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CHASING HISTORY

Alvarez sets bar at the Ranch; Sierra rebuilds around Montiel

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CHASING HISTORY

Roberto Alvarez, a senior at Weston Ranch High and Jessica Montiel, a freshman at Sierra High are the Bulletin's 2008 All-Area Cross Country Boys and Girls Runners of the Year

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin/


POSTED December 26, 2008 12:15 a.m.
Senior Roberto Alvarez represents history at Weston Ranch High.
Freshman Jessica Montiel is the future at Sierra.
And the Bulletin’s 2008 All-Area Cross Country Boys and Girls Runners of the Year have something to look forward to.
For Alvarez, the challenges ahead are on trails clear across the country. Alvarez plans on signing with Queens University of Charlotte, N.C., where renown NAIA cross country Scott Simmons awaits.
Alvarez, an aspiring pharmacist who logs 80 miles a week to stay in shape, is deserving of the scholarship for his work in the classroom and out of it.
He is the first Weston Ranch runner to win Valley Oak League and Sac-Joaquin Section individual titles. His high school cross country career ended with a bang, as he finished 27th out of 201 Division III competitors in the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships in Fresno.
Alvarez then finished eighth out of 237 fellow senior entrants at the Footlocker West Regional in Walnut.
While proud of all that he has accomplished, Alvarez said his crowning achievement was winning the section’s Division III championship, which places him among the area’s all-time elite.
Alvarez is the fifth Manteca Unified cross country runner to win an individual section title, the others being: Justin Willingham (East Union, 1997), David Ulibarri (Sierra, 1997-98), Cherise McNair (Sierra, 2003) and Jimmy Elam (Sierra, 2004).
“At sections I surprised myself,” Alvarez said. “I knew that I would do well, and I was pretty sure I’d qualify for state. Winning it was a surprise.”
Alvarez’s quick rise to prominence started his sophomore year when he ran track. The following fall season he decided to give cross country a try and was a place away from earning a state berth.
As a freshman just now realizing her potential, Montiel has the luxury of exercising more patience.
Her best friend, sophomore teammate Amber Parker, convinced her to run cross country to get in shape for the soccer season.
It’s a familiar story at Sierra. McNair, a four-time Bulletin All-Area Runner of the Year, ended up quiting soccer altogether to focus on distance running, and it paid dividends.
Montiel admittedly has never heard of Sierra’s greatest female distance harrier but has aspirations of following in her footsteps.
“The one big comparison I can make (to McNair) is her drive to be successful,” Sierra coach Anthony Chapman said. “In talking to Jessica you get the feeling she’s feisty. She’s very competitive, just like Cherise was.
“Both of them are not afraid to go out and lay everything on the line. The sky’s the limit for Jessica.”
Chapman and longtime assistant Mike Rosendin knew they had something special in Montiel early on. Montiel led all Timberwolves in the VOL Championships, finishing sixth for all-league honors.
But when it came time for the Sac-Joaquin Section Sub-Section meets, Chapman, Rosendin and the team’s upperclass leaders decided it would be best for the sake of the program’s future to have Montiel and Parker race with the VOL champion frosh-soph squad.
“A lot of thought went into that,” Chapman said. “We knew that if we ran them down (to frosh-soph) we’d be the team to beat. So the dilemma was: Do we go after the frosh-soph title, or just look to qualify for sections as a team?”
The young Timberwolves ended up winning both the sub-section meet and, a week later, the section frosh-soph girls title. Montiel was the runner-up to Natomas’ Mariel Price in both races.
What started out as a for-the-heck-of-it activity now has Montiel hungrier to feed her competitive appetite. She is currently wrestling and is deciding between track, soccer and softball in the spring.
Chapman, of course, would prefer that she runs track. Regardless of her decision in the spring, her mind is made up for next fall.
“I started this for fun, but as the season progressed the whole team just bonded,” she said. “In the next few years I think we can take a couple of titles. That would be great.”

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