For most of her first two years running for the Weston Ranch cross country team, sophomore Iris Carillo was chasing more seasoned and accomplished harriers from Manteca.
During her freshman year, it was Manteca High’s Harleen Pabla she was after. This past fall, University of the Pacific-bound Haley Silva of Sierra was head of the class.
That changed Oct. 29 at Eagal Lakes Resort in Tracy, which hosted the last of three Valley Oak League meets. There, Silva and all others were in Carillo’s rear-view mirror and she hasn’t looked back since. The sophomore sensation who made school history was named the Manteca Bulletin’s All-Area Female Cross Country Runner of the Year.
“She’s a really good athlete and is someone I’ve looked up to,” Carillo said of Silva. “I always pushed myself to catch up to her, and one of my goals was to at least keep up with her.”
Turns out she passed up Silva in the VOL Championships, placing first in 19 minutes, 49 seconds. Ten days later, Carillo and Silva finished 1 and 2 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Subsection Meet’s Division III race at Frogtown (Angels Camp). The following week, Carillo crossed the chute one place behind Silva at the section finale but qualified for the CIF State Championships.
It was a substantial improvement from her freshman year, when she took 15th in 21:22 and narrowly missed a state berth. In this year’s section meet she was fourth in 19:30. While Weston Ranch has had a handful of top male runners in the past decade, she is the first female to win in VOL and subsection meets and advance to the state meet.
“After I won subsections I felt that I could do it,” Carillo said of securing a spot for state. “I was motivated even more. It showed me what I was capable of.”
It was at the state meet in Fresno’s Woodward Park where she truly set herself apart from the rest in the Manteca area. Carillo finished in 26th while clocking an impressive time of 18:58. Of the 189 participants in the state’s Division III race, only 27 finished with a sub-19-minute time.
Soft spoken and humble, Carillo believes the best has yet to come.
“There was really good competition and I think I did pretty well, but I also think I could improve from that,” she said.
In the next two years she’ll likely be the pacesetter in the VOL and could be a favorite in the section meet. In last month’s section meet she was the first of five underclassmen to finish in the top eight of the Division III race. Could she pull of the VOL-Subsection-Section grand slam her junior year?
“I don’t know,” Carillo said. “Hopefully everything goes well. I’ll need to train a lot harder.”