It was a banner day for the Riverbank Cross Country Team on Saturday, Nov. 16.
Both the girls and the boys won the Division IV section title on Saturday. The boys came into Saturday ranked second behind Christian Brothers of Sacramento.
“They executed our race plan almost perfectly. The section course is very challenging and many kids and teams go out too fast in the first mile,” explained Riverbank coach Monte Wood. “Our team went out at a very controlled pace and at the mile mark we were probably sitting in fourth place as a team. However, at the mile mark our guys made a move together and moved through the field slowly over the next mile. Entering the last mile, we were probably sitting in second place behind Christian Brothers but we continued to move and overtook them going up the big hill the second time.”
From there, Wood said, the Bruin boys continued to push through the remainder of the course and passed several runners for the 13-point win. Luis Figueroa ended fourth and Jonathen Beliera ended up 11th overall.
“All the boys ran exceptionally well,” said Wood. “Michael Rodriguez, who was filling in for an injured Diego Ruiz, ran a 1 minute personal record on one of the toughest courses around. This group of boys has overcome a lot over the last four years.
“They have had three different coaches. They have overcome injuries. I can’t say enough about the resiliency and determination of this group of kids.”
The girls made things a little more dramatic for their coach and fans. Going into the race, they were the number one ranked team, but needed to have a good day from all of their top five runners, needing all to run well.
“Mikayla Florez, Haley Richardson, Kimberly Ruvalcaba, and Joslyn Beliera ran great races. However, Sabrina Garcia began to cramp up after the first mile,” Wood explained. “She slowly fell farther and farther back, but gutted it out over the last two miles. At times, she had to put her hands on her thighs and push them to get up the big hill. She held off one runner in the last 100 meters, and we won by three points.”
Haley Richardson passed a girl in the last 50 meters, and Kimberly Ruvalcaba passed a girl at the finish line, said Wood, which made up for the three-point difference.
“If we had ended up tied, Amador would have won based on their number six runner placing higher than ours. But the girls did it,” he said. “All season long, when one girl has a bad day the other girls step up.”
Mikayla Florez, Haley Richardson, Sabrina Garcia, and Kimberly Ruvalcaba become the first group of girls in RHS history to win section titles in two different sports.
“Those four girls were a part of our section title in track and field last year and now they have also won a cross country section title,” Wood added. “They are a very talented and athletic group of girls. Stephanie Bernal who was running only her second varsity race of the year, was also impressive by setting a huge personal record on one of the toughest courses around.”
It was a special day for Florez, as she also became only the second girl in Division IV history to win three individual section titles.
“It wasn’t necessarily easy, though. She had a group of girls hang tough with her for 2.5 miles, but going up the big hill the second time Mikayla took control of the race,” Wood said. “Ironically, earlier in the week, Mikayla and I were talking, and she told me how confident she is running hills. After she realized the other girls weren’t going away, she kind of just waited to take things out until she got into the hills on the course the second time.”
Ryan Cooper qualified in the frosh/soph race and medaled, so every Bruin who ran Saturday received a section medal.
This was only the second time in school history that the boys and the girls won the section title in the same year. The last time it was done was in 2002. This makes the 11th boys section title and the sixth girls section title in cross country.
“We will compete at the state meet November 30 at Woodward Park in Fresno,” Wood said of what comes next for his runners. “It is our goal to place in the top 10, and it is Mikayla’s goal be in the top 10 and become all state for the second year in a row.”