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Round Three - Florez Prepares For Return Trip To State Meet
Nothing says November quite like turkey, potatoes, stuffing, yams and Riverbank High runner Mikayla Florez at Woodward Park in Fresno.

The standout athlete on Riverbank's cross country program has made November headlines since about the first Thanksgiving, and will be making her third straight trip to the pinnacle of the sport on Saturday, Nov. 24 at the 2012 California Interscholastic Federation State Cross Country Championships.

And this year Florez expects to have plenty to be thankful for.

The Bruin junior is ranked 11th in the state for Division IV by and was the seventh-fastest non-senior to compete at the same race in 2011.

She is a two-time Sac-Joaquin Section D-IV champion with all the tools to add a top-10 state medal to her bulging trophy case.

Florez was 17th (18 minutes, 57 seconds) among 194 qualifying individuals last year at Woodward, but bettered that time with a stunning 18:36 on the same course this year.

With four Woodward races under her belt, she certainly won't be lacking in experience.

"It helps a lot that I have raced it so many times," Florez said. "The competition also helps a lot to build me up."

Florez will be side-by-side with the best in the state, including race favorite, Vanessa Fraser of Scotts Valley. Fraser won the state meet in 17:46 a year ago, and is one of three Central Coast Section runners ranked in the top-four.

The southern section sports five ranked in the top-10, despite graduating the seven SS runners who placed in the top-13 last year. The top SS runner is Danielle Shanahan, who narrowly missed qualifying for the state meet last year, but qualified as a freshman and sophomore.

She posted a blistering fast 16:41 on Saturday to win the D-IV SS championships on a 2.9-mile 'rain course' held on an all-weather track.

Other girls ranked above Florez on the state rankings are junior Anna Maxwell of San Lorenzo Valley (eighth in 2011), junior Claire McMillan of SLV (14th), sophomore Lauren Maurer of Crean Lutheran (did not qualify), freshmen Chloe Pigg of Arcata, senior Anna Farello of El Segundo (15th), junior Alissa Barraza of San Marino (DNQ), sophomore Ashley Geisler of Juniper Serra (21st), and sophomore Gabrielle Tinsley of Clairemont (DNQ).

The D-IV girls race will be the final event of the 2012 state meet, and is scheduled for a 1:20 p.m. start time with a 1:50 p.m. awards ceremony.