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Runners Capture Cross Country League Honors
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Riverbanks boys took first place honors in the Trans-Valley League for cross country, coming out on top and having the individual champion in Luis Figueroa. Photo By Greg Beliera

It was a great day.

That was the assessment from Riverbank cross country coach Monte Wood, seeing his Bruins sweep to varsity victories in the Oct. 30 Trans-Valley League final cross country meet, each team taking the league title.

“For the varsity girls, Mikayla Florez was going after the course record of 18:35 which is held by Maritza Garcia of Riverbank. Her time of 18:55 was a great time due to the fact that she ran the race all by herself,” Wood explained. “It was a personal record for her on that course of over 20 seconds. As far as the team went, Haley Richardson ran a great race with a time of 20:36. She was followed by Sabrina Garcia in 20:48, then Kim Ruvalcaba in 20:54. Kim looked as if she was out of the race at the halfway mark, but made a huge push over the last half of the race.”

That push, plus the efforts of others, helped secure the title for the Lady Bruins.

“Kim has continued to improve and show a racing instinct that very few runners have,” added Wood. “She has the ability to hold back over the first half of a race and then finish strong.”

Joslyn Beliera was the fifth runner in for Riverbank, but she struggled some due to being sick.

“This was the fourth title in five years for the varsity girls, and the times were outstanding,” Wood pointed out. “I have never had four girls under 21 minutes, and I believe that Joslyn would have been there too if she hadn’t been sick.”

The girls are still the number one ranked team in their division in the section, while the boys are ranked number two.

On the boy’s side, Wood said the team really thought it was going to be another tight race with Hughson.

“However, from the start our boys took control of the race. At the mile mark, our top five runners were ahead of all of the Hughson runners except Zac Morrett,” Wood said. “It stayed that way through the 2-mile mark, but sophomore Ruben Paredez fell back some. At the end of the race our top four runners had set personal records and soundly defeated Hughson.”

Adrian Salazar and Jonathen Beliera both set personal records, but the one that stood out the most was Moises Gomez, who had a 30 second personal record on the course, chopping that much off his previous best.

“That was the most impressive time of the day,” Wood said. “He is a senior, and I believe he realizes this is his last shot and is really embracing the moment.”

The story of the meet, however, was Bruin Luis Figueroa.

“Going into the race most people would have never thought that Luis would have a chance to defeat Zac Morrett from Hughson. Zac ran 16:03 just two weeks ago on the state course, and Luis has never defeated Zac,” said Wood. “However, Luis has had his sights set on him for a while. I think the only person who really believed that he could beat Zac was Luis and that is all that matters.”

Luis went after him from the start of the race, the coach said, staying right on his shoulder the whole race and giving himself a chance to win. With 800 meters to go, Zac made a big push but Luis hung tough. Then with about 600 meters to go Luis made a big surge and Zac matched it.

“With a little less than 300 meters to go Luis made one last surge and Zac could not match it. Luis ended with a personal record of 16:34 and the TVL individual title,” Wood said. “Luis is a kid that has worked extremely hard and has had to battle through numerous injuries. It was very gratifying for the whole team, boys and girls, to see him win that race.”

The Bruin varsity boys and girls will race this Saturday at Frogtown in Angels Camp just to qualify to the section meet on Nov. 16. The top 10 teams this week qualify to the section meet.

“It will be our goal for both teams to run easy enough to finish in the top 5 or 6 and just qualify to sections,” said Wood. “Right now, the boys team is ranked second (in their division in the section) and the top two teams will go to state. It will be a close battle between Christian Brothers, Dixon, Hughson, and Riverbank.”