With some help from the community and plenty of hard work fundraising on their own, several Riverbank cross country runners were able to travel to and participate in a recent race at Kualoa Ranch in Hawaii.
“Our Hawaii trip was an awesome experience for the kids,” said head coach Monte Wood. “During the trip the kids were able to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center, Aloha Festival on Waikiki Beach, the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, the Punchbowl Crater, the Cemetery of the Pacific, snorkel on the North Shore, hike Diamondhead, and of course, race at Kualoa Ranch.”
Wood said the race itself was impressive and the Bruins did their school and community proud.
“I was afraid that the kids wouldn’t race well because we had done so much leading up to the race plus it was hot and humid,” Wood explained. “Fortunately, right before the girls raced cloud cover came in and it cooled down a little bit.”
Leading the way for the girls, Mikayla Florez took second place to the two-time defending state champion from Hawaii.
“The girl’s team was fifth overall but the girls field was loaded,” noted Wood. “Glacier Peak, WA was there and they competed in the Nike team nationals last year.”
Also on hand to run the race were Punahou, the number one ranked team in Hawaii, and Laguna Beach, which is the sixth ranked team in Division IV in California.
“We were only 20 points behind Laguna Beach which isn’t that much for that big of a meet,” Wood said. “The girls times were fast for 3 miles.”
Florez ran the course in 18:11, followed by Haley Richardson, 19:47; Sabrina Garcia, 19:57; Kimberly Ruvalcaba, 20:29; and Joslyn Beliera, 20:29.
“Sabrina had her heel stepped on at the beginning of the race and kicked her shoe off and ran the whole race with one shoe,” Wood said.
Other runners dealing with adversity were Beliera and Richardson, both battling illness.
“They ran a gutsy race and I couldn’t be prouder,” said the coach.
To put the race and the competition in perspective, Wood said the girls finished third overall in 2011 and their number five runner that day ran the race in 22:10. This year, their fifth place finisher ran a 20:29 – nearly a full two minutes faster on the course – and the team finished in fifth place overall.
“The competition was a great experience for the kids and the younger kids keep responding well to the level of competition,” said Wood.
On the boy’s side, the Bruins were paced by Luis Figueroa, who finished fifth overall in a time of 15:47. The team itself finished fourth by one point, just missing out on the team hardware.
“The top three teams received plaques,” Wood pointed out. “We were also only seven points behind Laguna Beach, which is the number four ranked boy’s team in Division IV in state.”
All the Bruin boys ran exceptionally well and the top five finished the course in under 17 minutes.
Behind Figueroa, Adrian Salazar ran a 16:07, Jonathen Beliera 16:24, Ruben Paredez 16:54, and Moises Gomez 16:57. The other boys ran personal bests as well, with Solomon Kumar at 18:11, Sam Gong 18:38, and Victor Jiminez 19:43.
“The boys ran an exceptionally smart race as they started out in the middle of the pack, but made a big push up the hill close to the mile mark and then made another push past the two-mile mark,” Wood said.