County Preview: San Elizario looks for a District 1-4A sweep, Tornillo seeks fifth consecutive District 3-3A title

District Previews

Monday – District 1-4A, District 3-3A

Tuesday – District 2-5A

Wednesday – District 1-5A

Thursday – District 1-6A

Make Plans

What: District Cross Country Championship.

When: 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12. Rolling schedule (girls first, then boys) – District 1-6A; District 1-4A; District 2-5A, District 1-5A.

Where: Chamizal National Memorial Park, 800 S San Marcial.

 At Stake: Top three teams and top 10 individuals make it to the Region 1 Cross Country Championship, Oct. 22 at Mae Simmons Park, MLK Blvd. and 24th Street in Lubbock.

BoysHorizon (1)
San Elizario and Tornillo are favorites to win their respective district titles. San Elizario races Friday at Chamizal National Memorial and Tornillo runs Saturday in Alpine.

It’s no secret how dominant the San Elizario and Tornillo boy’s teams have been at the district and regional level.

San Elizario has experienced a bit more success at state, winning the past four Class 4A titles.

Tornillo – which has made eight state appearances in nine years – has earned silver medals the past two years in Class 3A behind nemesis Luling.

But the first step is the district meets and neither team is taking them lightly.

San Elizario will compete in the District 1-4A Championship on Friday at Chamizal National Memorial Park while Tornillo will race for the District 3-3A title Saturday in Alpine. Both teams are seeking their fifth consecutive district championships.

The Eagles are looking for another perfect score of 15 just like the previous two years when its runners placed in the top five spots.

“As far as times go, we have the potential to do even better than last year,” said Edwin Gomez, the defending district, regional and state champion. “We’ve had a little bit of issues with higher times this year because we have some new runners but we’re going to work on that.”

San Elizario sophomore Edwin Gomez is out to defend his district title Friday morning at Chamizal National Memorial.

Gomez, a sophomore, looks to repeat as district champ and will be challenged by his own teammates – Seth Rodriquez, Martin Pargas, Dilan Sanchez, Irvin Vasquez, and Tony Diaz.

“I have to give my best now,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve had a really good race this season. The best part of the season is ahead of us and the competition is going to get better with every race. Now is the time we all have to do our best.”

The real challenge in this district is who will grab the final two spots to regionals.

The Wildcats seem likely to advance with juniors Gael Hernandez, Jacob Cruz and freshman Anthony Soto leading the way with Clint and Mt. View battling for the final spot.

In District 3-3A, the Coyotes from Tornillo are the class of a very strong district. Presido always presents somewhat of a challenge but like Tornillo, they are rebuilding.

The experience of Crane should propel them to second place with Presido taking the last spot to regionals.

“This was only our second race as a full squad,” Tornillo coach Jesse Garcia said after the Clint ISD Invitational on Friday. “We are trying to build confidence. We’ve never finished in the top five at this race so this should boost our confidence heading into the next race.”

Tornillo finished third behind the defending four-time Class 4A state champ San Eli and Coronado which ran its varsity team.

“I told them that this would serve as our pre-state race because San Eli beat Luling at the Gold Race at McNeil last week,” Garcia said. “I told them if they could compete with San Eli, they could compete with Luling.”

Luling, a town of 5,700 residents in the Austin metropolitan area along the San Marcos River, has won eight straight Class 3A state championships and has been in the way of Tornillo’s first state championship.

It has been Garcia’s goal to be the first team to beat Luling at state.

“Each runner has a job to do,” he said. “Our first two guys have to meet a certain time,” he said. “Our three/four guys have a certain time to break and so on. In order for us to beat Luling, these are the things we have to do.”

Garcia is trying to build the young team’s confidence and mixing in two new runners – sophomore Michael Maney and senior Raymundo Felix.

Ofir Ortega
Tornillo’s Ofir Ortega won the Class 3A individual title at the Lubbock Invitational in 6:22.5 followed by teammate Eduardo Carrillo in 16:31.3.

Five runners – seniors Eduardo Carrillo, Heriberto Amaya and Tommy Montelongo, junior Ofir Ortega and sophomore Bryan Garcia – have race experience.

“This is the first time I’ve had to do this,” he said of limiting his team to only two races.  “We’re not red and black (Tornilo’s school colors) this year, we’re green. A lot of these kids have never run a high school cross country race before so I had to build their confidence. I’m old-school, I usually like to throw them into the fire and see what happens but with this group and the dynamics of the team and us being so green, I had to hold them back for a little bit.”

Ortega has been the workhorse all season for Tornillo is looking for his first district championship.

District 1-4A boys at a glance:

2017 District Champion: San Elizario.

2017 Individual District Champion: Edwin Gomez, San Elizario.

2017 Regional team qualifiers: San Elizario, Fabens, Mt. View.

Projected order of finish:

1, San Elizario: Put it in ink, the Eagles will win its 5th straight district title.

2, Fabens: The Wildcats look to advance to another regional meet.

3, Clint: The once powerful Lions could struggle but should have enough.

4, Mt. View: Don’t be surprised if the Lobos sneak in.

San Elizario’s girls are going for a district three-peat on Friday morning.

The San Elizario girls are seeking their third straight district championship.

The major challenge will come from a young Clint team led by sophomore Vivian Zapata and junior Brisa Aguilar who could lead the Lions to a district championship.

Zapata will challenge for the individual gold as will a pair of San Eli runners – sophomore America Morales and junior Yajary Quiroz – and junior Nicole Estrada from Mountain View.

“We won the last two district championships, and now we’re looking for number three,” said Cesar Morales, San Elizario’s coach. “We would like to take a competitive team to regionals and to be able fight for a spot to qualify to the state championship.”

Clint sophomore Vivian Zapata will challenge for the individual gold at Friday’s District 1-4A Championship.

Girls in Class 1A through 4A only run two-mile courses at the district, regional and state meets which could put San Elizario at a disadvantage because they have been running 3.1 mile course all season.

“Running the longer races in town will help us at the district meet since we are competing against local schools but it’s a disadvantage at regionals because teams over there have been competing on 2-mile courses and they have their two-mile pace set. That was one of the reasons we traveled to McNeil, unfortunately the girl’s race was cancelled due to lightning.”

In District 3-3A, Presidio, Crane and Alpine are much too strong for the young Tornillo team. Tornillo has shown some improvement over the past two year but not enough to earn themselves a spot to regionals.

District 1-4A girls at a glance:

2017 District Champion: San Elizario.

2017 Individual District Champion: Jocelyn Castro, Fabens.

2017 Regional team qualifiers: San Elizario, Clint, Mt. View.

Projected order of finish:

1, San Elizario: Odds are good that the Eagles will win its third straight district title.

2, Clint: The Lions were close last year.

3, Mt. View: A return to regionals is possible.

4, Fabens: Don’t count the Wildcats out.


San Eli building a running culture in the Cotton Valley; seeks 5th straight state title

The San Elizario boys are seeking it’s fifth consecutive Class 4A State Championship. The boys have won five straight invitationals to start the season, with sophomore Edwin Gomez (far left) winning four of five meets.

The San Elizario boy’s cross country team is still searching for the right combination, the perfect seven, to get them their fifth consecutive Class 4A state championship.

And it’s just not at the varsity level.

Even the junior varsity times matter.

“I don’t have my top seven set yet when it comes to who I’m taking to regionals,” said Cesar Morales, San Elizario’s head coach. “I have two candidates on my JV team that could probably move up to varsity and the varsity team knows that. The way we look at it, we don’t run varsity or JV meets, we run for times. It’s a very healthy competition within our team and they support each other. They’re giving it their all and I’m very proud of that.”

The District 3-4A Championship is Oct. 12 at the Chamizal National Memorial Park, followed by the Region 4A Meet Oct. 22 at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock and the State Cross Championship Nov. 3 at Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock.

The Eagles, which are ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 4A by the Cross Country Coaches Association of Texas and No. 3 in the city by El Paso Running, will travel to The Woodlands for the Nike South Invitational Saturday.

San Elizario has won five straight invitationals to start the season, with sophomore Edwin Gomez winning four of five meets.

Irvin Vasquez (580) and Tony Diaz (575) have been consistent runners for San Elizario this season. They will be counted on as the championship season draws near.

The base of San Elizario’s team includes Gomez, Seth Rodriquez, Martin Pargas, Dilan Sanchez, Irvin Vasquez, and Tony Diaz.

Junior Rene Arambula, who finished second at the 2017 Region 1-4A Championship and fifth at State, is recovering from an injury. He ran his first race of the season in the Open Division at the Franklin Invitational.

He too is looking to regain his 2017 form and help the Eagles to five state championships in a row.

“Every year we graduate some quality runners, our best runners, so it’s always a mystery trying to figure out who is going to come up and how they are going to hold up,” Morales said. “Even Edwin and my top three runners, you never know what’s going to happen with them and the injuries they might have during the season.”

Morales said the success of the program over the past six years is a credit to the work ethic of the San Elizario community and the culture that has been built around the cross country team.

“Other coaches ask me if there’s a secret to what we are doing,” he said. “I wish there was but there really isn’t. It’s just kids who are willing to work and give their 100 percent every day. They are smart about what they do and they are committed to the workout and that’s all any coach could ask for.”

Gomez, who won the UIL Class 4A country state title in 15:36.16 as a freshman, agrees with Morales.

“I’ve been running since I was in the fourth grade, that’s when my brother told me about how good the high school team was,” he said. “When I was in the sixth grade, that’s when they started winning state championships.  It was then when I thought to myself that I wanted to win one, too.”

Seth Rodriguez has been San Elizario’s No. 2 man all season. He has a power ranking of 26, 10th highest in the city.

Gomez said there really is a running culture in San Elizario.

“The kids at the middle school look forward to running cross country when they get to high school,” he said. “The middle school kids work hard and look up to the high school runners. That’s how they get inspired to keep on working to be able to run for a state championship one day.”

With the district, regional and state meets looming in the next month, Morales said the team’s focus is to improve with every meet.

“When it comes to the state title, we try not to think about it,” he said. “We never talk about state championships. We do talk about getting better and improving our times. I’ve told them I don’t care if we win state, all I want from them is to improve their times and for them to give me their best every day, be respectful to the workout and to the team.”