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Riverbank Runners Ready For Epic Season
When ten girls from Riverbank High's varsity girls cross country team depart Riverbank for Hawaii and the prestigious Iolani Invitational on Friday, it won't be the last time Bruin runners prepare for a big race.

Riverbank's historically stellar cross country team is on the brink of another successful season, and showcased some serious athleticism and endurance with timely finishes at the first of three five-team Trans-Valley League meets Wednesday at Legion Park in Modesto.


Mikayla Florez, last year's Sac Joaquin Section No. 1 ranked freshman in the mile, is back to lead a big cast of returning athletes capable of great team scores in 2011.

The team returns nearly every member of a 2010 squad that claimed an undefeated TVL championship, Division IV SJS title and 15th place finish among all D-IV teams at the California Interscholastic Federation Championships in Fresno.

"We expect to repeat as TVL and section champions," six year Riverbank coach Monte Wood said. "We know that it will not be easy, and we have been working hard to repeat. We also expect to qualify to state and place in the top 10 this year, if not higher."

Wood's expectations don't come from wishful thinking. Riverbank returns three of the top four times from last year's state championships, represented by Florez, and seniors Adriana Rosales and Jackie Herrera. Seniors Gina Retana and Erica Orellana also ran at the state meet a season ago, and round out a terrific top-five of scoring runners who should dominate events all year. Riverbank exploded onto the TVL scene on Sept. 7 with four top-seven finishes, five top-12 placements and an unexpected seven runners in the top-15.

Flores took second to longtime TVL champion, Becky Hobby of Hughson, and saw Rosales and Herrera claim finishes in third and fourth place. Orellana was seventh and Retana 12th to round out scoring that placed Riverbank (23 points) well ahead of Ripon (38) and Escalon (65).

Riverbank sophomores Kaitlin Jimenez and Aidee Rosales didn't land team points, but made a triumphant varsity appearance with 14th and 15th place finishes respectively. The pair add serious depth to an already strong unit of varsity competitors. Lety Herrera, Julie Hernandez, Kim Munguia, Michelle Medina, and Rocio Guzman didn't reach the top-15, but will join Riverbank's top five runners on the trip to Hawaii on Friday.


Second year coach Ezequiel Ruiz has the difficulty of replacing 2010 standout and state qualifier Ben Hodges, but young Bruins have stepped up to the plate in 2011.

Riverbank placed third among all teams at the first TVL meet last week after landing two top-10 finishes from Luis Figueroa (sixth) and Adrian Salazar (seventh). The two sophomores are the remaining remnants of a senior-heavy team from 2010 that placed second in the league and fourth among D-IV programs in the SJS.

"They both had solid cross country seasons last year as they both were in our top five for scoring," coach Ruiz said. "Adrian and Luis finished second and third respectively, for our team at the section championship."

The pair are supported by solid runners in fellow sophomores Sammy Gong, Omar Flores and Nick Navarro, representing a good core of runners expected to progress over the next few seasons.

"The team is composed of all sophomores," coach Ruiz said. "This put us at a slight disadvantage in some areas but the team is highly motivated and have built great team chemistry in the few weeks of training together. With the addition of a few new faces, we are building for this season and for the future."