Monday Cooldown: El Paso High boys building for the future

The El Paso High boys are lead by sophomore Miles Westbrook along with junior Leo Valenzuela and sophomore Ulysses O’Rourke.

The El Paso High Tigers boys cross country team have quietly been building.

Almost every day during the summer, they would run, pacing themselves for the start of what could be a special next two years.

“Everyone actually started to try more and got at least two minutes faster,” said Miles Westbrook, who has won two individual titles this season, including the Class 5A District Preview at Horizon Golf Course. “We’re a really young team, we’re a bunch of freshman and sophomores who hopefully can run together through state next year.”

Westbrook, a sophomore, leads El Paso High along with fellow sophomores Ulysses O’Rourke and Lorenzo Shields. Juniors Aydan Lugo and Leo Valenzuela make up the core of the team.

“Track season helped a lot,” Westbrook said. “We developed a lot of speed from running track. After COVID, a lot of us hadn’t run in a while. Track season helped us build back that speed and then over the summer we built up our aerobic capacity and we were able to mix it together to be able to run fast during cross country.”

Westbrook is happy with his personal growth.

“I dropped 2 minutes off my 5K time but I’m also getting ready for track, hoping to go 4:35 or somewhere near that in the mile,” he said.

But he is more interested in helping the Tigers get to state.

“We’re building up for next year and the year after that,” he said. “A lot of us are young and we’re still growing and getting stronger. We going to be super good next year and our senior year when everyone is older and as fast as we can be.”

As for this season, he is hoping for a strong regional performance and, if not as a team, send two or three runners to state.

“Ulysses and Leo have had a strong season,” he said. “We’ve been running together every day, making sure we stay together.”

Monday Cooldown: Pebble Hills seniors laying the foundation

Natalia Martinez Lopez

The Pebble Hills boys’ and girls’ cross country teams are having successful seasons.

The boys are ranked No. 4 and the girls are No. 3 in the El Paso Running Top 10.

Both squads are led by a pair of seniors – Natalia Martinez Lopez and Omer Ibrahim – who began to lay the foundation for success last fall.

Now, a year later, the boys and girls teams are realizing their potential.

“The teams are doing great,” Martinez Lopez said after posting a season best, 19:46.69 at Shawver Park on Sept. 10. “Both the guys and the girls have a great shot at regionals. We’ve been getting some great help from the freshman Audrey (Arsenault), she has really given us that step up that we needed.”

The Spartans have five runners with top 25 times including Natalie Franco (11,19:47.10), Martinez Lopez (12, 19:46.69), Arsenault (15h, 20:04.43), Carolina Zarrabal (19th, 20:28.43) and Sophia Santivanez (25th, 20:57.35).

“We all have progressed, especially Natalie, our junior, I’m really proud of her,” she said. “At practice, she is able to push me a lot more. We’ll continue to push each other throughout the season.”

Martinez Lopez was 10th at this weekend’sLubbock Invitational in the Class 6A Division and Arsenault was 19th.

Martinez Lopez said she is gaining confidence with every race.

“Last year I was really nervous,” she said. “Before every race, I had really bad anxiety. I doubted myself a lot. Track season really helped because it’s a shorter distance. Honestly, I prefer track over cross country. Track helped me learn how to cope with my nerves before a race. I’m still nervous, but not as nervous I was last year.”

Omer Ibrahim

Omer Ibrahim has been fighting nagging injuries in the early part of the cross country season.

First it was quad injury and then he strained his hip flexer.

“I still have knots but it’s getting better,” Ibrahim said after finishing second in 16:43.68 at the Ysleta Invitational at Shawver Park. “I’m doing acupuncture and all sorts of new things so that’s helped.”

There was a possibility of Ibrahim missing the cross country season if he did not heal properly.

“If my injuries continued my dad (and coach Bashar Ibrahim), told me I would have to sit out cross country and focus on track so I had a lot at stake,” he said. “I’m feeling a lot better, honestly, all I care about is to keep on running.”

Ibrahim finished sixth at the Lubbock Invitational in the Class 6A Division in 16:40.4.

Senior teammate Noah Castorena was 16th in 17:38.0.

“I’m going try my best in the next six weeks to get back to full health and hopefully I can be back to where I should be and get ready for district, regionals and hopefully state.”

The Spartans have three runners in the city’s Top 25 times list – Ibrahim at No.6 (15:56.70) senior Castorena at 13th (16:28.95) and sophomore Ameen Ibrahim at 14th (16:33.63).

“I’m extremely proud of them, they have improved so much from where they were last year,” he said of his teammates. “They are pushing themselves more so when me and Noah leave, the younger ones can step up. It will be nice to come back and see them after I leave and see how well they can hold their own. I believe they’ll have a strong team for years to come.”

Monday Cooldown: Moreno remains unbeaten; Jimenez keeps on running; Eastwood boys cruising 

Chris Moreno picked up his third individual title at the Rudy Alvarez Invitational at Del Valle.

San Elizario senior Chris Moreno, who ended the 2021 season with a Class 4A state silver medal around his neck, has continued his winning ways.

Moreno won his third straight invitational on Saturday at Del Valle High School, holding off Tornillo’s Daniel Romero in the final 100 meters.

Moreno finished in 16:19.62 and Romero in 16:19.98. Eastwood’s Alex Flores was third 16:24.18 followed by Hanks’ Alejandro Tarin (16:46.51) and Eastwood’s Matthew Marshall (16:50.51).

“The first mile and a half I was pacing myself behind Alex and little by little I caught up to him,” Moreno said. “I started to relax and pushing it a little more when Danny came up. I had to have a good kick at the end to win.”

Rounding out the top 10 were Eastwood’s Anthony Casillas (16:56.74) and Leo Espino (16:57.45), Parkland teammates Michael Castorena (eighth, 16:59.44) and Efren Moncada (tenth, 17:27.73) and Immanuel Christian’s Israel Quintana (ninth, 17:13.73).

Moreno said the stiff El Paso competition helps him prepare for what he sees at regionals and state.

“El Paso has a lot of great runners, so we push each other every weekend,” he said. “We all work together to be better runners.”

He is also sticking to the rigid San Elizario training schedule.

“Every week we train harder than the previous week,” he said. “If you train hard, the races will be easier. We’ve been training on hills which gets us stronger, plus we’re doing a lot of distance which should help us in the earlier season. We’ll do more speed work when we get closer to state. Right now, I’m happy with where we’re at.”

Montwood’s Kassandara Jimenez looked strong at Del Valle.

Kassandra Jimenez; Eastwood boy’s cruise

Kassandra Jimenez has had a busy summer.

The Montwood senior is coming off a spectacular summer track season, earning a USATF national championship in the steeplechase, a silver in the 3,000-meter run and a fourth-place finish in the 1,500.

After finishing second at the Canutillo Invitational, Jimenez came back on Saturday to win the Rudy Alvarez Invitational at Del Valle in a season-best 19:42.10.

Pebble Hills’ Natalia Martinez Lopez was second (19:47.27) followed by teammate Natalie Franco (20:35.64), Canutillo’s Natalie Rivera (20:50.20), Chapin’s Rebecca Duran (20:51.12), Eastlake’s Itzel Chavez (21:05.24), Chapin’s Gianny Correa (21:06.57), Del Valle’s Valeria Loo-Kung   (21:07.63), Eastwood’s Salma Licon (21:13.74) and Aubrey Arsenault from Pebble Hills       (21:14.20).

Jimenez said summer track has helped her prepare for the fall cross country season.

“Summer track helped me with my speed and turnover,” she said. “Since I ran at the national level, the competition really helped me show myself that I can run with some talented girls. I now know when I put my mind to it, I can end a race strong.”

She said she is not fatigued from the long season.

“I have some really good coaches who have trained me well,” she said. “I’m in a really good state physically and mentally. I don’t feel fatigued or that I’m going to peak too early. I feel like I’m right on track.”

Eastwood continued its winning ways at Del Valle.

The Eastwood boys easily won the team title with 29 points, placing four runners in the top seven.

“We’re really a close team,” Flores said. “We all care for each other so when we are racing, we all know that we are out there for each other.”

Flores, who is running his first varsity season, said the team concept is the only way to go.

“Of course, you have to think about yourself too, but you’re doing it for the team,” he said “Half the race is mental and that really helps you push through to the end. The concept of the race is pushing your body to the absolute limit and sure, it terrifies you, but you are doing it for your teammates so that really pushes you when you feel you can’t go on.”

Flores said this year’s team, with only two runners back from a Class 6A state bronze medal team, is well aware of what  the expectations are.

“There is pressure, but we welcome it,” he said. “There is a positive that comes with a legacy, knowing the history helps push us through those hard points of the season. We are not only doing it for ourselves, but the guys who came before us.”

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.”

Monday Cool Down: Older brothers pave way for Americas’ Laverty and Hanks’ Rivera

As young runners, Americas senior Jared Laverty and Hanks senior Mia Rivera always had a team of people encouraging them, pushing them to work harder and to be better.

For the most part the motivation came from club coaches, parents or fellow runners.

But each of them also had someone who actually put in the miles, leading the way through example.

Jared Laverty

Laverty and Rivera have big brothers, both Division 1 athletes, who have inspired their younger siblings throughout the years.

Laverty’s older brother, Cameron, was a mid-distance runner for Americas and at the University of Houston.

While at Americas, Cameron set five school records at including the 400m, 800m, 1600m, 300m hurdles and 4x400m relay.

Rivera’s older brother, Rodger, is sophomore at the University of Texas and was an All-State cross country performer at Hanks, finishing eighth as a junior and third as a senior at the state meet.

“Cameron has helped me a great deal and he’s someone I look up to and admire for what he did,” Laverty told the El Paso Times last week. 

Rivera said her older brother set the pathway for her success and serves as a role model.

“I know that I’m not at his level, but he pushes me to get there,” Rivera said after winning the Loretto/Cathedral Invitational at Veterans Park on Saturday. “He has been there all my life; he has always been by my side.  He pushes me to do better, he tells me when I’m doing something wrong but he’s always there for me no matter what.”

Mia Rivera

Rivera, who picked up her first win of the season, has the city’s 14th fastest time, racing to a 19:53.20 at Shawver Park on Sept. 4.

“I’m where I want to be right now,” she said. “Every day I’m pushing harder. In practice, I’ve been running with the boys and they’re pushing me a lot, that’s why my times have been getting faster.”

Heading into the mid-point of the season, Rivera and Laverty say they are mentally and physically prepared for the championship push.

“I’m racing really well right now,” Rivera said. “My goal is to break 19 minutes because I know colleges are going to be scouting and I want to get a good time so maybe I can earn a scholarship.”

Laverty, who is unbeaten in four races this season, said he too is focused on the stretch run.

“Every year I focus on the long term, and every year the goal is making it to state,” he said. “I’ve been practicing hard all summer with that in mind. I had a really bad junior year so I’m really focused on doing well my senior year.”

Laverty has the city’s fifth fastest boy’s time, clocking in at 15:24.83 at the Canutillo Invitational on Aug. 21.

“I’m always good mentally, even if I lose, I’ll always be in the same mental state to come back,” he said. “I want my senior year to be the best year. I want to make sure we do all the right things. I just want to be the best that I can be and push through with quality work in practice every day.”

Monday Cool Down: Walls-Portillo runs sub-18 5K

Eastwood senior Lauren Walls-Portillo had a milestone run on Saturday morning at Del Valle High School.

After years of training, Walls-Portillo finally ran a sub 18-minute 5K – finishing the Rudy Alvarez Invitational in 17:58.28.

“I ran an 18:04 at Vista Hills Golf Course and I was so bummed that I was four seconds away,” she said. “I’ve hunted for this 17 for so long and that I finally did it on a course that I love, I am so happy.”

Walls-Portillo picked up her first victory of the season out-distancing freshman teammate Adelynn Rodriguez (18:37.95) and Burges senior Pamela Ramirez (18:59.11).

Eastwood senior Lauren Walls-Portillo won Rudy Alvarez Invitational in 17:58.28 on Saturday.

Montwood junior Kassandra Jimenez was fourth in 18:59.84 and Pebble Hills junior Natalia Martinez was fifth in 19:08.03.

 The long, flat course at Del Valle High School was ripe for fast times.

“I’ve been running this course since I was seven- or eight-years old running with the El Paso Wings; I’ve loved this course forever,” she said. “Breaking 18 on this course is so special to me. It really signifies how far I’ve come and I recognize how much progress I’ve made since I was a child so it was important to me to break 18 here.”

Walls-Portillo, who is a three-time state qualifier, said there was a little special motivation heading into Saturday’s race.

“I don’t think I did very well in my first race of the season,” she said. “I loved how I came back from that experience. To come out and push myself the way I did in practice and during this race, I’m really proud of myself – and my teammates.”


The Troopers dominated, placing four runners in the top eight including Walls-Portillo, Rodriguez, senior Adalia Olmos (sixth, 19:41.07) and junior Salma Licon (eighth, 19:54.44).

“Our team had a rough first race at the SAC on concrete, but now that we’ve come back together on this flat course and did amazing, it’s awesome.”

Not to be outdone, the varsity boy’s race was just as amazing with Pebble Hills junior Omer Ibrahim outlasting Eastlake senior Israel David at the end. Coronado junior Luis Pastor was two seconds behind and finish third.

Pebble Hills junior Omer Ibrahim outlasted Eastlake senior Israel David to win the Rudy Alvarez Invitational. Coronado junior Luis Pastor was just strides behind to finish third.

“We were all pushing each other,” Ibrahim said. “Macho (David) was right next to me and Luis Pastor was there with us. We kept fighting and fighting and with about a half a mile to go, we all started pushing harder and harder.”

At the end, Ibrahim had just a tiny bit more winning in 15:02.15, David was second in 15:02.73 and Pastor third in 15:04.79.

“Heading into the final 50 meters, we all had to slow down around the corner so we wouldn’t slip,” he said. “We were able to pick up our speed and I saw that there were right there with me so I pushed even harder.”

David, who was a bronze medalist at last year’s Class 6A UIL Cross Country Championship, was all smiles after the race.

“Ah man, I tried to give it everything I had left,” he said. “I wanted to win my first race back; I’m really proud of my performance.”

He knew Ibrahim would be tough.

“We went to an elevation camp together in Cloudcroft so I knew he was training hard this summer,” David said. “He really pushed me in this race and that’s what I’m always looking for. There was a lot of excitement in the air with all the people cheering, it was really cool.”

David missed the first two weeks of the season after a positive COVID-19 test.

“During the first week I just couldn’t run, it would hurt so much,” he said. “But coming back and being in a race like that brought my motivation level up. It made me realize that this is my senior season and I have to make sure that this is my best season.”

Monday Cool Down: Young Spartans find success

As Natalia Martinez toed the white chalk at the end zone of Tornillo High School’s football field, her heart was pumping a little faster than usual on Saturday morning.

It typically does when a cross country runner steps to the starting line, patiently waiting for the starter’s pistol to echo through the humid air.

“It was my first race, so I was super nervous,” Martinez said. “I looked down the line and all the girls looked really fast, and I started to doubt myself. But when I started running and got out in front, I felt good, I felt better about myself.”

Martinez, who is a soccer player by nature, felt a whole lot better after finishing the 3.1-mile desert course in 20:23.20, to win the Tornillo/San Elizario Invitational in her first race – EVER.

“At the beginning, maybe the first mile, I thought to myself, ‘hey, this isn’t so bad after all,’” she said. “It was later in the race when I really felt fatigued and I honestly thought about walking but I was halfway through it, so I said, ‘I’ll just finish it.’”

Martinez, a junior, was convinced by a friend this summer to give cross country a try.

“It’s fun, except when it feels like I’m going to die,” she joked.

Martinez first-place finish, Carolina Zarrabal’s third-place finish (21:19.44) and Natalie Franco’s seventh-place finish (21:53.35) led the Spartans to a team championship.

“We have a great team,” Martinez said. “We have a great dynamic and we push each other. It looks like we’re going to have a very good season together.”

Earlier in the morning, Omer Ibrahim – another Pebble Hills junior – won the boys race in 15:49.84 – a new course record.

“Coming into the race, I honestly didn’t feel too well but I was able to push through it,” Ibrahim said. “As the race went on, I felt better and in control and I kept going and going and going and finished strong.”

Omer Ibrahim, a junior at Pebble Hills, won the boys race in 15:49.84 – a new course record.

It was the first time in race history that a runner broke the 16-minute barrier.

“I’m very happy with the race,” he said. “I love training, I love running, it’s my escape route. Whenever I have issues or when I’m angry I let it out on the field, and it feels great. I feel relieved, I feel energized, I feel awesome.”

The boys finished second with 83 points.

“I’m excited about what the future holds for us,” said Basher Ibrahim, Pebble Hills cross country coach. “Both teams are young but I’m very proud of both teams, they did awesome, especially the girls, I think they have a really good chance to go to regionals.”

In a difficult District 1-6A with the likes of Franklin, Montwood and Eastwood making it to regionals could be a tall task for the young Spartans.

“The district is tough, but we take it one day at a time,” coach Ibrahim said. “I tell the kids it’s not about winning or losing it’s about doing your best and showing improvement every week. If you truly do your best, you can’t be disappointed in yourself, and nobody can be disappointed in you. The whole team gave it their best.”

Monday Cool Down: A chat with Franklin’s Ally Little

Franklin’s Ally Little has made the transition from soccer to cross country a relatively easy one. In her first season of distance, the senior owns the city’s third quickest 3-mile times.

When you watch Franklin senior Allyson “Ally” Little run cross country, you would think she has been running all her life.

In sense, she has.

But most of her running was the explosive, high-intensity runs, the kind of sprints you would expect from a soccer player – not the long, melodic, tempo-paced runs of a distance runner.

There is a reason for that. Ever since she could walk, Little has played soccer.

And she has excelled at it, too, earning first-team El Paso Times and All District 1-6A honors as a midfielder in a COVID-19-shortend 2020 season.

In her three years on the varsity, Little scored 19 goals and assisted on 10 others for the Franklin Cougars.

Last summer, her club team, the FC U18 Rage, qualified for the U.S. Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup by winning a regional tournament in Round Rock.

It is the first time an El Paso team had qualified for the national tournament in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

But simply qualifying was not enough as FC Rage defeated the Central California Aztecs 2-1 in the championship to win the Presidents Cup.

This summer, with the coronavirus outbreak crippling the country, Little shifted her focus from   soccer to distance running, a sport where social distancing is never a problem. A sport Little had never tried.

Little – who is one of only two seniors on the squad – made an already dominate team, even stronger, quickly becoming one of the team’s low-stick runners, consistently finishing behind University of Texas commit Eva Jess.

“It’s been fun to be a part of this team and to be able to help win a title,” she said after finishing third at Saturday’s District 1-6A championship. “It’s been an amazing season. I have an amazing team that pushes me and an amazing coach who designs the workouts for us to have a chance to do great.”

Franklin won its third consecutive District 1-6A team title, scoring 28 points.

Little owns the third fastest 3-mile time in the city posting a 18:39.33 at the Haskins Recreation Center course on Oct. 3.

“Playing soccer has helped me because of all the running I’ve done in that sport,” she said. “Every week I’ve tried to get better.”

Little tasted the running bug last spring when she ran the 800 and the 4X4 relay for Franklin’s track team.

“My soccer coach agreed to let me run three meets during my bye weeks,” Little said. “That’s when I fell in love with running. When I run, it gives me an adrenaline rush.”

Little is surprised by how well the season has gone for her.

“I learned that I can really push myself,” she said. “Being surrounded by such amazing teammates and a coach who is always encouraging us made me realize that I can do this.”

The Cougars are on to the Region 1, Class 6A Cross Country Championship on Nov. 10 at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock, with an opportunity to advance to its second consecutive state championships.

“I’m really looking forward to regionals,” Little said. “The team mentioned a few things about it like how we have to be mentally prepared and be together as pack to help us succeed.”

Cathedral finished one point away from reaching the podium at the TAPPS, Class 6A Cross Country Championship on Monday in Hewitt.

TAPPS State Championship

Cathedral finished one point away from reaching the podium at the TAPPS, Class 6A Cross Country Championship on Monday in Hewitt.

The Fighting Irish scored 102 points, just one point behind San Antonio’s Central Catholic High School for the bronze medal.

Cathedral had four runners in the top 20 – Luis Gomez (14th, 17:24.9), Bernard Martinez (15th, 17:25.9), Elijah Noble (16th, 17.:30) and Dylan John Lorilla (20th, 17:32.1).

San Antonio Antonian won the state title with 38 points and Houston’s St. Thomas was second with 59 points.

The Loretto Academy girls also competed in Class 6A and finished 12th with 326 points. The Angels were led by Mariah and Britney Martinez, who finished 56th and 57th overall.  

Tornillo sophomore Kylene Elias defended her District 3-4A individual crown racing the 2-mile course in 14:04.94 Saturday afternoon in Presidio.

District 3-4A Championship

Tornillo sophomore Kylene Elias defended her District 3-4A individual crown racing the 2-mile course in 14:04.94 Saturday afternoon in Presidio.

Also finishing in the top 10 for Tornillo were freshman Nataly Escajeda (fourth, 15:34.72) and junior Olivia Garcia (eighth, 15:48.02).

Presidio won the team title with 43 points followed by Tornillo (50) and Kermit (56).

Presidio and Tornillo will advance to the Region 1, Class 3A Cross Country Championship on Nov. 9 at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock.

The Tornillo boys will advance to regionals after placing second, missing out on the district championship by three points.

Presidio won the event with 32 points, Tornillo was second with 35 points and Alpine was a distant third with 72 points.

Tornillo placed three runners in the top 10 – freshman Daniel Romero (second, 17:19.75), sophomore Angel Torres (third, 17:28.88) and senior Bryan Garcia (fifth, 17:45.78).

Monday Cool Down: Eastwood’s Lauren Walls-Portillo establishes personal best in biggest win of her high school career – so far

Eastwood junior Lauren Walls-Portillo Walls-Portillo turned in a personal best 18:04.35, to win the inaugural Parra Law XC Classic at Vista Hills Country Club.

Eastwood junior Lauren Walls-Portillo could not hear her mother Stacy Walls’ words of encouragement at Saturday’s Parra Law XC Classic at Vista Hills Country Club.

But she felt them.

As her daughter was finishing the final half mile of the 3.1-mile course, Wall’s implored to her daughter, “don’t lose this opportunity.”

The “opportunity” in question was not losing a slim lead over Franklin senior Eva Jess, who in her four-year career has never lost in El Paso.

Walls-Portillo turned in a personal best 18:04.35, to win the inaugural Parra Law XC Classic – her biggest win of her high school career.

“She told me she said that, but I was so focused on what I was doing, I couldn’t hear her,” Walls-Portillo said with a laugh. “I thought that was amazing, even if I didn’t hear her.”

Jess, who verbally committed to the University of Texas last week, was second in 18:20.41.

“Eva has been a person that I have looked up to for so long because we started at a young age together,” Walls-Portillo said. “She has been so amazing all these years. She has driven me to work so much harder. In my mind, it wasn’t that I beat her. In my mind, it was that I worked hard enough to get to her level which was really good for me.”

Walls-Portillo came into Saturday’s race feeling at the top of her game.

“Honestly, I felt great the entire race, but it wasn’t until the start of the second lap is when I felt ‘oh my gosh, this could really happen,’” she said. “I felt so good and I felt I had a lot of energy to kick, that’s when I started to think ‘Ok, I got this, I’m going to be OK.’”

The Cougars won the team championship with 21 points, followed by Eastwood (59), Montwood (64), Class 3A Tornillo (124), Bel Air (130) and Hanks (157).

Franklin placed six runners in the top 8 including Jess, Ally Little (third, 18:44.19), Alyssa Laspada (fourth, 19:03.19), Michele Paillard (fifth, 19:50.57), Sofia Camacho (seventh, 19:55.96) and Jenna Saunders (eighth, 19:56.83).

Montwood had three in the top 10 – Karyme Garcia (sixth, 19:53.12), Alexa Rangel (ninth, 20:08.85) and Jazmine Miranda (tenth, 20:09.54).

Two weeks ago Walls-Portillo was 10th in the girl’s Sweepstakes Division finishing in 18:14.62 at the 13th annual Desert Twilight Cross Country Festival in Arizona.

“We didn’t know any of the teams there so there wasn’t anyone we had to specifically beat so our coach said run smart and you’ll run good,” she said. “I performed really well because I had no pressure to beat anyone because I didn’t know any of the girls there. I ran my best and so did my team. I watched them run as fast as I have ever seen them run because we finally got the chance to run an out of town and race.”

Walls-Portillo’s 18:04.35 on Saturday was 10 seconds faster than what see ran in Arizona.

“Eva pushed me hard, she pushed me to my limit,” she said. “I knew Eva was not going to let me go. I knew she was going to strive and push me the entire race. I could not have hit that 18:04 if it wasn’t for her. She is such a strong runner, so being up there with her gave me that extra push that I needed. Being up there with her gave me an adrenaline rush for the finish.”

The Eastwood boys were just as impressive as Franklin’s girls – winning the team championship one spot short of another perfect score.

San Elizario, who was without Edwin Gomez, was second with 76 points, Tornillo third (82), Franklin fourth (83), Hanks fifth (133) and Bel Air sixth (137).

Eastwood took seven of the top 10 spots including invitational winner senior Sergio Leon Cuartas (15:42.04). San Elizario’s Dilan Sanchez (third, 16:1138) was the only non-Eastwood athlete in the top seven.

Sergio Leon Cuartas.

Eastwood runners in the top 10 were Isaac Mendoza (second, 15:53.15), Nathan Hernandez (fourth, 16:16.85), Victor Anchondo (fifth, 16:17.94), Victor Parra (sixth, 16:20.38), Andres Gurrola (seventh 16:26.93) and Devon Paez (ninth, 16:34.51).

Hanks’s Alejandro Tarin was eighth in 16:32.73 and Tornillo’s Angel Torres was tenth 16:37.60.

Leon Cuartas has developed into a team leader for the Troopers. Two weeks ago, he led a group of five runners in the top 14 to win the Sweepstakes Division of the 13th annual Desert Twilight XC Festival in San Tan Valley, Ariz. with 53 points. Leon Cuartas who was third in 15:15.53.

“Working hard and trusting in my coach and in my team has made a major difference in my development,” Leon Cuartas said. “Every time I race, I race for my team. I really want to do well for them. We all run better knowing that we are doing it for each other. It’s all about the team-first mentality. It’s about running for your team, that’s what separates us from other people. We all know our role and we accept it. It all comes down to that team mentality.”

Americas Invitational (SAC)

Eastlake junior Israel David returned to racing on Friday morning with his fourth individual championship at the Americas Invitational at Socorro’s Student Activities Complex.

Israel David.

David, who is unbeaten and unchallenged this fall, won the race in 15:48.8.

The Americas boys continued its surge winning the team championship with 30 points. The team was led by junior Carmelo Corral who was second in 16:13.7. Other top 10 finishers for the Trailblazers were Michael Mier (fourth, 16:17.9), Jared Laverty (fifth, 16:30.1) and Aaron Saenz (seventh, 17:14.3).

Coronado was second with 42 points followed by Eastlake (63), Del Valle (132), Socorro (149) and Ysleta (155).

Coronado sophomore Luis Pastor was one of four T-Birds to finish in the top 10. He was third in 16:16.6, Corey Dubrule was sixth in 17:06.6, Sam Breceda was ninth in 17:46.6 and Stephen Pitchkolan was tenth.

Del Valle’s Miguel Avila was eighth in 17:38.2.

Coronado sophomore Kyra Walker won her second meet of the season racing to a 21:56.9. Eastlake’s Megan Kirtley was second in 22:11.0 and Americas’ Isabella Medina was third in 22:17.5.

Eastlake’s Giselle Rubio crossed the finish line in 22:59.2, good for the seventh spot. Her late push provided vital points as the Falcons took the team championship with 58 points, two better than Amercas. Socorro was third with 75 followed by Del Valle (77), Ysleta, (173), and Young Women’s Leadership Academy (184).

Coronado did not run a full team but still managed to have three top 10 runners – Walker, Alexa Lawrence (sixth, 22:59.0) and Sonya Lee (ninth, 23:11.6).

Other top 10 runners were Samantha Ramirez, Socorro (fourth, 22:36.7),  Mia Vargas, Americas (fifth, 22:57.4),  Ana Rojas, Socorro (eighth, 23:10.6) and Jaslyne Ramirez, Del Valle (tenth, 23:21.3).

Cathedral/Harmony Invitational (Veterans Park)                                              

Parkland senior Angie Lujan-Marrufo won her fifth consecutive race winning in 20:36.2.

Jefferson won the team title with 20 points, placing runners in the second through sixth spots – Monique Correa (second, 21:01.5), Crystal Peterson (third, 21:35.7), Melody Tsutsumi (fourth, 21:55.5),  Jelia Lugo (fifth, 23:30.6) and Irma Munoz (sixth, Jefferson, 23:55.3).

Angie Lujan-Marrufo.

Parkland had four in the top 10 including Lujan-Marrufo, Paola Bolanos Hernandez (seventh, 25:25.1), Claudia Vargas (eighth, 25:54.1) and Yulianna Anahi Martinez (tenth, 27:21.7).

Chapin’s Bianca Quintero was ninth in 26:28.7.

Parkland scored 37 points and took second place.

Chapin senior Joaquin Ortega won his third championship of the season finishing the race in 16:41.3 while Cathedral won the team title with 20 points.

The Irish had seven runners in the top 10 led by Luis Gomez (second, 17:25.1), Bernard Martinez (third, 17:27.9), Elija Noble (fourth, 17:28.5), Jacob Noble (fifth, 17:37.9), Dylan Lorilla, Cathedral (sixth, 18:11.5), Preston Arnett (eighth, 19:05.6) and Marcos Garcia (ninth, 19:05.9).

Chapin’s Cesar Sandoval was seventh in 18:36.3 and Jefferson’s Isaac Ortega was tenth in 19:17.3.

Bowie was second with 87 points and Parkland was third with 99 points.  

Clint ISD Invitational (Horizon High School)

Horizon, El Dorado, Clint, Riverside, Fabens, Burges and Canutillo participated. However, results were not reported.

Austin Invitational (Skyline Park)

Austin, El Dorado, Irvin, Andress, Valle Verde and Loretto participated. However, results were not reported.

Monday Cool Down: Getting to know Parkland’s Angie Lujan-Marrufo

Parkland senior Angie Lujan-Marrufo is off to a fast start this season, winning four straight invitationals.

On Saturday, Angie Lujan-Marrufo ran away with her fourth individual championship of 2020 at the Canutillo/Anthony Invitational.

The Parkland High School senior completed the course at Canutillo Middle School in 19:56.37, well ahead of Coronado teammates Kyra Walker (21:12.59) and Alexa Lawrence (21:26.33).

The T-Birds won the team championship with 45 points, followed by Clint (81), Del Valle (83), Parkland (131) and Riverside (150).

Filling out the top 10 were Annette Guzman, Burges (21:28.37), Janice Olivas, Clint, (21:56.31), Ivy Lara, Canutillo (21:59.18), Natalie Rivera, Canutillo (22:02.78), Vanessa Preciado, Canutillo, (22:03.36), Vivian Zapata, Clint (22:05.75) and Emily Antimo, Burges (22:10.40).

Entering week four of the cross-country season, Lujan-Marrufo owns the city’s second best 5K/3-mile time turning in a 19:12.42 at Veterans Park on Sept. 26.

Her success is quite amazing considering it was only two years ago when she began to take distance training seriously.

“I’ve been running cross country since middle school, but it wasn’t until the summer before my sophomore year when I started to train properly,” she said. “I thought cross country was running forever and ever. I really didn’t put much thought into it until then.”

It was the summer of 2018 when she began working out with Sarah Austin, Abriyah Skull, and Janae Ramirez, members of the Wings summer club team.

“I grew a love for distance that summer,” she said. “Running with new people and getting their perspective on distance running helped. They were really devoted to cross country which gave me an appreciation for distance. Training with them, I didn’t want to feel like the slacker of the group, so I put in a little more effort.”

Lujan-Marrufo, who was already a top USATF 800-runner in her age group, began to train properly.

“I started doing the things that I was supposed to be doing,” she said. “I love cross country now. I really love it. Hearing stories about what other girls have accomplished ahead of me made me want to be a part of that history.”

At last year’s District 2-5A Championship Lujan-Marrufo was third in 20:42.54 and ended her junior cross-country season in 53rd place (19:57.30) at the Region 1-5A Championship.

“I never knew I could run as fast I am right now,” she said. “I thought I would be running low 20s or high 19s but now I know what I’m capable of with training and hard work. I want to break 18.”

She knows a sub 18 is within her reach.

“In the past, I relied too much on my talent,” she said. “Even through someone has talent, it’s not a reason why they shouldn’t work harder, and I took that personally.”

Strangely, when track competition was cancelled in the spring due to the coronavirusLujan-Marrufo did not have any hard feelings.

“I didn’t feel bad about it,” she said. “I was actually looking forward to cross country even more. But as time went on, I wasn’t really sure there was going to be a cross-country season, so I wasn’t training at all. I would go on a two-mile run and I would be so tired, I was so out of shape.”

She is looking at the season as an opportunity to showcase the work she has put in the past two years.

“I lost part of my track season my junior year and I knew this would be my last year so I had to give it my all,” she said.

She looks to her mother, Sandra Lujan, for motivation.

“She’s really into my running life,” she said. “She is the one who tells me about my competition and what other people are running. She’s a real cross country and track mom. She always has these dreams of me running in college and going pro. I just want to make her happy and proud.”

Because of COVID-19 protocols, the UIL is not allowing cross country meets to exceed six teams so many of this season’s races are small.

In two weeks, Lujan-Marrufo is scheduled to run the Vista Hills Invitational against a few of the city’s top girl’s teams including No. 2 Montwood and No. 3 Eastwood.

“That’s one meet I’m really preparing for,” she said. “I get to run against Lauren (Eastwood’s Lauren Walls-Portillo). We’re good friends, we ran on the same club team. I remember at district last year she was so far ahead of me. I always imagined being up there with her. My goal for that meet is to stay close and hopefully pass her if I have the right training. We’ll see how it goes.”

For now, Lujan-Marrufo is happy, flashing that gold medal smile after every race.

“I’ve come to learn that no matter where you are in your training, there is always room for improvement, always room to work harder,” she said. “I’m really happy with the times that I’ve been running. Just to see how far I’ve come in these three years has been amazing. I never knew that I could be doing what I am right now.”

The future is bright for Lujan-Marrufo who hopes pandemic conditions improve enough to have a spring track season.

She is keeping her college options open for now.

“I’ve been in contact with a few colleges, mostly with NMSU and Texas State,” she said. “I’m not too sure as to where I want to go. I don’t want to go too far. I’m keeping my options open. I’m just taking it slow and so what happens during track season.”

On the boy’s side of the Canutillo/Anthony Invitational, Coronado took the first three spots and four out of the top 10.

Luis Pastor picked up his second varsity win (16:47.00) followed by Corey Dubrule (17:06.18) and

Sam Breceda (17:07.90). Stephen Pitchkolan was tenth in 17:49.00.

Filling out the top 10 were – Riverside’s Andrew Valdiviezo (fourth, 17:16.0), Del Valle’s Miguel  Avila (fifth, 17:20.65),  Canutillo’s Danovan Estrada (sixth, 17:23.96), Burges’ Dylan  Walker (seventh, 17:26.78), teammate Julian Maldonado (eighth, 17:43.56) and Parkland’s Kenneth Goldstone Lamar (tenth, 17:46.52).

Desert Twilight (San Tan Valley, Ariz.)

The Eastwood boys won the high school Sweepstakes Division of the Desert Twilight XC Festival in San Tan Valley, Ariz. with 53 points and San Elizario was fourth with 162 points.

The Eastwood boys won the high school Sweepstakes Division of the Desert Twilight XC Festival in San Tan Valley, Ariz. with 53 points.

The Troopers had five runners in the top 14 lead by Sergio Leon Cuartas who was third in 15:15.53. Eastwood had runners take the 11-14 spots including Aaron Perez (11th, 15:51.02),           Isaac Mendoza (12th, 15:52.26), Victor Anchondo (13th, 15:55.35) and Victor Parra (14th, 15:57.58)          

San Elizario had two runners in the top six – Edwin Gomez, (5th, 15:36.48) and Dilan Sanchez (6th, 15:40.33).

Bel Air was 15th in the boy’s Championship Division.  William Moreno was the Highlanders top runner, finishing 30th in 17:27.16.      

Eastwood’s Lauren Walls-Portillo was 10th in the girl’s high school Sweepstakes Division finishing in 18:14.62.

The Eastwood girls placed fourth in the high school Championship race with 132 points and Bel Air was 12th with 288 points.

Amber Martin lead the Troopers, placing 13th in 20:40.65 while Bel Air’s Abagail Murillo was 23rd in 21:00.46.           

Franklin Invitational (Haskins Rec Center)

The Franklin girlstook the first seven spots in route to a perfect score (15 points).

Franklin was again led by Eva Jess (first, 18:16.91), who gave her verbal commitment to the University of Texas at Austin on Friday night.

Ally Little was second in 18:39.33, Alyssa Laspada third in 19:14.63, Jenna Saunders was fourth in 19:43.31; Jordan Torres (fifth, 19:56.30), Michele Paillard (sixth,  20:04.58) and Sofia Camacho (seventh, 20:27.05). Amanda Sotelo was ninth for Franklin (21:06.85).

Jefferson’s Crystal Peterson was eighth in 20:45.57 and teammate Monique Correa was 10th in 21:09.61.

The Foxes placed second overall with 62 points followed by Americas with 63.

On the boy’s side, Americas junior Jared Laverty won his first varsity meet, leading the Trailblazers to a team championship in 16:02.13.

Americas junior Jared Laverty won his first varsity race in 16:02.13 to led the Trailblazers to another team championship.

Americas runners took the first four spots and five of the top 8 including Michael Mier (second,  16:06.82), Aaron Saenz (third, 16:08.66), Carmelo Corral (fourth, 16:25.95) and Jesse Morales (eighth, 17:26.45).

The Trailblazers scored 18 points followed by Franklin (37) and Valle Verde (85).

Cougar runners make up the remaining five spots in the top 10 led by Rai Lopez (fifth, 16:43.41), Matthew Engle (sixth, 16:54.70), Andres Buckley (seventh, 17:14.12), Diego Flores (ninth, 17:36.02) and Octavio Trujillo (tenth, 17:41.92).

Cathedral/Loretto Invitational (Veterans Park)

A pair of sophomore runners – Tornillo’s Kylene Elias and Pebble Hills’ Omer Ibrahim – continued their early season success taking individual titles at the Cathedral/Loretto Invitational at Veterans Park.

Elias won in 20:19.07 and lead the Coyotes to a team championship with 32 points. Pebble Hills was second with 36 followed Loretto (55), Young Women’s Leadership (100) and Ysleta, (120).

Including Elias, Tornillo had four runners in the top 10 – Nat Escajeda (seventh, 21:46.43), Olivia Garcia            (eighth, 21:51.64) and Brianna Ibarra (tenth, 22:16.78).

Carolina Zarrabal (second, 20:23.25) and Natalie Franco (sixth, 21:42.67), led Pebble Hills.

Other top 10 runners were three Eastwood athletes – Victoria Ovalles (third, 20:31.75), Hannah Tellez (fifth, 21:40.42) and Monica Hagerich (ninth, 22:00.66).

Loretto senior Britney Martinez was fourth in 21:37.76.

Ibrahim won his second invitational this season turning in a 15:39.22.

The Tornillo boys won the team title with 21 points. Pebble Hills was second with 34 points and Ysleta was third with 75.

The Coyotes had four runners in the top 7 – Angel Torres (second, 16:28.74), Bryan Garcia (third, 16:45.10), Daniel Romero (fifth, 17:04.62) and Bryan Guzman (seventh, 17:19.62).

Other top 10 runners were Andress’ Jarrett Ketchmark (fourth, 16:53.88), Eastwood’s Joaquin Chavez (sixth, 17:17.31) and Anthony Casillas (eighth, 17:27.82), Pebble Hills’ Noah Castorena (ninth, 17:35.96) and Anthony Soto from Fabens (tenth, 17:37.36).

Eastlake Invitational (SAC)

Please bear with us on this one. The results were difficult to obtain and are still not confirmed. There also seems to be issues with timing and placement.

From what we were able to gather, the two individual winners were Horizon’s Andrea Villagomez (19:08:50.0) and Hanks’ Gael Alvarado (15:43.4).

Horizon’s Andrea Villagomez won the Eastlake Invitational in 19:08:50.0.

It appears the El Paso High girls won the team event with 20 points followed by Hanks (37) and Horizon (61).

El Paso High placed four girls in the top 10 – Alissa Kennedy (third, 19:55.4), Jezarae Valenzuela (fourth, 19:59.9), Shayla Cohen Jones (fifth, 20:02.8) and Vivian Shaheen (tenth, 22:15.1).    

The Knights had three in the top 10 including runner-up Mia Rivera (19:40:00.0), Madison Spencer (seventh, 20:47.0) and Jade Baca (ninth, 21:19.3).

Rounding out the top 10 were Austin’s Mora Montes (sixth, no time reported) and Horizon’s Jaquelin Gonzalez (eight, 21:17.6).

On the boy’s side, Hanks won the team title with 31 points followed by El Paso High with 39 and Horizon with 52.

The Knights place four in the top 10 – Alvarado, Alejandro Tarin (second, 15:45.2), Michael Antuna (seventh, 16:29.2) and Andres Garcia (tenth, 17:42.3).

El Paso High’s top runners were Josep Ferret (third, 15:48.4), David Ramirez (fourth, 16:04.4) and Leo Valenzuela (eighth, 17:00.8).

Rounding out the top 10 are Austin’s Jose Nilo (fifth, no time reported), and two Horizon runners Ivan Hernandez (sixth, 16:19.8) and Yahir Barrios (ninth, 17:20.1).