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Bruin Harriers Enjoy Trip To State Finals
As the level of competition increased for Riverbank High cross country runners this season, so did Bruin desire and success.

That fact was on perfect display Saturday at the California Interscholastic Federation Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno.

Pressured by the presence of 1,914 total runners and some of the nation's best young talents, Riverbank runners saw four personal best times in a thrilling postseason finale at the pinnacle of California prep cross country.

"We had a really long talk Friday night before we ran Saturday, and it was clear from what the kids said that this season was one of the best experiences of their lives," Bruin coach Monte Wood said. "This group - not just the varsity girls and boys - became really close. There was friendships created that didn't exist before August."

The varsity Bruin girls, who won Trans-Valley League, Sac-Joaquin Sub-Section and Section titles in November, placed 15th overall among 22 superb programs in the state finals field. The group was led by junior stalwart Adriana Rosales, who finished 46th in the pack of 188 Division IV girls with a personal best time of 20 minutes, 9 seconds on the 5 kilometer course.

Freshman Mikayla Florez wasn't far behind in 50th with a 20:16, while Bruin Homecoming Queen Jocelyn Rosales exploded for a 20:44 time in her final prep cross country race, cutting 25 seconds off her previous best time.

"Jocelyn's time was probably the most impressive," Wood said. "She has taught me to never underestimate an athlete and what they can do. She has the heart of a champion."

Jackie Herrera overcame illness to land a personal best time of 20:45 and 80th overall on Saturday. She was followed by an Angela Duran personal record of 21:36 (114th). Erica Orellana (21:45, 117th) and Gina Retana (21:46, 118th) finished soon after.

Riverbank's eighth state qualifier and top SJS finisher, Ben Hodges, ran with 11 stitches in his knee after an injury last week. The Bruin senior recently received a letter of acceptance to the Air Force Academy, and finished 164th (18:19) out of a sharp pack of 204 at the state meet.

Riverbank graduates just three of their eight state qualifiers in 2011. The program, which saw season-long success from both varsity and underclassmen squads, should be poised for even more prestige next year.

"We have several other underclassmen that really want to be on the varsity team next year and are ready to get going again," Wood said. "The five (varsity) girls we have coming back next year understand now that it is going to take a lot more to move up and be more competitive at the state level."

Wood said Riverbank picks up off-season training today with the 500 Mile Club, a challenge for Bruin runners to eclipse 500 miles or more of running in 100 days.