Cross Country: McKaylie Caesar runs away with D-IV Championship

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McKaylie Caesar leads Lindsay girls team to State while Rosalind Dixon, Dagny McIntosh, and Victor Cisneros compete as individuals at various levels

By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN

FRESNO – McKaylie Caesar is already making a name for herself among the D-IV ranks despite competing for only two seasons. She rose to the top of the division when she clocked a 19:07.3 at Woodward Park last Thursday, Nov. 16, winning the Individual Valley Championship by 34 seconds.

“I really haven’t processed it all yet, but it feels pretty amazing,” said Caesar.

The experience of this junior long distance runner from Lindsay played a huge part in winning the title by a large margin. Competing for Valley is nothing new for Caesar. She made it last year but got caught up in a traffic of runners that forced her off her rhythm.

Lindsay’s head coach Orlando Benitez Jr. told his top runner that this year he wanted her to get out in front where she was away from trouble and could run her own race.

Caesar did just that. By the end of the first hundred meters, she had a 10-second lead over the field. As impressive as the start was, there was still 4,900 meters to go with hills ahead.

All that seemed to have little affect on Caesar as she settled into her groove. As a result, she had widened her lead to 24 seconds, crossing the one-mile marker at 5:46. Now faced with the first climb, Caesar leaned into the hill and made the obstacle look easy.

The trick to taking those hills, according to Caesar, is to let the momentum she gained charging up the hill carry her through.

All along the loop, Caesar performed that form with ease and crossed the second mile marker at 12:06, still 24 seconds clear of the field.

By the time Caesar made the final turn back toward the finish line her gap had grown to 34 seconds. And with such a large lead it was all but clear that she would take the championship.

“I got a little smirk on my face and just kicked it up, knowing that I was going to be a Valley Champion,” said Caesar.

This title adds to an already stellar season that Caesar is having on the courses. So far, she has finished inside the top 10 in all races and clenched back-to-back East Sequoia League (ESL) individual titles.

Coach Benitez admits that Caesar is an amazing runner. But rather than place all of her success on talent alone, the coach accredits a great deal to her work ethic and dedication.

“Out of all my runners, she is the only one who has never missed a practice,” said Benitez.

Caesar will make her second straight appearance at the State Championships this Saturday, Nov. 25. This time, she will be the top D-IV runner in the Central Section. In 2016 she finished with a time of 21:07.5 which put her in 133rd place; an impressive mark given she had only been training for seven weeks heading into her first State Championship.

In contrast, she will have trained for a full 26 weeks once Saturday rolls around.

Even though Caesar ran away with the title, the entire Cardinal team finished strong and took third place in D-IV with a score of 134 points. That qualified them to compete for state as well.

“This team has been the best I have ever had, and they should be proud of themselves,” said Benitez.

Dixon realizes a dream
Exeter freshman Rosalind Dixon has burst onto the cross country scene this year, taking the Central Sequoia League (CSL) title. But nothing could prepare her for the Valley Championships at Woodward Park. Dixon ran as an individual in the D-III Valley Championship race, and competed as well as could be expected finishing in fifth place, clocking a time of 20:03.1 — good enough to make a return trip back to Woodward Park this Saturday, Nov. 25, to realize a dream of running in the State Championships.

Exeter’s Rosalind Dixon crosses the one-mile marker during the D-III Valley Championship race. Photo by Patrick Dillon.

Exeter’s Rosalind Dixon crosses the one-mile marker during the D-III Valley Championship race. Photo by Patrick Dillon.

“Just going to state is what my goal was this year. It’s been my goal ever since seventh grade that I wanted to make it to state as a freshman,” said Dixon.

Starts at Woodward Park are more important than any other course. Dixon successfully executed her strategy of getting out in the top half of the main pack.

By the time the lead runners reached the one-mile marker before the climb of the first hill, Dixon found herself in third place, eight seconds behind Jessica Valles of the Sunnyside Wildcats. Dixon clocked a first mile time of 6:05.17, which seemed fast for Dixon.

“That kind of made me nervous because I usually don’t do a fast first mile,” said Dixon.

Dixon stayed within striking distance of the two runners in front of her over the first half of the hills on the second mile loop. Until, she began to lose steam allowing Luz Diaz of Dinuba and Sarah Renberg of Edison to pass her on the last two climbs.

In the final mile, Dixon kept her position and was able to kick it into gear on the front stretch, nearly retaking fourth place from Renberg, but unfortunately she came up two seconds short.

Dixon’s ability to finish strong and stay within the qualifying spots to go to state is a result of what she did less than 24 hours before race time. Dixon and Exeter head coach Darin Lasky sat down and refocused her goals, changing them from winning to staying in competition.

“[Dixon] has never been in a big race like this,” said Lasky. “Everyone wants to win, so we rest personal goals that don’t have to do with time or place. They had to do with ‘Can you walk away still feeling good about yourself?’”

When Dixon started to lose ground at the second mile mark, those goals came back to mind. Instead of feeling discouraged that she was not leading, something that hadn’t happened all race, she was able to push through.

“It helped me tell myself to stay confident, if I hadn’t done that I probably would have lost more spots,” said Dixon.

This being Dixon’s first State Championship meet, her goals and mindset will be much the same as the Valley Championship race. At least until she gets comfortable with that level of competition.

Cisneros, McIntosh head to state
Lindsay will also have a runner in the boys’ D-IV race as well. The Cardinal’s junior Victor Cisneros qualified a fourth place time of 16:57.4, over two minutes faster than his time at this same meet in 2016. This will be Cisneros first time competing at state.

Also, making her first appearance at state is Dagny McIntosh of Strathmore. The senior clocked a time of 22:16.3, which put her in seventh place.

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