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Steinberg, Torres look to continue Ripons historic run
Ripon High boys cross country runners pose with their 2011 Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship banner and medals. Ryan Torres, middle, and Alec Steinberg, third from left, are the Indians top two returners. - photo by Photo Contributed


2011: VOL champion, eighth in SJS Division III.
Coaches: Rick Cuevas (head), Courtney Stewart (assistant), Maribel Rosendo (assistant).
Notable returners (grade): Philip Herrera (12th), Isaiah Cruz (12th), Martin Ponce (12th), Derek Benson (12th), Matt Quiroga (12th), Luis Ayala (11th).
Notable newcomers (grade): Brendon Galan (11th), Seayer Zadran (12th), Trevor Crippen (9th).
Outlook: The senior-heavy Buffaloes aim to repeat as VOL champion after capturing its first title in 24 years. All-leaguer Tim Baker is the only major graduation loss as lower level up-and-comers and young rookies look to fill in. Manteca will be favored to go back-to-back in league and could improve on its 2011 finish in the section finale if healthy issues don’t get in the way.

2011: Second in VOL, 10th in SJS Division III.
Coaches: Mike Rosendin (head), Jeff Greene (assistant), Ezequiel Ruiz (assistant).
Notable returners (grade): Josh Spooner (11th), Thomas Trzcinski (12th), Jonathan Velazquez (12th).
Notable newcomers (grade): Nikolas Dotson (12th), Aaron Mackey (11th), Brandon Rogers (11th), Reigan Alcaria.
Outlook: With at least 10 runners looking to crack the top seven, the always-competitive Timberwolves will rely on depth to make up for the graduation loss of standout Ricky Morris. Spooner was the area’s top varsity underclassman in 2011 and will be joined by members of the defending VOL frosh-soph championship team such as Mackey, who placed 11th at the SJS meet for a medal.

2011: No varsity team.
Coaches: Joy Alvarez (head), Rick Salas (assistant), Jose Cuevas (assistant).
Notable returners (grade): Brendon Curtright (11th).
Notable newcomers (grade): Jonathan Appiagyei (12th).
Outlook: Low numbers prevented Weston Ranch from fielding a full varsity team last season, but the Cougars go into 2012 with high hopes. State hopeful Curtright shined at the frosh-soph level, taking first in league, first in the sub-section Division IV sophomore race and second at the section finals.

2011: TVL champion, SJS Division IV champion, 15th in state.
Coaches: Paul Calkins (head), Jill McPherson (assistant), Nick Ratto (assistant).
Notable returners (grade):  Ryan Torres (12th), Alec Steinberg (12th), Kyle Bailey (11th), Antonio Pelaez (11th).
Notable newcomers (grade): Chris Vitale (11th), Bryan Vincent (11th), Alex Norling (10th).
Outlook: The two-time TVL and SJS Division IV champs are missing three graduating seniors from last year’s squad, but a third straight trip to state isn’t out of the question. Reigning individual league champ Torres will be challenged by Steinberg. Pelaez was a regular contributor last year on the tail end of Ripon’s scoring, but a lot will be asked of the newcomers to strengthen the depth.

— Jonamar Jacinto

The friendly rivalry between Ryan Torres and Alec Steinberg started when they were in the eighth grade.

“He’s always been fast,” Torres said of Steinberg. “I remember in eighth grade he and two other guys went to other elementary schools and they’d always be ahead of me on jog-a-thons. He’s always had it in him.”

Since then Steinberg has been doing the chasing, although these days, Torres views him as his equal.

Now seniors at Ripon High, their battle for bragging rights rages on but, as always, with greater goals in mind.

The distance tandem is a big part of the cross country team’s most accomplished stretch in school history. Before the 2010 season no Ripon individual runner, male or female, had qualified for the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships. This year, Ripon’s boys team is pushing for a third straight Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV banner and third straight appearance at the state meet.

 “It will be an interesting fight to see who comes in 1-2 between Alec and Ryan in our team scoring,” Ripon head coach Paul Calkins said. “They run different races — Ryan has more starting speed and Alex has more finishing speed, it all depends on who leaves less out on the course. Neither one of them want to leave anything, they want to come across (the finish line) completely spent.

“They push each other in practice. Neither one of them wants to lose to the other, it just motivates them to run faster.”

Torres, a fourth-year runner for Ripon, got a head start on Steinberg, who didn’t come out for the team until his sophomore year.

“Sophomore season I didn’t have a base at all because I missed a whole year of cross country and track,” Steinberg said. “Going into my junior year I ran a lot over the summer and developed faster with more miles under my belt.”

Steinberg’s emergence helped Ripon capture its second straight Trans-Valley League title in dominating fashion. In the second and final league cluster meets, Torres, Steinberg and then-senior Jordan Gibson finished 1-2-3.

“We were the strongest team in our league because we had so much depth,” Torres said. “There was less pressure on me because I knew we had the depth to win it as a team whether I won it or not. To go Ripon-Ripon-Ripon was cool.”

Ripon was expected to win league, but that was in question for a short while after Hughson outpointed the Indians in the TVL opener.

“We took it more seriously after that,” Steinberg said. “We just sort of walked into (the TVL opener), and it was a wake-up call. We just pushed it more as the season progressed.”

Two months later, the Indians made a return trip to Woodward Park in Fresno, the site of the state meet. They finished in 15th place out of 24 teams, an eight-spot improvement from 2010. Torres set a personal record in 16 minutes, 32 seconds for a 32nd place out of 197 runners.

Steinberg, who gave up his spot for a teammate in Ripon’s 2010 state appearance, placed 80th in 17:03.

Qualifying as a team will be tougher this year with only two berths allotted to the SJS Division IV field. With only three of their top six runners back (junior Antonio Pelaez being the other), much will be asked of the team’s varsity newcomers.

“State is a realistic goal for us, but it will be tough because there is a lot of competition for those two spots,” Calkins said. “This year I think we’re going to be just as strong, but there are other teams that are stronger than they have been in the past.

“It’s going to be tough, but our kids are motivated. Ryan and Alec are doing a good job of not only pushing each other, but pushing the others to improve.”