On this blog you will find weekly profiles on runners of all levels and ages, top 10 high school cross country boys and girls teams along with the top 25 times. You will be able to find schedules and results for high school cross country and track, the USA Track & Field Border Association meets and the many road races in El Paso.
El Paso athletes returned from the UIL Track and Field Championship with seven medals around their necks.
Coronado senior Luis Pastor and Chapin senior Morgan Little had the most impressive weekends.
Pastor, who is headed to Texas in the fall, ran a personal best 4:09.04 to claim the silver medal in the Class 6A 1,600. He came close to breaking the 43-year-old El Paso all-time city record held by Bel Air’s Sergio Oaxacas’ 4:08.9 he set in 1980.
Pastor returned to run a season best and city best 8:57.35 in the 3,200 and finished with a bronze medal.
Little also had a day, earning a bronze medal in the Class 5A 100-meter dash in 11.77, finishing sixth in the long jump with a leap of 18-feet, 7-inches and helping the 400-relay team of Samahdi Foster, Caidence Johnson and Maliyah Priderace to a school and city record 46.47 and placed fourth at the Class 5A state championship.
The team also finished eighth in the 800 relay in 1:40.93.
Other El Paso area athletes to win medals were Horizon senior Ricardo Leyva who earned a silver medal at the Class 5A high jump championship, clearing 6-feet, 10-inches.
Riverside senior Angel Munoz earned two bronze medals in Class 4A; finishing in 37.83 in the 300-meter hurdles, a season city best, and in the long jump, leaping 22-feet, 8.75 inches.
San Elizario senior Chris Moreno earned a silver in Class 4A, 800-meter run, racing a season and personal best 1:53.80. He also ran a 4:28.28 in the 1,600 and finished sixth.
Other state performers were:
The Franklin boys 400-meter relay team of Beau Sparks, Julian Mars, Gerald Williams and Jordan Morales finished fifth in 41.42.
Chapin juniorSeth Truaxwas ninth in the 800-run finishing in 1:59.01.
Parkland’s 800-meter relay team of Kaleb Martinez, DJ Crest, Joseph Gomez and Lincoln Juardo finished eighth in 1:39.50 after a mishandled baton pass.
Riverside senior Jose Guardado was fifth in the long jump, with a mark of 22-feet, 3.5 inches.
Tornillo juniorDaniel Romero finished sixth in the 3,200-meter run in 9:42.52. He finished ninth in the 1,600 in a time of 4:32.17.
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.
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 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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
Friday’s UIL Class 5A State Track and Field action saw a few close calls but no medals for El Paso’s runners
A pair of Chapin seniors – Eireann Donohoe and Plea’ Jai’ Roulhac – came the closest.
Donohoe finished fourth in the Class 5A triple jump with a mark of 38-feet, 10.50 inches. Pflugerville Hendrickson junior Suzan Ogunleye finished just ahead of her (39-3.75) for third. Katy Paetow senior Tumi Onaleye won the event with a leap of 40-1.25.
Roulhac, finished fifth in 300-meter hurdles in 43.86 – a personal best.She came within milliseconds of reaching the medal stand as runners 2-5 finished within .61 seconds of each other. The winner was Lancaster senior Ashyiria Savage who finished in 42.15. Coming into the race, she was seeded eighth.
Parkland seniorAngelina Lujan-Marrufo placed eighth in the 800-meter run in 2:17.03. Lucas Lovejoy freshman Kailey Littlefield won the event in 2:08.04. She returned later in the evening and ran a 56.48 in the 400-meter run to finish fifth. The winner was Fort Bend Marshall junior Cesley Williams who ran the oval in 54.07.
Chapin’s 4X400 team ofSela Arevelo, Samahdi Foster, Plea’ Jai’ Roulhac, Kennedy McDonald finished the Class 5A championship in 3:59.20, good for seventh place at the state championship. Manvel won the event in 3:46.91.
Del Valle senior pole vaulter Austin Lara finished sixth with a vault of 14-feet. The winner of the event was Abilene Wylie senior Kylor Aguilar who cleared the bar at 15-9.
Class 6A takes the track on Saturday morning at 8:45 a.m. with the 3,200-meter run featuring a pair of runners – Eastlake junior Israel David who was second at the Region 1-6A race finishing in 9:09.57 and Coronado sophomore Luis Pastor was third but received a wild card berth after his 9:12.03. David is the second seed and Pastor is the third seed. Haltom City Haltom senior Alfredo Reina Corona is the one seed with a 9:08.01.
David will also compete in the 1600-meter run. He was second at regionals with a time of 4:17.97, good enough for a seventh seed. He will be chasing Houston Strake Jesuit senior Anthony Gregory who comes in with a 4:10.86. This race is at 6:50 p.m. Saturday.
Americas senior Caleb Stewart will compete in the triple jump at 1:45 p.m. Stewart won the Region 1-6A championship with a jump of 46 feet, 3,25 inches. He enters the state finals qualifying in the eighth spot. Jaden Patterson, a senior from Humble Atascocita, turned in a 51-11. This event begins at 1:45 p.m. Saturday.
San Elizario senior Edwin Gomez had himself a day on Thursday winning gold in the Class 4A 800 and silver in the 3200 at the 2021 UIL State Championship at Mike Myers Stadium in Austin.
But the like the competitor he is, Gomez was far from satisfied.
“Honestly, my focus was not on the 2-mile,” he said. “I wanted to get a medal in the 800 and the mile. In the mile, I couldn’t handle the pace, I was really tired so I couldn’t get a medal in that one.”
Gomez finished fifth in the 1,600 in 4:25.33. Canyon senior Samuel Ashley won the event in 4:21.73.
“Not getting a medal in the mile was kind of a disappointing way to finish my senior year,” he said. “But I’m on to my next step, another level of competition so I can’t worry about it.”
Gomez will be running at Mike Myers Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas as member of the Longhorns for the next four years.
“I felt like I was running my home track,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
Gomez began the day early Thursday morning winning silver in the Class 4A 3200-meter run in a time of 9:33.66, .41 seconds behind the winner Hudson Bennett from Burnet who won the race in 9:33.25.
He followed that up in the afternoon with a gold in the 800-meter run in a time of 1:56.80. San Elizario sophomore Chris Moreno was second in 1:57.29. Mt. View senior Josh Gonzalez was sixth in 1:58.68.
Gomez has now won 15 state team and individual medals from cross country and track.
“I never thought this could happen,” he said. “I gave all the credit to my two coaches, Cesar Morales and Jorge Maese for the help they have given me throughout the years. I’m going to miss them and my teammates a lot.”
Gomez gave high praise to his teammate Moreno.
“I’m really happy that he was able to experience this with me and represent San Elizario,” he said. “I know that he is going to be awesome, he’s going to be better than me. I’m really happy for him; we made history together.”
This was the first time in school history that San Elizario had runners finish first and second in any event at the state level.
“It was a special moment,” Moreno said of his first state medal. “I wasn’t expecting to finish second. I was looking at the times before the race and they were all very fast so I was a little nervous.”
Moreno credits Gomez for pushing him to be better during practice.
“Me and Edwin are very competitive with each other,” Moreno said. “We give it our all in the races and at practices, too. I’m really going to miss spending time with him.”
Fierro had a personal best 38-feet, 1/4-inches on her first throw and then on her fourth attempt, let loose with a toss of 39-8 ¾, good enough for second place behind Bushland’s Jillian Howell (40-3 1/4).
Other El Paso results
Tornillo sophomore Angel Torres ended the day with a pair of fourth place finishes in the Class 3A 3,200 and 1,600.
In the two-mile race, he finished 9:40.54 – a new school record. The old record was held by Daniel Amaya in 2018 who ran a 9:48. The winner was Will Boyce from Onalaska who finished in 9:27.31.
Torres, who won the Region 1-3A mile, finished fourth in 4:30.52. Boyce won this event in 4:26.37.
In Class 4A Riverside high jumper Ian Valdez and Clint 300 hurdler Jesus Rocha just missed medals with fourth-place finishes.
Valdez finished fourth on a tiebreaker with a leap of 6-foot-4 while Rocha just missed a bronze medal, reaching the finish line in 38.87, 0.12 behind third.
Riverside’s Angel Munoz was ninth in that race in 41.22.
Lizbeth Fierro’s journey to a silver medal in the Class 3A shot put is an unlikely one.
Perhaps one that would not have happened without the persistence of her coaches who never gave up on her.
The Tornillo senior surprised everyone – and we mean everyone – at the 2021 UIL State Track and Field Championship at Mike Myers Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas on Thursday.
Fierro, a wild card selection to state, threw the shot put 39 feet 8.75 inches to earn her silver medal.
And the kicker?
She started throwing the shot put a month ago – yes, one month ago.
“I was always playing volleyball, basketball and softball,” she said, giggling. “The coaches had been asking me to go out for track since I was a freshman but I couldn’t. I was a softball player and the softball and track seasons are at the same time so I couldn’t do both.”
At the end of the softball season, Tornillo coaches Jesse Garcia and Frank Sapien asked her again.
“The coaches gave me the metal ball to see what I could do and I tossed it about 35 feet,” she said, again giggling. “They knew I could be good at it as long as I tried it.”
Fierro entered the state finals – only her fourth meet ever – as a sixth seed and eventually hit her silver mark in the fourth round. The winner was Jillian Howell, a junior at Bushland, with a toss of 40-3.25.
“At practice I’ve been throwing 41 (feet) so I know I could have done better,” she said with a sly laugh. “I was talking to the girls in the pit and they told me they’ve been training since 7th grade. When they asked when I started, they were all surprised when I told them just a month ago.”
Garcia was confident Fierro could do it.
“She’s a great athlete,” he said. “Everyone at school wanted to have a shot at working with her so track was always the last thing on her mind. Coach Sapien managed to talk to her and get her to give it a shot. Coach Sapien comes from a great program at Eastwood so he knows a thing or two about the shot put. He has passion for it and he did a great job with the time he had with her.”
Fierro acknowledges that there was more than a little luck in her earning a silver medal.
“It was little bit of beginner’s luck and a lot of work,” she said. “I wasn’t supposed to be here. At regionals, I had an allergic reaction to something and I wasn’t at my best and finished third. My coach told I might or might not make it as a wild card but I was happy either way because at least I tried, I didn’t regret anything my senior year. On the bus ride back, the coaches told me I was wild card and I was headed to state.”
Fierro said she was happy with the outcome of her final high school competition.
“This is the best feeling ever,” she said. “I’ve been competing in sports most of my life. In other sports you have to work as a team but in this one, it’s all individual so you’re working for yourself which it makes it more difficult and satisfying at the same time.”
Fourteen individual track and field athletes and one relay team will compete this weekend at the 2021 UIL State Championship at Mike Myers Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas.
On Thursday, athletes from Class 3A and Class 4A will compete for state medals. Here is a breakdown of Thursday’s races:
3200-meter run: Angel Torres, Tornillo. Torres was a wild card selection with a time of 9:56.33, ranking him sixth at the state meet. Presido’s Marco Rey (9:42.71) is the top seed. This race begins at 9:15 a.m. Thursday.
1600-meter run: Angel Torres, Tornillo. Torres won Region 1-3A in a time of 4:25.67, which makes him the No. 1 seed entering the race. The state championship race begins at 6:50 p.m. Thursday.
Shot put: Lizbeth Fierro, Tornillo. Fierro was a wild card selection and comes in with a toss of 37 feet, 5.5 inches, ranking her sixth at the state meet. Jillian Howell, a junior at Bushland comes in as the top seed tossing a 39.9.75. This event begins 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
3200-meter run: Edwin Gomez, senior, San Elizario. Gomez was second at regionals in a time of 9:45.13. He is seeded third. Canyon senior Sam Ashley owns the top time heading into state with a 9:37.98. The race for gold starts at 8:45 a.m. Thursday.
1600-meter run: Edwin Gomez, senior, San Elizario. Gomez was the Region 1-4A champion clocking a 4:25.31. His time is the second fastest at the state meet behind Melissa senior Lucas Tauch’s 4:20.61. This race begins at 6:50 p.m. Thursday.
800-meter run: Three area athletes are competing in this one. Region 1-4A champion, Josh Gonzalez, senior, Mt. View and region runner up Christopher Moreno, sophomore, San Elizario come into the race with the top two times – 1:55.17 for Gonzalez and 1:55.27 for Moreno. Also racing is Edwin Gomez who ran a 1:56.74 to earn a wild card spot. This race is at 4:20 p.m. Thursday.
300-meter hurdles: Two athletes will also be competing for a state medal in this event. Clint senior Jesus Rocha won Region 1-4A with a time of 38.48 (third seed) and Riverside sophomore Angel Munoz was second in 38.80 (fourth seed). They will be chasing Kilgore sophomore Matthew Tyeskie who ran a 38.18 at his regional.
High jump: Ian Vasquez, senior Riverside. Vasquez was second at regionals with a jump of 6-feet, 3-inches. That mark ranks him seventhcoming into state. The field will be going after Cuero senior Davyon Williams who is the No. 1 seed with a leap of 6-8. This event begins at 8 a.m. Thursday.
On Friday, athletes from Class 5A will compete for state medals. Here is a breakdown of Friday’s races:
400 meters: Angie Lujan Maurrufo, senior, Parkland. Lujan Maurrufo was second at the Region 1-5A championship with a time of 55.82, placing her as the fourth seed at state. Fort Bend Marshall’s junior Cesley Williams is the top seed at 54.90. The race begins at 6 p.m. Friday.
800 meters: Angie Lujan Maurrufo, senior, Parkland. Lujan Maurrufo was the Region 1-5A champion clocking in a season-best 2:11.83. See comes into the state meet as a fourth seed. Boerne Champion junior Anastacia Gonzales is the first seed with a time of 2:09.45. This race is at 4:20 p.m. Friday.
300 hurdles: Plea’ Jai’ Roulhac, senior, Chapin. Roulhac was second at the Region 1-5A meet with a 45.18, ranking her eighth in the state. She will be chasing Lancaster senior Ashyiria Savage’s 43.06. The race begins at 6:35 p.m. Friday.
1,600 relay: Chapin’s 4X400 team of Sela Arevelo, Samahdi Foster, Plea’ Jai’ Roulhac, Kennedy McDonald was second at regionals in a time of 3:55.90 giving them the sixth seed at state. Fort Bend Hightower is the team to beat at 3:46.81. The relay is at 7:45 p.m. Friday.
Triple jump: Eireann Donohoe, senior, Chapin. Donohoe was second at regionals with a jump of 38 feet, 6.25 inches, good enough for the sixth seed. Burleson Centennial senior Savoria Anderson leaped 40-00.25 at her regional and is the top seed. This event is at 1:45 p.m. Friday.
Pole Vault: Austin Lara, senior, Del Valle. Lara advanced as a wild car selection after finishing third at regionals with a 14-feet 6-inch vault. His mark ties him with three other vaulters all hunting down Abilene Wylie senior Kylor Aguilar’s 16-3.
On Saturday, athletes from Class 6A will compete for state medals. Here is a breakdown of Saturday’s races:
3200-meter run: A pair of runners qualified in this event. Eastlake junior Israel David was second at the Region 1-6A race finishing in 9:09.57 and Coronado sophomore Luis Pastor was third but received a wild card berth after his 9:12.03. David is the second seed and Pastor is the third seed. Haltom City Haltom senior Alfredo Reina Corona is the one seed with a 9:08.01. The race is at 8:45 a.m. Saturday.
1600-meter run: Israel David, junior, Eastlake. David was second at regionals with a time of 4:17.97, good enough for a seventh seed. He will be chasing Houston Strake Jesuit senior Anthony Gregory who comes in with a 4:10.86. This race is at 6:50 p.m. Saturday.
Triple jump: Caleb Stewart, senior, Americas. Stewart won the Region 1-6A championship with a jump of 46 feet, 3,25 inches. He enters the state finals qualifying in the eighth spot. Jaden Patterson, a senior from Humble Atascocita, turned in a 51-11. This event begins at 1:45 p.m. Saturday.
Sunday: Individual qualifiers. Class 6A – Americas senior Michael Mier; Americas junior Jared Laverty; Eastlake junior Israel David; Eastwood junior, Lauren Walls-Portillo and Montwood sophomore, Kassandra Jimenez. Class 5A – Burges junior, Pamela Ramirez; Jefferson junior, Monique Correa; El Paso High senior, Josep Ferret; Hanks sophomore, Alejandro Tarin; Chapin senior, Joaquin Ortega, Chapin. Class 4A – Riverside junior, Andrew Valdiviezo. Class 3A – Tornillo sophomore, Kylene Elias.
What: UIL State Cross Country Championship.
When: Monday, Nov. 23. All times (MDT): Class 3A girls, 10:45 a.m.; Class 3A boys, 11:30 a.m.; Class 5A girls, 1:30 p.m.; Class 5A boys, 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24: Class 4A boys, 11:30 a.m.; Class 6A girls, 1:30 p.m.; Class 6A boys, 2:15 p.m.
Where: Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.
At Stake: State team and individual titles.
Let’s make one thing clear – there’s absolutely nothing in the water in San Elizario.
There are no secret workouts nor are there any quick fixes.
In the quiet Cotton Valley community just East of El Paso, cross country is embedded in every young athlete’s head. Cross country is more than a sport, it’s a way of life.
“Somehow, we’ve created a culture,” said Cesar Morales, San Elizario coach. “It begins at the elementary school level and carries on to middle school and finally to the high school level. We have a lot of students who have earned scholarships to run in college and that desire starts at the elementary level.”
The Eagles will race in its seventh consecutive Class 4A state meet at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24.
The previous six times, they have returned home with a medal around their necks – state champions in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, third in 2018 and second in 2019.
This year’s edition includes seniors Edwin Gomez and Dilan Sanchez, juniors Irvin Vazquez and Alan Ceballos, sophomores Christopher Moreno and Matthew Maese and freshman Angel Maese, freshman.
Advancing to state is simply a byproduct of what takes place before they get to San Elizario High School.
“Being on the cross country team is goal for many of these kids,” Morales said. “It’s their opportunity to be exposed to things many of them could only imagine. Some of the kids in our community never get to leave the county.”
Morales said the things that many people take for granted are only pipe dreams to many young people living in the San Elizario community.
“You have no idea how much they look forward to going to Lubbock for regionals,” he said. “The kids take photos; they show their friends. Everyone wants to go to Subway; you don’t know what Subway means to these kids. Many of these kids have never been to a hotel. When we were in Lubbock, it was crazy to them to see a pool inside a hotel.”
Morales said there is no secret to what he is doing in San Elizario.
“The kids do all the work,” he said. “I don’t like to take credit for any of this. The connection the coaches have with the kids and the relationship we have built with them is the key.”
When you are as successful as San Elizario has been for almost a decade, coaches from across the state continue to reach out to Morales seeking advance on their own training plans.
“I tell each one of them that it’s not workouts, it’s the relationships you build with the kids,” he said. “The kids have to first believe and trust you. The only way these workouts work is if the kids buy into you 100 percent. If you have a solid relationship with the kids and they believe in your workouts, they are going to do them.”
He said if a runner believes and respects a coach, they will do anything to make that coach happy.
“My kids come out in the morning when its 40 degrees outside or when its 105 degrees in the afternoon and they’ll put in the work,” he said.
He points to Dilan Sanchez as an example.
“Dilan never played any type of sport growing up, Morales said. “He tried cross country his 8th grade year and he tried soccer but he didn’t like them. He was one of these kids who kept to himself in his own little bubble.”
When Sanchez was a freshman, he was in Morales’ algebra class.
“At a 4A school you are always recruiting,” Morales said. “I asked him to show up to practice and he shook his head – no, no, no. All year I tried to get him to go out and he finally did at the end of track season and he seemed to like it.”
He must have.
He showed up on the first day of cross country practice his sophomore year and he has never looked back.
“He would run low mileage; he couldn’t finish a 5K without stopping,” Morales said. “But since he showed up that day, he has continued to work hard every day, never missing a practice, unless he was injured. After our morning practices, he would call me and ask me what else he could do. We would run 8 miles in the morning and he wanted to run another 5 in the afternoon.”
Sanchez, who finished 12th at last year’s state championship in 15:51.22, said he feels free when he runs.
“When I run, I’m happy,” the soft-spoken Sanchez said. “When I’m on the course racing, that’s when I’m most happy. Running has taught me many things. It taught me that I could be a good leader and that I can motivate others by setting an example. Through running, I want others to feel like anything is possible because that’s how I feel.”
Sanchez is fielding scholarship offers but is not yet committed. His teammate, Edwin Gomez, signed with Texas last week. Gomez was last year’s Class 4A runner-up finishing in 15:06.05.
It’s scholarship opportunities like this that Morales is talking about.
“They now understand that they not only can compete against rich people, but they can beat them and get something out of it,” he said. “They see a chance, they see a possibility of being successful against anyone in the state, regardless of your race, regardless of your economic status, it doesn’t matter, they know they can compete against anyone.”
The El Paso delegation of distance runners who descended upon Old Settlers Park in Round Rock for the UIL Cross Country State Championship last week certainly left an impression on the rest of Texas.
Three of the six teams returned home with state team medals and eight athletes earnedAll State honors by virtue of finishing in the top 10 in their respective races.
The Eastwood Troopers won back-to-back Class 5A state championships, San Elizario was second in Class 4A and Tornillo was third in Class 3A.
Five of the top 10 runners out of Class 5A were from El Paso including Hanks seniors Michael Abyeta (second, 14:34.61) and Rodger Rivera (third, 14:55.64) Eastwood seniors Juan Olmos (fifth, 15:01.41) and Elias Perez (sixth, 15:03.46) and Eastlake sophomore Israel David was seventh in 15:05.63. San Elizario junior Edwin Gomez was second in the Class 4A race finishing in 15:06.05 and Tornillo senior Ofir Ortega was eighth in Class 3A in 16:03.31.
Only two girls finished in the top 10 – Franklin junior Eva Jess was second in Class 6A in 17:12.18 and Tornillo freshman Kylene Elias was third in the Class 3A two-mile race in 11:37.79.
“It felt harder this year,” Eastwood coach Mike McLain said. “People take these things for granted. Doing something like this is difficult. I told the guys they needed to enjoy it because moments like this don’t come around too often.”
Eastwood won its second state championship by 59 points, scoring 51 points. Grapevine was second with 110, Boerne Champion was third with 128 points and Hanks was fourth with 151 points.
“This one had a very different feeling,” McLain said. “It was just as satisfying but in a very different way because of everything they had to overcome to get here. We lost two big guns from last year who were our leaders. We had some health issues with one of our top runners that would have decimated a lot of other teams. That runner, and the rest of the team, pulled together and made the most out of it.”
After Olmos and Perez, Eastwood’s next five were junior Sergio Cuartas (17th, 15:28.21), junior Nathan Hernandez (20th, 15:31.10) junior Victor Parra (21st, 15:31.12) sophomoreVictor Anchondo (107th, 16:48.43) and sophomore Andres Gurrola (139th, 17:26.53).
“It’s a great feeling going back to back,” Olmos said. “It was a good feeling to be able to share this with Elias, it was a perfect way to end our senior year.”
Perez and Olmos took over the leadership role for the Troopers this year.
“We had a lot of younger guys on this year’s team and we weren’t really doing too good in the beginning,” he said. “But we knew what we were capable of and it was awesome for all of us to come together at that moment.”
Perez said there were many twists and turns this season.
“At the beginning of the season, we were doing good but when we raced at Woodbridge, that’s when people started to get hurt. Desert Twilight was kind of bad, too. Runners who where usually up there with us were getting hurt and we weren’t at our full strength.”
But Perez knew this team would come around.
“We knew what we were capable of, but we had to stick with it, stick with the process,” he said. “We were lost at some point and getting in our own heads and we weren’t performing like we usually do. We talked to each other, we knew what we needed to do but we couldn’t stress over it. We had to keep working and get past it.”
For Hanks, after Abyeta’s second place finish and Rivera’s third place finish, Knights runners were sophomore Gael Alvarado (74th, 16:15.24), senior Omar Munoz (76th, 16:16.93) freshman Alejandro Tarin (85th, 16:23.43), junior Christian Jaquez, (144th, 17:44.91) and juniorMichael Antuna (152nd, 19:18.47).
Chapin senior Angel Contreras was 23rd in 15:33.98.
Eastwood sophomore Lauren Walls-Portillo was the top girl from Class 5A finishing 46th in 19:01.29. A pair of Jefferson runners – junior Melody Tsuitsumi was 81st in 19:25.02 and sophomore Crystal Peterson was 97th in 19:42.03.
San Elizario found itself on the podium for sixth straight time, finishing state runner-up to Decatur by three points.
“It’s a bitter sweet feeling,” San Elizario coach Cesar Morales said. “I’m not taking anything away from Decatur, they’re a great team and they improved a lot but we could have done a lot better. We had a young team and we made a couple of mistakes, so it cost us a little bit.”
After four straight state championships, the Eagles won bronze last year and now add a silver to its ever expanding trophy case.
“We could have done better but I’m happy because of the team’s improvement over the entire season,” he said. “We improved our average by 30 seconds from the last time we were state champions and we improved by 34 seconds average time from last year.”
But to finish three points shy of five state championships in six years, it stings just a little bit.
“I just wanted a little better result because the kids worked so hard this season,” Morales said. “We wanted a state championship, we were expecting one but looking at the year in its entirety, we improved a lot. I don’t know if there are any other teams in El Paso that have been on the podium six years in a row. But we have to keep working and taking it one year at a time.”
After Gomez’s second place finish, senior Rene Arambula was 11th in 15:47.50, junior Dilan Sanchez was 12th in 15:51.22, sophomore Irvin Vazquez was 56th (16:38.27), junior Anthony Gonzalez was 79th (16:53.56), senior Seth Rodriguez was 92nd (17:03.52) and sophomore Alan Ceballos was 103rd (17:15.51).
Mt. View junior Joshua Gonzalez was 78th in 16:52.55.
“We’ll have to reflect and evaluate what we did as a team and come back and get hungry again,” Morales said. “We’ll have lot of young kids on the JV team fighting for a spot on varsity.”
Mt. View senior Nicole Estrada had the best finish among El Paso’s 4A girls finishing the two-mile race in 37th place in 12:28.27. Mt. View junior Kayhla Talavera was 65th (12:47.25) and San Elizario junior Karina Gallegos was 109th in 13:20.09.
For Tornillo coach Jesse Garcia, there was added meaning to this year’s state championship.
His father, Eleazar Garcia, past away on Dec. 31, 2018.
“When I went back after the Christmas break, my kids found out,” he said. “I told them we were going back to the state championship and run it for my dad. Every race was for my dad. At thestate championship, we all knew that my dad was watching from up there cheering them on. It was a proud moment.”
The Coyotes finished third with with 121 points. Eustace won state with 85 points followed by Crane with 112.
It was a bronze kind of day for Tornillo at this year’s state meet.
“Every kid we took up there came back with a third place medal,” Garcia said. “We put on a show. We were leading the race after the first mile. Eustace, the state champs from last year, had lost one from that group so they had a solid squad and Crane, which finished second last year, had everyone coming back so I knew it was going to be a hard battle.”
Garcia said he washappy with the way the team improved every week.
“I am real appreciative of the overall performance of the kids,” he said. “Every week we got stronger and Saturday was no different. Our best race of the season was Saturday.”
Ortega led the team with an All-State eighth place performance followed by junior Bryan Garcia (33rd, 16:43.75), freshman Angel Torres (37th, 16:49.39), sophomore Bryan Guzman (42nd, 16:56.74), junior Michael Maney (53rd, 17:06.42) and freshman Eric Fuentes (149th, 22:10.57).
“Finishing in the top 10 was my goal,” Ortega said. “I was little bit disappointed because I wanted to finish in the top three but I’m still glad I finished on the podium for the first time individually. Team wise, the guys stepped up big and because of them, we finished in the top three. I did my part, but they ran their heart out and did something really special.”
Ortega said he enjoyed his four years at the Cotton Valley school.
“Running for Tornillo has been a wonderful experience,” he said. “I will cherish all the memories I have from my freshman year to my senior year. The team-bonding, the family-bonding, was very special. I have much love for my coaches, it’s something I’ll never forget. They werelike my second dads. It’s been a special journey.”
Freshman Kylene Elias is just starting hers at Tornillo. She won the school’s first girl’s state medal, finishing third by just one second to state runner upFinley Hunting from San Antonio Cole. Peyton Muntz from Whitesboro won thegold in 11:28.06.
“It’s a good feeling but I think I could have done better,” Elias said. “Next year I’ll try to get the gold.”
Does Elias now has the running bug?
“I fell in love with it,” she said. “I like the adrenaline that runs through my body when I run and I like how a lot of people from Tornillo support me.”
Garcia said he is proud of Elias’ first season of cross country.
“Kylene ran hard again and got a PR,” he said. “She got boxed-in in the first 400 meters of the race and that affected her a little bit. She is used to leading the race but she was never able to get a lead. At the end of the race, she was about to throw up. She fell into fifth place because of that but she managed to come back and almost caught second place.”
Elias said she didn’t know what happened at the end of the race.
“I was giving it my all but I guess my stomach didn’t like the breakfast from the morning,” she said. “I saw the girl in third place slowing down, I guess she thought I couldn’t catch up to her, but I was running as fast I could and I got her.”
The Americas boysimproved from last year’s 15th place finish to placing sixth while the Franklin girls finished 15th in their first state appearance.
Americas placed two runners – senior Hector Sanchez (17th, 15:15.36) and sophomore Jared Laverty (25th, 15:21.72) – in the top 25. Other runners for the Trailblazers include senior Jacob Ye (51st, 15:42.69), senior Seth Andrade (80th, 15:56.97), sophomoreAaron Saenz (83rd, 15:57.78), junior Gage Garcia (98th, 16:09.52) and sophomore Carmelo Corral, (108th, 16:20.46).
Coronado senior Nick Gonzalez was the first El Pasoan in Class 6A to cross the finish line in 15:11.31 good for 14th place. Franklin seniorFernie Morales was 18th in 15:16.52.
For the 6A girl’s, after Eva Jess’s second place finish, Americas senior Mariana Guzman was 20th in 18:21.05; Montwood junior Karyme Garcia was 99th in 19:28.96 and Coronado freshman Kyra Walker was 118th.
Franklin’s runners were freshman Alyssa Laspada (123rd, 20:08.78), freshman Sofia Camacho (128th, 20:14.16), sophomore Jordan Torres (131st, 20:24.77), freshman Michele Paillard (133rd, 20:25.40), freshman Amanda Sotelo (140th, 20:51.78 and sophomore Jenna Saunders (144th, 21:13.61).
Friday: Individual qualifiers. Class 6A – Americas senior Mariana Guzman; Montwood junior Karyme Garcia, Coronado senior Nick Gonzalez and freshman Kyra Walker and Franklin senior Fernie Morales, Franklin. Class 5A – Jefferson sophomore Crystal Peterson and junior Melody Tsuitsumi; Lauren Walls, sophomore, Eastwood; Eastlake sophomore Israel David and Angel Contreras, senior, Chapin. Class 4A- Mt. View junior Kayhla Talavera, senior Nicole Estrada and junior Joshua Gonzalez and Karina Gallegos, junior, San Elizario. Class 3A – Freshman, Kylene Elias, Tornillo.
What: UIL State Cross Country Championship.
When: Saturday Nov. 9. All times (CST): Girls Class 3A, 10:50 a.m.; Boys Class 3A, 11:20 a.m.; Girls Class 4A, noon; Boys Class 4A, 12:30 p.m.; Girls Class 5A, 1:10 p.m.; Boys Class 5A, 1:50 p.m.; Girls Class 6A, 2:30 p.m.; Boys Class 6A, 3:10 p.m.
Where: Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.
At Stake: State team and individual titles.
The San Elizario Eagles have never been comfortable wearing the “favorites” label.
Sure, the Cotton Valley school has won four Class 4A state cross country championships in the past five years and junior Edwin Gomez has won an individual gold and a silver.
But last year, going after its fifth straight UIL state championship, the Eagles fell 12 points short, finishing third behind Region 1 foes Decatur and Andrews.
“We were not the favorites at regionals, and we will not be the favorites at state,” said Cesar Morales, the coach at San Elizario. “Throughout the year we’ve been ranked fourth or fifth in the state from various organizations so there is going to be less pressure on us.”
The San Elizario Eagles retained the top spot at the Region 1 meet, winning with 64 points to advance to the state meet for the sixth year in a row.
Decatur was second with 68 points, Andrews was third with 92 and Canyon with 121 points.
“Not winning state last year actually helped us,” Morales said. “We are back to being humble, we have our feet back on the ground and we know we had to work even harder. It really brought the team closer.”
At regionals, San Elizario had three runners in the top 10 – Edwin Gomez (second, 14:53.50), Rene Arambula (ninth, 15:55.00) and Dilan Sanchez (tenth, 15:55.60) and five in the top 25 – Irvin Vazquez (19th, 16:19.40) and Alan Ceballos (24th, 16:26.70).
“I told the team before the regional race that it didn’t matter if we won regions or not, the real deal is going to be at the state meet,” Morales said. “We know in 4A, the state champion usually comes out of Region 1. For the past three to four years Region 1 has been battling for first, second or third.”
Morales credits Gomez and Arambula’s maturity and leadership for the team’s success.
“In the past month, Edwin and Rene changed the culture of our team,” Morales said. “It was already good, but they made it so much better. They are working hard to help my fifth, sixth and seventh runners. We were good a month ago, but now we are lot better.”
Morales said there is a 25-second gap between the second and fourth runner with the number five runner closing in.
“We’ve been doing more pack running, team bonding, in a way,” Arambula said. “What me and Edwin are doing is staying a little bit closer with them and then we start to slowly speed up so they could get used to the pace. They stay with us and then push themselves as hard as we do.”
Arambula, a senior, said it would be great to win another state championship and finish in the top 10 individually.
“It would be great for our school to add another state championship and start another streak,” he said. “Every year is special, every team is special, but I really do enjoy training with these guys.”
Gomez said it is no fluke that San Elizario will contend for another state championship.
“Where we are now is because of the work we’ve put in over the summer,” he said. “We have all been working together to get better.”
He said he is doing his part in close the gap.
“When we have our 8-mile runs, I try to stay with the team the first few miles at a 7:15 pace,” he said. “We stay together until we get to the fourth mile and then we pick up the pace, but we try to stay together. Last year, I would go fast at the end in front of everyone. Now I try to stay with them and go back with whoever is in the back and try to pick them up so we can all be together.”
Gomez said he has drawn inspiration from Arambula.
“He is very mature in the way he approaches running,” he said. “Everything I do, he tries to make it better. I have more respect for him than anyone in school. He is one of the top 10 in his class, so he is smart. He tries harder more than one else I’ve seen. He tries to help everyone by telling them to keep pace and to stay focused and don’t think about getting tired.”
An individual medal is not the goal for Gomez this year.
“I really don’t care where I end up, what I do care about is us winning as a team,” he said. “We’re in a really good place right now. We have a chance to win, but everything has to fall into place.”
Twelve points separated San Elizario from another state championship. That’s a couple of runners running five seconds faster over a 3.1-mile course. That’s how close the Eagles came from keeping their state-championship streak alive.
“We know it’s going to be close,” Morales said. “The team that is more focused and mentally prepared is going to win. Any of us can take it, we just have to fight and be prepared for anything.”