CROSS COUNTRY: Tulare County teams compete in state-wide race

Monache freshmen and sophomores shine in Rough Rider Invitational against teams from all over California

FRESNO – The Monache cross country team pulled ahead of other Tulare County schools in the large school category at the state-wide Rough Rider Invitational. Freshman Conner Machado and sophomore Samantha Martinez took first place in the mens and womens 3,500 meters frosh-soph races.

The Monache cross country team decided to put their freshmen and sophomores in the lower division race even though they usually compete on the varsity team. Sophomores Samantha Martinez and Ashley Salazar took first and second in the womens 3,500 while Conner Machado and Jake Estrada took first and third in the men’s 3,500. While this depleted their upper level team, coach Seth Ishida wanted to boost the younger runners’ confidence.

“We’re kind of a small team coming back from Covid and trying to put it back together,” Ishida said. “We gotta relax every once in a while and let them have fun and they ran really good times.”

According to Ishida, the Monache girls team is within the top 25 teams in the Central Valley and the boys are in the top 16. They’re hoping to go for a league championship this year.

At the varsity level, junior Monte Moore was the first finisher from Tulare County in the mens 3,500 meters. He was the 35th runner to cross the finish line, just a few milliseconds ahead of Porterville’s Alesandro Escarzaga.

The men’s varsity race was dominated by larger teams including Clovis, Campolindo and Oakdale. The top finisher, Christopher Caudillo of Clovis, finished in 15 minutes 17 seconds.

“It was stiff competition in this race,” El Diamante head coach Mark Hales said. “Super fast times and good teams today pushes our team to go faster.”

El Diamante’s top finisher in the men’s race was Devin Ibarra, coming in 46th about 20 seconds behind Moore and Escargaza. In the women’s varsity race, Brooklyn Bawanan of El Diamante was the first Tulare County runner to finish in just over 20 minutes. She came in 22nd place.

Porterville’s varsity boys slid in right behind Monache’s top runner. Their two girls, Ariana Gil Mendoza and Joslen Jimenez ran times that aligned with their personal records. Overall, they had a good run for them, but they’re pushing to do better as the season progresses towards the championship.

“It was a pretty standard day,” Porterville head coach Jesus Salas said. “For the boys, I think they expected a little more.”

As a statewide race, the Rough Rider Invitational allowed teams to compete against runners from all over California. Tulare County teams have generally only competed against other teams in the Central Valley and like Hales said, the opportunity to run against other schools motivates up and coming teams to work harder.

Salas reminded the Porterville team that it’s more important to worry about the championship season that begins in November than an invitational in October. The East Yosemite League championship will be on Nov. 20, but the next EYL cluster will be a preview of that championship on Oct. 19 and 20. So the teams have a little over a month to prepare for their championship races.

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