FOLSOM – With a berth into the California State Championships at stake, a handful of area runners took full advantage of their opportunity to advance to the big stage.
The Ripon High girls cross country team finished one-slot off of the advancing top-2 teams, finishing third in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV meet Saturday at Willow Hill at Folsom High. Indians top runner Ellie Waters secured the final of five advancing individual spot to earn a trip to the state finals in Fresno Nov. 24.
“It was really important,” Waters said of advancing to the state championships. “It was real important to us to advance as a team even though we weren’t able to do that. Looking back on my race I thought I did a good job; I finished around 20:30 and my (personal record) is 20:21, and this is a really tough course.”
Manteca High’s Harleen Pabla also earned a berth into the state final, getting an individual nod after the Buffaloes closed out competition in fifth place overall. Pabla, like all the qualifying individuals, hates the fact of advancing alone.
“It is actually a really good feeling, but I just wished that we could have made it as a team,” Pabla said. “I’ve been waiting since day one for this and I did it and it feels great.”
Pabla battled through a week of illness in the days leading up to the event, giving her an optimistic outlook on her expectations for herself in Fresno as her counter-parts did not have any advancing individuals even though the team earned a fifth place overall finish. The Buffaloes came in the Division-III field behind Placer, El Dorado, Will C Wood and Del Oro. Philip Herrera (16:45) was the first Buffaloes finisher.
“I’m proud of how the guys ran at sections,” Manteca head coach Rick Cuevas said. “All of them set their PRs today and that is all that I can ask. We wanted to make it to state, but we have a lot of sophomores and juniors on this team.
“We’ll continue on.”
The Ripon High boys garnered the same luck in the team finals, closing the Division-IV race with a fourth place overall finish. Ryan Torres was the Indians top finisher (16:48) and his race was good enough for a state championship berth. Torres was the fourth of five individual qualifiers.
“I felt like this was important because I made it my sophomore and junior year and I wanted to fulfill that for senior year,” Torres said. “It’s bitter-sweet because I made it individually and as a team we didn’t. I wanted to qualify as an individual, but importantly as a team.”
Sierra High also landed a qualifier in the Division-III boys event when Josh Spooner put together an impressive finish (16:16) to snatch the third of five individual berths.
State Championships are scheduled for Nov. 24 in Woodward Park in Fresno.