With distance running in her blood, freshman Janiah Basco is on pace to become the best female harrier to come out of Weston Ranch High.
There’s still a ways to go for the Manteca Bulletin All-Area Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, but she is off to a strong start.
This past fall, Basco finished as the runner-up in the Valley Oak League Championships and clocked the top time among area competitors in the Sac-Joaquin Section Championships at Willow Hill Reservoir Park in Folsom.
Basco placed ninth overall in the SJS Division IV race, but only the top five individuals who are not part of qualifying teams and finish in the top 12 can move on to the CIF State Championships in Fresno. Even with some tough competition returning, she gained valuable experience and expects to be in the mix again next year and beyond.
“It was pretty cool running against them, but also cool to talk with them before and after the race,” Basco said. “We shared our experiences and talked about how we did. I felt like I got better just by talking to them and getting pointers on what to do next time, like work on my breathing.”
Basco’s section time of 20 minutes, 48.6 seconds is the third fastest by a Weston Ranch female at the course. Iris Carrillo owns the program’s two best marks — 19:36 (2014) and 19:03 (2015) — that were established during her sophomore and junior years. Carrillo finished in 21:22 as a freshman.
Basco can use Carrillo’s career as a gauge, but she draws inspiration from another Weston Ranch great — older brother, Tomas Huerta, a two-time VOL champion, state qualifier and 2016 All-Area Boys Runner of the Year. Both he and Carrillo remain teammates as runners for Stanislaus State.
“My brother comes to support me and has told me about how his seasons went in high school,” Basco said. “It’s nice to be part of it now.”
Basco began running in the sixth grade and joined the August Knodt School cross country team the following year. Her parents, Jack Basco and Monica Huerta, were the coaches.
The transition to high school competition was tougher than expected.
“It was really hard,” she said. “In practice I tried to stay with Brian (Arevalo, Weston Ranch’s best boys runner) but he’s just really fast. I ran a lot of miles and it got better the more miles I put in. I felt myself getting better than the week before.”
Basco began the season at the frosh-soph level, showing well in the early 2-mile races. She turned in a dominant performance in winning the Josh Ruff Memorial Invitational frosh-soph small school division, and then took first in the VOL opener at Mistlin Sports Complex.
Elevated to varsity for the second league meet at Eagal Lakes, Basco proved she belonged with a fifth-place time of 22:41.8. It was at the VOL Championships at Woodward Reservoir where she displayed her scary potential, taking second in 20:11.0 while breaking up reigning team champion Oakdale’s attempt at occupying the top three spots.
“I was pretty proud of myself, but I wish I pushed myself harder,” Basco said. “I know I could have gone faster.”
She proved as much in the section final, turning in a faster time than all of her league rivals. That wasn’t enough of a consolation for narrowly missing out on a state berth, however.
“That just motivates me to be better,” she said. “I want to win it next year, or at least be in the top five and go to state.”
Girls cross country
Janiah Basco, Weston Ranch, Fr.
Sandra Castillo, Ripon, Sr.
Emilee Craighead, Manteca, So.
Aiko DeArth, Ripon, Sr.
Laila Irigoyen, Ripon, Jr.
Lydia Waters, Ripon, So.
Annie Wild, Ripon, Fr.
Elle Van Wyngarden, Jr.