Standout Riverbank runner Mikayla Florez finished fifth at the state cross country meet on Saturday in Fresno. She was the top finisher for the Bruins, which sent both the boys and girls varsity teams to the competition.
“Going into the meet we knew that one of the fastest runners in the state (for any division) was in the race – Anna Maxwell who was the 1600 state champion in track last year – and we were afraid that a pack of girls would try to go out with her in the first mile, so I told Mikayla to hang back in the chase pack for the first mile, and I felt that would give her the best chance to finish in the top five,” Coach Monte Wood said of the race strategy. “That was her goal going into the meet. At the mile mark she was sitting in 13th place, and I yelled at her to start moving up, and she looked over at me and gave me a thumbs up. Usually at the mile mark on this course she is starting to already feel tired, but I knew when she gave me the thumbs up that she was in really good shape.”
Wood said by the time Florez got to the 2-mile mark, she had moved up to ninth place with a pack of girls. Over the last mile, she moved all the way up to fifth place and finished with a big kick for a time of 18:25.
“Usually, especially in the girls races, where you are at the 2-mile mark is where you finish, but this is two years in a row that Mikayla has moved up four or more places in the last mile,” Wood explained. “She was very pleased with her finish and time, and I felt that it was a well-run race tactically.
“Afterwards, several college coaches were in line to speak with her and her parents which was really cool to see. Escalon’s Amanda Moreno, who was a state champion and is now an assistant coach at UC Santa Barbara, was even there to speak with her.”
The girls’ team finished 18th overall. Sabrina Garcia set a huge personal record by running 20:23. None of the other girls set personal records but they ran well, said the coach, adding that the field was just fast this year.
“In 2010 we placed 15th as a team, and our times this year were overall much faster than in 2010, and this year we finished 18th. However, I have four really talented runners returning for next year, and if they put the work in, they can get into that top 5-10 next year.”
Also successful in the race, Stephanie Bernal ran a 25:03 on Saturday, improving on her previous personal best by 1:30; her previous record was 26:38.
The boys finished 13th overall, but with the 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th place teams only separated by 20 points.
“For a race with over 200 runners in it, that is a very small margin,” said Wood.
Luis Figueroa ran the course in 16:43, Jonathen Beliera 17:00, Adrian Salazar 17:08, Moises Gomez 17:28, Ruben Paredez 17:40, Carlos Martinez 19:03, and Michael Rodriguez 19:03.
“The boys did a great job of starting out smart and under control, and they all passed a lot of runners in the last mile. I am extremely proud of this group of kids. They have given up a lot for this team, and they have done a great job of representing Riverbank throughout their careers,” Wood said. “We are losing several seniors, but we are returning several underclassmen with racing experience, and with some work we can get back to state and compete again.”