, Chapin, 4.

Nataly Escajeda, Tornillo, 4.

Daniela Luna, Riverside, 4.

Jezarae Valenzuela, El Paso High 4.

Allison Perez, Coronado, 3.

Jazmine Miranda, Montwood, 3.

Mireyda Samer, Franklin, 3.

Alicia Chavez, YWLA, 3.

Giselle Rubio, Eastlake, 2.

Caroline Pitchkolan, Coronado, 2.

Sophia Watts, Eastwood, 2.

Ileana Maldonado, Clint, 2.

Hannah Martinez, Franklin, 2.

Ivy Lara, Canutillo, 2.

Ximena Holguin, San Elizario, 1.

Grace Kimble, Franklin, 1.

Amy Lozano, Burges, 1.

Ashley Hernandez, San Elizario, 1.

San Elizario earns sixth Class 4A state title in eight years; Eastwood ekes out bronze

Winning gold never gets old in San Elizario.

Matter of fact, it has become a tradition – a rite of passage for its runners.

The Class 4A cross country juggernaut defended its state title on Saturday morning at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock, edging Region 1 foe Argyle by four points.

San Elizario won back-to-back state titles.

This was the Eagles sixth state title in eight years – winning in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2020 and 2021. In the years they didn’t win gold, they finished second (2019) and third (2018).

Canyon, the Region 1 champion, was third.

“We’re very happy for the kids,” San Elizario coach Cesar Morales. “Finishing second at regionals gave us a little bit of humility and it forced us to come up with a plan that needed to be executed. It all worked out perfectly for us.”

Morales credits the 25-second gap between his two through five runners for the team’s success.

“We knew it was going to come down to the last kilometer so made several adjustments that eventually paid off for us,” he said.

Junior Angel Maese was 29th in 16:41.3 followed by sophomore Matthew Maese (39th, 16:53.5), senior Irvin Vazquez (48th, 16:59.6), sophomore Julian Guerra (55th, 17:06.1), senior Alan Ceballos (69th, 17:13.1) and senior Jorge Maese (105th, 17:55.0).

He is also impressed with how the team has emerged as state champions after losing Edwin Gomez and Dilan Sanchez – its two leaders the past four years.

“This group of kids is carrying on that tradition of doing well in state,” Morales said. “Edwin was a great leader and a great athlete for the past four years so there was a question coming into the season if we could continue the San Eli legacy. This is proof that we can and that we will continue to do well.”

Chris Moreno

San Elizario junior Chris Moreno was second in 15:45.8, three seconds behind state champMicah Swann from Athens who completed the course in 15:42.4.

“The first mile was pretty relaxing but heading out into the second mile, Swann made a move, and I knew I had to keep up with him,” Moreno said. “Little by little, he was moving farther ahead of me, so I just kept my pace because I know I have a good 800-meter kick. Almost towards the end of the race, I noticed that he slipped and almost fell. I saw that as my opportunity, so I started pushing myself harder. But as we headed to the finish, he regained his momentum, and it was too late for me.”

Moreno said he was happy with his silver medal but is even happier the team was able to repeat as Class 4A state champions.

“It feels great,” he said. “At the beginning of the season, people all over Texas doubted we could do it again. It gave us motivation to show them we could do it even without Edwin and Dilan. In our hearts and in minds, we knew that we could win another state title for San Elizario and carry on the tradition.”

Riverside seniors Jayden Bustillos (16th, 16:18.5) and Andrew Valdiviezo (19th, 16:28.7) had top 20 finishes.

On the girl’s side in class 4A, San Elizario senior Samantha Ramirez was 74th in the two-mile race in 12:45.0.

The Eastwood Troopers won its fifth consecutive state medal – eking out a bronze medal in Class 6A.

Class 6A

The Eastwood Troopers won its fifth consecutive state medal – eking out a bronze medal in Class 6A.

Initially, Humble Atascocista and Eastwood had been listed as having tied at 133 with Atascocista earning third place due to its sixth runner finishing better than Eastwood’s sixth.

However, about 20 minutes later, after resolving “a technical issue,” Eastwood was declared the winner, finishing with 132 points, one point better than Atascocista.

Southlake Carroll won state with 65 and The Woodlands was second with 96 points.

“The race goes on, the results come in and I see that we tied for third but lost the tiebreaker,” said Eastwood coach Mike McLain. “We’re in the tent taking pictures with the girls and someone from MileSplit said ‘congratulations, they redid the results and you finished third.’  We had no idea what was happening, so we get on our phones and it still shows us at fourth.”

McLain went to the medal stand and asked someone there and they didn’t know what was going on either. McLain walked over to the UIL tent to speak with an official who told him to go another tent where there was a monitor showing rolling results.

“It showed us in third by one point,” McLain said. “I asked someone there and he told me to go back to the medal stand, which is where we started, to find out.”

They finally got a hold of the official timer who said they went through the camera finish and reversed a couple of things and Eastwood finished third.

“Two of our top runners were sick so coming into the race we knew a third-place finish was probably the best we could do, so that was pretty nice,” McLain said. “We knew medaling for five straight years at state would be historic for El Paso. We’ll celebrate this, and hopefully we can get those two boys feeling better and go after it again at Nike South.”

Eastwood senior Andres Gurrola was the top Trooper runner, finishing 12th in 15:28.6.

Seniors Andres Gurrola and Isaac Mendoza had top 20 finishes to lead Eastwood Gurrola 12th in 15:28.6 and Isaac Mendoza, 17th in 15:37.8. Sophomore Jacob Beckett was 37th in 15:54.6 followed by senior Victor Anchondo (46th, 15:58.5), senior Devon Paez (108th, 16:44.6) and juniors Anthony Casillas (120th, 16:56.1) and Joaquin Chavez (148th, 17:51.1).

“It was a roller coaster of emotions,” Gurrola said. “Regardless of the place we were going to get, we were all proud of the effort that we put in because we all know how hard we worked this season.”

Eastwood ran in its eighth consecutive state meet and its ninth in the past 10 years.

“This culture was built way before I came in,” Gurrola said. “As soon as I came in my freshman year, a light went on in my head. Watching the seniors and seeing the team succeed my freshman year and being able to go to NXN changed my mindset and inspired me.”

Austin Vandegrift junior Kevin Sanchez won the individual title in 14:53.4. Pebble Hills junior Omer Ibrahim was eighth in 15:17.3 and Coronado junior Luis Pastor was tenth in 15:19.9 – both earning All-State honors.

Pebble Hills junior Omer Ibrahim was eighth in 15:17.3 and Coronado junior Luis Pastor was tenth in 15:19.9 – both earning Class 6A All-State honors.

“It was exciting and nerve racking but overall it was a great experience with great competition, and I really loved the flat course,” Ibrahim said. “I felt strong and good once the race got started but before the race I was wondering how it would go down so that got me a little nervous.”

Ibrahim said he didn’t feel too overwhelmed at his first state championship.

“I’m really excited about what I did; I really feel good about myself,” he said. “I did what I had to do, and I was able to get it done.”

Pastor said his first state championship was “roller coaster of emotions.”

“I would feel nervous for one second and then the next minute I was feeling good ready to compete,” he said. “Once the gun went off, I was trying to stick with my strategy. Usually, I like to run from the front because even if I died out, it wouldn’t matter because I would be so far ahead of everyone. But at regionals and state, I ran from the back and picked off one guy, one pack, at a time.”

Americas senior Jared Laverty was 45th in 15:58.4 and teammate Carmelo Corral was 71st in 16:17.8.

Eastwood freshman Adelynn Rodriguez earned Class 6A All-State honors after finishing seventh in 17:49.2

On the girl’s side, Eastwood freshman Adelynn Rodriguez and senior Lauren Walls-Portillo earned All-State honors.

It is the first time a pair of Eastwood teammates finished in the top 10.

Rodriguez was seventh in 17:49.2 and Walls-Portillo was tenth in 18:10.3.

“It’s really crazy, I honestly wasn’t expecting this,” Rodriguez said. “I just wanted to go out there and run my best race of the season.”

Rodriguez credits Walls-Portillo for her continued support throughout her first high school season.

“She is really special to me,” she said. “I never had a female teammate as fast as me so coming into Eastwood and seeing that I could run with Lauren was a big deal for me because of what she has accomplished in her four years. She has inspired me to do the same thing in my four years.”

Eastwood senior Lauren Walls-Portillo earned Class 6A All-State honors, placing 10th in her final state championship.

Walls-Portillo, who ran in her fourth state meet, said is relieved she is leaving the Eastwood girl’s program in good hands.

“It feels really good knowing that she is going continue to keep the Eastwood tradition alive,” Walls-Portillo said. “It really comforts me to know that our girl’s team will have someone leading them next year.”

Lewisville Flower Mound senior Natalie Cook won the event in 16:32.4. Franklin junior Alyssa Laspada was 62nd in 19:08.1.

McLain said it was great to see two Eastwood girls receiving state medals around their necks. “This was one of the strongest years in our state for the girls,” McLain said. “The Woodlands and Flower Mound are killing it; Southlake Carroll was up there killing it against some of the best teams in the nation and they end fourth and they are one of the best teams in the nation.”

Tornillo’s Angel Torres comes back for silver medal performance

Tornillo junior Angel Torres and Poth High senior Wyatt Hoover provided the most exciting finish in recent memory on the first day of the UIL Texas State Cross Country Championship.

Both runners finished the 3.1 mile race at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock in 15:57.4, however, a photo finish showed Hoover nipping Torres at the end to win the Class 3A individual title.

Amarillo River Road senior Crawford Kiser was third in 16:00.3.

“I honestly didn’t think I would catch him at the end,” Torres said. “The three of us pulled away and then I got complacent, I was going to be OK with third. But then I saw Crawford getting tired and I thought ‘OK, I can get second – I’ll take second.’ At the kick, I saw Wyatt slow down and I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I can win it’ and I started kicking but he turned and saw me and started kicking again.”

Tornillo junior Angel Torres earned a silver medal at the Class 3A UIL Texas State Cross Country Championship.

What makes this story even more amazing is the fact that Torres was the last runner to qualify at regionals where finished 14th.

“I had a really bad regional race, it was so bad I had to walk up the second hill,” he said. “One of the Presidio guys tapped me on my shoulder and said, “come on, let’s go,’ so I started going with him so if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have made it to state.”

Torres improved on his sixth place All State performance from last year. His second-place finish is the best in school history at the state meet.

Teammate, sophomore Daniel Romero, was 26th in 16:56.3.

This is how close the finish of the Class 3A race was.

Tornillo’s girls team had a respectable showing at its first state championship, finishing eleventh.

Holliday won the team title with 39 points followed by Lorena with 87 and Poth with 135 points.

“I am so proud of what they accomplished,” Tornillo coach Jesse Garcia said. “The season was a great success. Six weeks ago we didn’t have a team so the fact that we are here is a testament to the hard work these girls put in for each other. They had to overcome adversity all season, but they believed in something that was practically impossible.”

Junior Kylene Elias led the way, finishing the two-mile course 51st in 12:56.2 followed by junior Brianna Ibarra (85th, 13:19.4), senior Wendy Garcia (87th, 13:21.7), sophomore Nataly Escajeda (99th, 13:29.8), senior Olivia Garcia (117th, 13:50.2) and senior Abetsi Blanco (144th, 14:52.2).

Holliday senior Hannah Spears won the event in 11:34.9.

The state’s top three runners in Class 3A – Tornillo junior Angel Torres, Poth High senior Wyatt Hoover and Amarillo River Road Crawford Kiser.

There were no medal ceremonies for El Paso’s four Class 5A participants.

In the boy’s race, Hanks junior Alejandro Tarin was 27th in 16:05.6 and senior Gael Alvarado was 51st in 16:30.8.

Grapevine’s Walker St. John won the event in 15:06.6. Grapevine won the team title as well with 53 points.

Burges senior Pamela Ramirez finished in 68th place in 19:37.3 and Jefferson senior Crystal Peterson was 76th in 19:41.5.

Canyon Randall senior Cameron McConnell won the event in 17:15.4 Lucas Lovejoy win the team title with 65 points.

On Saturday, San Elizario’s boys look to defend its Class 4A state title and Eastwood’s boys are going after its fifth consecutive medal at the state meet.

State Championship Preview: Five sets of teammates; 16 individuals chasing state medals

Monday: Tornillo girls.

Tuesday: San Elizario boys.

Wednesday: Eastwood boys.

Today: 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 and San Elizario senior Samantha Ramirez. 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.

Americas seniors Jared Laverty and Carmelo Corral and Pebble Hills junior Omer Ibrahim will compete in the Class 6A race on Saturday.

Five sets of teammates will be racing for a spot on the medal stand at the UIL State Cross Country Championships on Friday and Saturday.

They are: Americas seniors Jared Laverty and Carmelo Corral; Eastwood senior Lauren Walls-Portillo and freshman Adelynn Rodriguez; Hanks senior Gael Alvarado and junior Alejandro Tarin; Riverside seniors Andrew Valdiviezo and Jayden Bustillos; and Tornillo sophomore Daniel Romero and junior Angel Torres.

Also chasing state medals will be Pebble Hills junior Omer Ibrahim, Coronado junior Luis Pastor, Franklin junior Alyssa Laspada, Burges senior Pamela Ramirez and Jefferson senior Crystal Peterson and San Elizario senior Samantha Ramirez.

Laverty and Corral have been teammates since they were 8-years-old, running for the El Paso Flames.

“Once we both got to Americas, our goal has always been to qualify for state,” Laverty said.

The first two years, Laverty and Corral – who have been running varsity since their freshman year – advanced to state as part of the team.

Last year, Laverty advanced as an individual. He said having Corral train with him in the 10 days leading up to state has been beneficial.

“Sometimes when you’re having a bad day it’s always good to have someone in front to try to catch up to or on the good days, have someone pushing you from behind,” Laverty said. “Training has been going really smooth. We’ve been tapering down and getting ready for state.

Corral, who will be racing in his third state championship, said Saturday’s run is going to be bittersweet.

“Before the race it’s going to be all nerves, but when it’s done, as nerve wracking as it is, I’m probably going to do it all again,” Corral said. “It’s going to be fun, especially since I’m doing it with Jared who has been a friend of mine for such a long time.”

Corral considers himself blessed to be able to run in three state championships.

“I’m very appreciative to have been given the opportunities that I’ve been given,” he said. “A lot of runners would be happy just to be able to experience state one time and I’ve been blessed to be able to compete in three. This one I take the most pride in because the first two we qualified as a team, but this one I made as an individual; that has been my goal since my freshman year.”

Laverty and Corral will race in the Class 6A boys race at 11:10 a.m. Saturday.

Also racing in the Class 6A division will be Eastwood’s boys, Pebble Hills junior Omer Ibrahim, Coronado junior Luis Pastor.

“The season has had its up and downs,” Pastor said. “I had an airway disease that affected me for from the end of August to the middle September where I was wheezing all the time. I could barely walk much less run – it was really bad and I thought that was the end of my season.”

But Pastor – who finished fifth at the Region 1-6A Championship in 15:47.0 – persevered winning three meets and finishing in the top 3 in many of his races.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself this season, but mostly that I’m stubborn,” he said. “My coach would tell me to take it easy but I would sneak off with the boys and did the workout anyway. I also learned that I won’t let adversity keep me down, I’ll keep working through it until I get what I want.”

Ibrahim, who finished with bronze medal at regionals in 15:45.3, said he’s kept his training pretty much the same the past 10 days.

“At this point I’m trying to maintain strength so I don’t overwork my body,” he said.

After missing out on state the previous two years, he is more than ready for Saturday’s run.

“Of course, the best-case scenario is I win it all, but as I long as I compete to the best of my ability, give it my all, stay strong and stay with the lead pack, I’ll be happy with it,” he said.

The girls Class 6A race will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and will feature Franklin junior Alyssa Laspada and a pair of Eastwood runners – senior Lauren Walls-Portillo and freshman Adelynn Rodriguez.

Franklin coach Anthony Laspada said he is proud of the way Alyssa has taken on the leadership role for Franklin after the graduation of Eva Jess and Ally Little – both running at UT-Austin.

“Those are some really big shoes she had to fill,” he said. “We had Eva for the past four years and Ally came on strong last year but for her to step into that role was amazing. She knew it was coming, we talked about it, we strategized in the summer about how it is to take the lead. She’s had some hiccups here and there because she is not used to it. She is maturing nicely but it isn’t just her, it was also the other girls on the team, I am so proud of them all.”

Franklin narrowly missed out on its third consecutive state appearance, finishing tied for fourth with Northwest Eaton with 167 points in the Region 1-6A Championship.  Eaton advanced on the strength of its sixth runner finishing before Franklin’s sixth runner.

Laspada placed 20th in 19:28.0 and advanced to state individually.

“There’s been a lot of pressure this season,” she said. “I was used to Eva and Ally being there for me pushing me and talking me through my races. But this year I had all my other teammates be there for me; they’ve really come through for me.”

Laspada said she learned a lot from Jess and Little.

“Eva and Ally taught me so much but probably the most important thing they taught me was to work my hardest and try my best all the time and I’ll get where I want be,” she said.

Eastwood freshman Adelynn Rodriguez will race in her first Class 6A state meet on Saturday.

Eastwood’s Walls-Portillo and Rodriguez have developed into one of the strongest 1-2 combinations in the state.

“Lauren has worked her tail off for four years and has shown great improvement every year so this is icing on the cake for her,” said Eastwood coach Mike McLain said. “We just want her to enjoy her time and enjoy what she is doing her senior year. What does it mean for Adelynn? She can learn some good lessons from Lauren’s career as she looks forward to her own great career. She can take what she has learned from this experience and make her own mark on Eastwood, the city, the state and hopefully beyond that.”

Walls-Portillo was second on a region (18:05.1) that features three of the nation’s top girls programs – Lewisville Flower Mound, Southlake Carroll and Prosper. Rodriguez was sixth in 18:28.6.

“Region 1 is sick,” McLain said.  “You have three of the top 30 teams in the nation in our region so for Lauren to finish second is just amazing. And last time I checked, Adelynn was ranked 13th among all freshman in the nation.”

It was the first team Eastwood had two girls finish in top six in regional competition.

“That means a lot to us,” McLain said. “Our girls were winning city championships before our boys were. If you go back to 2005, we’ve only not won district three or four times and in those years we didn’t win, we were second. Sixteen championships out of the past 20 years is huge.”

Eastwood’s best girl’s finish was in 2014 when Anna Mora placed eighth in 18:09.59.

“Our goal is to create memories for our athletes,” McLain said. “We believe by putting athletes first and giving them great experiences, success will follow. What’s more important is what it means for Lauren and Adelynn.”

Hanks senior Gael Alvarado won the District 2-5A title and placed 13th at regionals. He will be racing in his second state meet.

Class 5A

The Hanks Knights also have a pair of teammates in Round Rock – senior Gael Alvarado and junior Alejandro Tarin.

“Running that state meet with Gael should be a fun experience,” Tarin said. “It’s definitely better than running on my own. I really enjoy running with him so I hope it brings out the best in us.”

This is Tarin’s third trip to state – his second as an individual.

He finished 47th last year in 16:07.77.

“We’re both very competitive so that makes practices much better,” he said. “It’s a lot more fun competing against someone on your own team. Having that constant competitiveness will bring out the best in you.”

Alvarado won the District 2-5A title and placed 13th at regionals in 16:23.7. Tarin was 16th at regionals, three seconds behind his teammate in 16:29.1.

“Training is easy when you have someone else to run with,” Alvarado said. “Running with Alejandro has been very uplifting. He is bit more competitive than me but it has definitely helped us a lot.”

He said the knowledge he gained from training with former Hanks All State runners Michael Abeyta and Rodger Rivera has helped prepare for this moment.

“When Michael and Rodger were here, I was able to take their guidance and that’s what made me a better runner,” he said. “Once they left, it was just me and Alejandro so it forced us to push each other and to do better.”

Alvarado – who will making his second state appearance – missed out last year by one spot.

“I’m extremely relieved,” he said. “I’m actually more excited than nervous. I’m just happy I could run the state course my senior year.”

The Class 5A boys will race at 11:10 a.m. Friday.

Jefferson senior Crystal Peterson has been to three state Class 5A championships.

Burges senior Pamela Ramirez and Jefferson senior Crystal Peterson will be racing in the girl’s Class 5A race at 10:30 a.m. also on Friday.

Ramirez, the District 1-5A champion was eighth at regionals in 19:16.4, will be racing in her second consecutive state championship. She placed 101st in 19:53.14 last year.

This will Peterson’s third trip to state.

Class 4A

For Riverside seniors Andrew Valdiviezo and Jayden Bustillos, the journey to state began when the pair were 8th graders at Riverside Middle School.

“We have a history together of dominating in our middle school years so it’s not like he is new to the game,” Valdiviezo said. “He ran last year and just missed state by seven places. But he turned it up this year and I couldn’t be more grateful to him for that.”

Valdiviezo is appreciative to have his old middle school running mate back.

“Having Jayden with me this year has been a big help,” he said. “Last year doing everything myself was tough. This year, if I slack off he would be right there on me. If he slacks it, I would be right on him so we’ve helped out each other get better.”

Valdiviezo who placed 69th in 17:21.62 at last year’s state race.

“Things didn’t play out in my favor last year so I’ve been very eager to go back and to prove to everyone that I deserve to be there,” he said. “Coming into high school was tough because I came in from winning it all in middle school to being a mediocre runner. Once I get a feel for varsity and I started to understand how good I could become, it really helped my confidence. It took some time to get as comfortable and confident as I am but I’m glad I’m here.”

The Class 4A boys race is at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

Friends since middle school, Riverside senior Andrew Valdiviezo and Jayden Bustillos will end their high school cross country careers at the Class 4A state championship.

After taking a break from cross country his freshman and sophomore years to focus on wrestling, Bustillos returned to the course his junior year.

“Last year I really didn’t take it seriously,” he said. “But this year, I felt the love for running again. Coach (Manny) Estrada is very good coach, the way he trains us and the way he runs the program, I just found a love for it.”

The thing Bustillos loves most about cross country is just finishing.

“Even through you feel like you’re about to die and pass out, at the end, you feel so accomplished, you feel, ‘dang, I ran those 3.1 miles,’ it’s insane, not many people can do that,” he said. “I love the feeling of that accomplishment.”

Bustillos is no stranger to a state championship. He has wrestled in the past two UIL State Wrestling Tournaments, winning a silver in the 113-pound weight class last year.

“I’m not really nervous,” he said about the state cross country championship. “I’ve been in big competitions before so being in that type of environment doesn’t really get to me. I think I perform better under pressure, I don’t know why, but I do.”

So now it comes down to one race in the high school careers of Valdiviezo and Bustillos.

“It’s surreal,” Valdiviezo said. “Never would I have thought that me and that kid from middle school would be running at the state meet together. I’m very grateful for him and the coaching staff who helped us get there.”

Busitllos feels the same way.

“I know it’s going to be sad,” he said. “It’s my last race so all I can do is go out and give it all I’ve got. I already told Drew that I’m coming for him.”

Valdiviezo and Bustillos, teammates and competitors till the end.

San Elizario senior Samantha Ramirez will race in her first state meet. She placed 15th in 12:52.2 at regionals. She will race at 9 a.m. also on Saturday.

Tornillo junior Angel Torres will try to improve on his sixth place at last year’s state Class 4A championship.

Class 3A

For the first time in nine years, the boys did not qualify to state as a team.

However, sophomore Daniel Romero and junior Angel Torres will race for a spot on the medal stand at 9:30 a.m. on Friday.

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

Coach Jesse Garcia said both runners have the potential to medal.

Torres earned All State honors with his sixth place in 16:06.03 at last year’s state meet and Romero was 21st in 16:33.23.

State Championship Preview: Eastwood Defying Expectations

Monday: Tornillo girls.

Tuesday: San Elizario boys.

Today: 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.

Eastwood is looking to improve on its Region 1-6A runner-up position at the UIL Cross Country Championship.

After finishing second to Southlake Carroll in the Region 1-6A championship 10 days ago – a position where the Eastwood Troopers ended the 2020 season at the UIL State Championship – coach Mike McLain said his team was “overperforming expectations.”

Kind of sounds strange for team heading to its eighth consecutive trip to state (its ninth in 10 years), but it is true.

For five of the seven runners, it’s their first year on varsity.

“Did I expect them to go out and challenge nationally ranked teams like they’ve been doing this year after losing almost our entire team, – no I didn’t,” McLain said. “These guys definitely rank as one of the top three most-surprising teams that I’ve had.”

The team – seniors Andres Gurrola, Isaac Mendoza, Victor Anchondo, Devon Paez, juniors Joaquin Chavez and Anthony Casillas and sophomore Jacob Beckett – have done well in its two major meets this season, finishing fifth out of 30 teams in the “sweepstakes” division of the 40th annual Woodbridge Cross Country Classic in Woodbridge, Calif. and second out 27 teams in the “sweepstakes” division at the Desert Twilight, the Nike Pre-Southwest Regional meet, in Queen Creek, Ariz.

“They are not supposed to be doing what they’re doing and they don’t care,” McLain said. “We’re not the big school, we are not the affluent school, we’re not the kids everybody was talking about when they were in middle school or freshman. They’ve learned that they can accomplish more together than by themselves. They understand they are stronger together than they are apart.”

Eastwood has competed against top national teams such Newbury Park (Calif.) the No. 1 high school team in the country, U.S. No. 12 Niwot High, the defending Colorado state champion and Southlake (twice), the defending Class 6A state champion.

“We know what is expected of us and we work hard to meet those expectations,” said Mendoza. “People expect us to go to state every year, we’re expected to be one of the top teams in the nation. We just want to uphold the Eastwood tradition.”

Eastwood seniors Andres Gurrola (left) and Isaac Mendoza (right), are the Troopers top runners.

Mendoza and Gurrola are the two returning runners from last year’s silver medal team.

Eastwood is looking to medal in its fifth consecutive state meet.

The team earned a Class 6A silver in 2020, won back-to-back Class 5A state championships in 2018 and 2019 and earned a bronze medal in 2017 in Class 6A – the Troopers first team cross country medal.

“For some people, it’s in their DNA to run their best at big races,” McLain said. “For a lot of our guys this is their first year on varsity and they’re seniors but they’ve watched Eastwood teams before them and they know that it can be done.”

Setting the team up for success has been in Eastwood’s DNA for years.

“Being in big races has definitely helped,” McLain said. “We have a strong belief in our workouts and that leads to a big advantage over other teams. The kids know that and if they do Eastwood’s workout, they can compete against some really big, really good schools.”

Although there are two other races on the Troopers schedule – the NXN South Regional Championship in November and the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championship in December – for now, the biggest race is the next one, the Class 6A UIL State Cross Country Championship at 11:10 a.m. on Saturday.

“Based on where they started four years ago, this group of boys should not be competing with the teams that they are competing with – yet, they are are,” McLain said. “They know our program and what works and what it can do for them. It’s a belief that’s already inside of them.”

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.”

State Championship Preview: Tornillo girls just want to have fun!

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.

For the first time in school history Tornillo’s girls advanced to the UIL State Cross Country Championship.

Tornillo High School is making its 12th state appearance in the past 13 years – its 10th in a row.

But for the first time in school history, it’s the girl’s team who is carrying the Cotton Valley torch to Round Rock.

“Six weeks ago, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Tornillo coach Jesse Garcia said. “Six weeks ago, we weren’t even in the mix. The possibility of us going to the state championship didn’t exist.”

But it is happening.

After winning its first District 3-4A Championship, the Coyotes finished two points ahead of Bushland at Regionals and advanced to the UIL State Cross Country Championship.

The team – seniors Olivia Garcia, Wendy Garcia and Abetsi Blanco, juniors Kylene Elias and Brianna Ibarra and sophomore Nataly Escajeda – will race at 9 a.m. Friday.

The turning point for the team was the return of All State runner Kylene Elias in late September.

Elias, who won the Region 1, Class 3A championship and earned a bronze medal at the state championship as a freshman, finished 14th at last year’s state meet.

With a promising final two seasons on the horizon, Elias decided running was not for her.

“I never gave up on her; I kept all her gear in her team backpack,” Garcia said. “I told her it was there when she was ready to come back – and she did.”

Halfway through the season Elias saw a spark in her teammates that she had never seen.

Then it happened.

“One day, out of the blue, she wanted to give it a shot and she showed up to practice,” Garcia said. “The team showed her some love and they started to have fun again. It wasn’t about just running it was about enjoying the moment that was in front of them.”

Elias took a few months to clear her head and figure things out.

“I really didn’t like running anymore,” she said. “There was just too much pressure to win. Coach called me and told me the girls were doing good. He asked me to come back and help the team get to state and I said yes.”

She trained for three days and went off to Denton to race in the Texas MileSplit Invitational where she finished fifth to the last.

“That was the worst race I had ever run in my life,” she said, laughing. “I was not conditioned at all.”

Tornillo junior Kylene Elias will racing in her third UIL State Cross Country Championship. She finished third her freshman year.

With the support of her team, Elias continued to train eventually winning her third district title and placing 10th at the Region 1-4A championship.

“It felt like I never left,” she said. “The girls have always been there for me. I thought about it a lot and I felt I needed to be there from them this year, so I came back.”

Having fun is what matters now and the team gets positive results, that’s just an added bonus.

“We run for fun now,” Elias said. “We used to put a lot of pressure on ourselves; we wanted to win so bad we put too much pressure on ourselves, and it wasn’t fun anymore.”

The Tornillo girls are doing something no one expected them to do – and they are doing it with smiles on their collective faces.

“I cried a little,” Elias said after learning that the team advanced to state. “Since my freshman year, this is what I wanted, I wanted to have the girls finally come with me.”

Garcia has seen the team progress week by week.

“At thebeginning of the year, we didn’t look like much but as the week’s progressed we would get a little bit stronger,” he said. “We won a meet towards the end of the season and that gave us a little bit of momentum.”

As the team prepares for state, Garcia – nor Elias- cannot believe this is happening.

“It’s a strange feeling,” he said. “We have some phenomenal talent in El Paso. Teams like Franklin and Eastwood, everybody does such a great job with their kids. For us to be the only girls team to qualify to state, to be the last girls team standing, it’s just amazing to me.

“God is good,” he continued. “He is still showing me that if there is a will, there’s a way. These kids from Tornillo are tough, when they want to be, they can compete with the best.”

MileSplit predicted a 12th place regional finish for Tornillo.

“We surprised ourselves,” she said. “With this group of girls and how hard they work, I knew we would eventually make it, it just took a little longer than I thought.”

High School Boy’s XC Poll: Week 10

Every Thursday, El Paso Running will utilize a point system to highlight El Paso’s top boy’s cross country runners.

The system is as follows: In a race of less than 150 runners, first place gets 10 points, second gets 9 points all the way down to 10th place which gets 1 point. For meets with between 150 to 300 runners, double points will be rewarded meaning 20 points for first, 19 for second all the way down to 1 point for 20th. For every additional 150 runners, another 10 runners will be included in the points.

For those who like raw times, we also list the Top 25 girls race times and the meets and dates that they occurred.

For questions, videos and photos email vrmart66@gmail.com.

This week’s schedule

UIL Cross Country State Championship: Friday, Nov. 5 for Class 3A and 5A and Saturday, Nov. 6 for Class 4A and 6A at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

Hundreds of runners from all over Region 1 converged on Lubbock on Monday, all hoping to earn a spot to the UIL State Cross Country Championship.

Top 10

1. Eastwood: The Troopers had two top 10 runners – seniors Andres Gurrola (fourth, 15:46.0) and Isaac Mendoza (tenth, 16:01.6) – and finished second at the Region 1-6A Championship behind Southlake Carroll. Senior Victor Anchondo had a top 30 regional showing, finishing 30th in 16:36.4. Eastwood’s team average was 16:22.2. This will be Eastwood’s eighth consecutive trip to state and the ninth in 10 years.

2. Americas: The Trailblazers finished sixth at the Region 1-6A Meet. Seniors Jared Laverty (11th, 16:02.5) and Carmelo Corral (16th, 16:08.0) both qualified to state. Senior Aaron Saenz was 29th in 16:34.9. The team’s average was 16:44.9.

3. San Elizario: The Eagles earned a team silver at the Region 1-4A Championship, scoring 97 points, 12 points behind Canyon. Junior Chris Moreno won the region in 15:40.9 – the fastest El Paso time in any classification. San Elizario had four other runners – junior Matthew Maese (21st, 17:01.4), sophomore Angel Maese (23rd, 17:05.9), senior Alan Ceballos (25th, 17:09.3) and senior Irvin Vazquez (27th, 17:16.9) – finish in the top 30. The team’s average was 16:50.9. San Elizario will compete in its eighth straight state championship.

4. Franklin: The Cougars finished the season with an 11th place finish at the Region 1, Class 6A Championship. Junior Diego Flores was the top Franklin runner, finishing 28th in 16:34.5. The team average was 17:14.0.

5. Coronado: Junior Luis Pastor finished fifth at the Region 1-6A Championship in 15:47.0 and qualified for state. Senior Sam Breceda was 55th in 17:02.1.

6. Cathedral:  The Irish are preparing TAPPS State Championship Monday,Nov. 1 at Cottonwood Creek Golf Course, Waco.

7. Riverside: The Rangers finished fifth – one spot away from advancing to state -at the Region 1-4A Championship with 173 points. Riverside had two top 10 runners – seniors Andrew Valdiviezo (fourth, 16:10.2) and Jayden Bustillos (sixth, 16:15.7) – both qualify to state. Bustillos’ time is a personal best. Senior Jostin Briones had a top 40 run, finishing 37th in 17:35.5. The team average was 17:19.1.

8. Pebble Hills:  Junior Omer Ibrahim led all El Paso runners at the Region 1-6A Championship, finishing with a bronze medal in 15:45.3.

9. Hanks: The Knights were the top El Paso 5A school finishing 14th in the Region 1-5A race with 384 points. Senior Gael Alvarado (13th, 16:23.7) and junior Alejandro Tarin (16th, 16.29.1) both advanced to state. The team average was 18:03.2.

10. Burges: The Mustangs placed 16th in the Region 1-5A race. Burges had two top 50 runners – senior Julian Maldonado (45th, 17:19.8) and junior Mathew Guerra (46th, 17:21.0). The team average was 18:17.3.

Dropped out: Horizon.

On the brink: None.

These five runners have been city leaders in teams and overall performance all season.

Top times (3 mile or 5K)

1, Andres Gurrola, Eastwood, 14.43.8 (Woodbridge, 9/18).

2, Isaac Mendoza, Eastwood, 14.49.7 (Woodbridge, 9/18).

3, Omer Ibrahim, Pebble Hills, 15:02.15 (Del Valle, 8/28).

4, Israel David, Eastlake, 15:02.73 (Del Valle, 8/28).

5, Luis Pastor, Coronado, 15:04.79 (Del Valle, 8/28).

6, Devon Paez, Eastwood, 15:13.6 (Woodbridge, 9/18).

7, Victor Anchondo, Eastwood, 15:16.8 (Woodbridge, 9/18)

8, Jared Laverty, Americas, 15:24.83 (Canutillo, 8/21).

9, Joaquin Chavez, Eastwood, 15:28.0 (Woodbridge, 9/18).

10, Chris Moreno, San Elizario, 15:38.71 (Del Valle, 8/28).

11, Angel Torres, Tornillo, 15:41.47 (Clint, 10/2).

12, Carmelo Corral, Americas, 15:41.95 (Canutillo, 8/21).

13, Daniel Romero, Tornillo, 15:44.07 (Del Valle, 8/28).

14, Andrew Valdiviezo, Riverside, 15:44.47 (Clint, 10/2).

15, Jacob Becket, Eastwood, 15:44.8 (Woodbridge, 9/18).

16, Diego Flores, Franklin, 15:51.32 (Mary Francis Keisling, 9/11).

17, Anthony Casillas, Eastwood, 15:52.3 (Woodbridge, 9/18).

18, Alejandro Tarin, Hanks, 16:01.51 (Shawver Park, 9/4).

19, Aaron Saenz, Americas 16:04.0 (Cleveland, 8/28).

20, Preston Arnett, Cathedral, 16:15.52 (Clint, 10/2).

21, Jayden Bustillos, Riverside, 16:15.7 (Mae Simmons, 10/25).

22, Austen Percifull, Franklin, 16:16.35 (Mary Francis Keisling, 9/11).

23, Gael Alvarado, Hanks, 16:19.03 (Shawver Park, 9/4).

24, Isaac Romero, Franklin, 16:22.86 (Southlake, 8/28).

25, Matthew Maese, San Elizario, 16:28.43 (Clint, 10/2).

Senior Aaron Saenz has been a steady No. 3 man for Americas. His 16:04.0 ranks in the top 20 in El Paso.

Power rankings
(number parenthesis indicate meets won):

1, Luis Pastor, Coronado, 88 (3).

2, Omer Ibrahim, Pebble Hills, 83 (6).

3, Chris Moreno, San Elizario, 67 (3).

4, Jared Laverty, Americas, 66 (4).

5, Alejandro Tarin, Hanks, 57.

6, Andrew Valdiviezo, Riverside, 55.

7, Daniel Romero, Tornillo, 54.

8, Angel Torres, Tornillo, 49 (3).

9, Andres Gurrola, Eastwood, 45.

10, Gael Alvarado, Hanks, 45 (1).

Diego Flores, Franklin, 40 (1).

Carmelo Corral, Americas, 40.

Isaac Mendoza, Eastwood, 40.

Jayden Bustillos, Riverside, 38.

Israel David, Eastlake, 34.

Austen Percifull, Franklin, 20.

Aaron Saenz, Americas, 19.

Seth Truax, Chapin, 19.

Matthew Maese, San Elizario, 17.

Julian Maldonado, Burges, 17 (1).

Preston Arnett, Cathedral, 15.

Israel Quintana, Immanuel, 15.

Devon Paez, Eastwood, 15.

David Ramirez, El Paso High, 15.

David Herrera, Burges, 14.

Jacob Noble, Cathedral, 12 (1).

Omar Rivera, Canutillo, 12.

Irvin Vazquez, San Elizario, 13.

Bernard Martinez, Cathedral, 10.

Elijah Noble, Cathedral, 10.

Rai Lopez, Franklin, 9.

Angel Maese, San Elizario, 9.

Matthew Engle, Franklin, 8.

Matthew Marshall, Eastwood, 8.

Sam Breceda, Coronado, 8.

Leo Valenzuela, El Paso High, 8.

Michael Castorena, Parkland, 8.

Joaquin Chavez, Eastwood, 7.

Frank Lozano, Franklin, 7.

Efren Moncada, Parkland, 7.

Carlos Mendez, Coronado, 6.

Matthew Guerra, Burges, 6.

Oscar Guzman, Franklin, 6.

Diego Espinoza, Cathedral, 6.

Alan Ceballos, San Elizario, 6.

Juan Linares, Horizon, 6.

Denovan Estrada, Franklin, 5.

Mario Elias, Eastlake, 5.

Sam Flores, Coronado, 5.

Aidan Hernandez, Eastlake, 5.  

Aydan Lugo, El Paso High, 5.

Aaron Gomez, Burges, 5.

Isai Barajas, Ysleta, 5.

Anthony Casillas, Eastwood, 4.

Dauntae Herrera, Chapin, 4.

Dylan Lorilla, Cathedral, 4.

Venancio Calderon, El Dorado, 4.

Bryan Estrada, Eastlake, 3.

Antonio Palos, Irvin, 3.

Jorge Maese, San Eli, 3.

Alexander Flores, Eastwood, 2.

Victor Anchondo, Eastwood, 2.

Sebastian Gonzalez, Franklin, 2.

Rene Renteria, Americas, 2.            

Juan Leal, Franklin, 2.

Luis Martinez, Irvin, 2.

Kevin Perez, Riverside, 2.

Heiden Pereda, Eastwood, 2.

Braulio Torres, Chapin, 2.

Yahir Barrios, Horizon, 2.

Isaac Romero, Franklin, 1.

Jesse Morales, Americas, 1.

Mauricio Cuartes, Eastwood, 1.

Evan Avitia, Americas, 1.

Jostin Briones, Riverside, 1.

Santiago Cadena, Horizon, 1.