By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Uscanga, Bruins Running For Shot At State Championships
Riverbank High senior Lizzie Uscanga has always had a knack for running, whether it be a vigorous workout after tennis practice her freshman year or speedy runs among the section best cross country harriers this season.

And it's almost perfect the way the two tied together.

"My freshman year I would run on my own after cheerleading and tennis practices, and one day I was running and some of the girls on the cross country team asked me to join them," Uscanga said. "Their coach (Monte Wood) asked me if I had ever thought about doing cross country so I started the next year.

"I'm really happy I did."

Wood is equally happy, especially considering his quick recruit is now the biggest reason Riverbank could send an entire squadron of girls to the California Interscholastic Federation state championships next week.

"I think we have got a decent shot of going to state," Wood said. "We are really deep with a lot of young kids who have really come on lately."

Riverbank was third among 15 teams at the Sac-Joaquin Sub-Section championships at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds on Saturday, even with a near-disastrous day from Uscanga, who fought off a nagging illness and collapsed at the finish line with a gutsy 28th place finish in 21 minutes, 51 seconds on the five kilometer course.

Paramedics put in some work to ensure her well-being after the race, and Wood said Uscanga should be fully recovered by Saturday's SJS finals at Willow Hill in Folsom.

"Lizzie had been sick and drank just one bottle of water on Saturday, so she just got dehydrated and fell apart, though she was still able to finish," Wood said. "If she had run what she usually does we would have won it."

Riverbank scored 125 points at subs to finish just behind Bear River (120) and Bret Harte (104). The three teams will join the rest of the top-eight sub-section qualifiers (Golden Sierra, Amador, Christian Brothers, Colfax and Escalon) at Willow Hill on Saturday for one last dash to finish top-three and qualify to state.

For Uscanga, it means the chance to land on a platform she came dangerously close to reaching last year. Uscanga was just 10 places and less than a minute from qualifying last year as Riverbank sped to a 7th place team finish at the SJS championships.

"Mainly I just want to better myself and do good, but my goal is state, especially after coming close last year," Uscanga said. "I have sacrificed a lot for cross country, but I know it's worth it."

Uscanga has a terrific supporting cast to follow in the bid for a state advancement. Jackie Herrera led all Bruin runners last week with a 19th place finish and 21:32 time. Gina Retana (21:36) and Natalia Herrera (21:36) followed in immediate succession in 20th and 21st while Angela Duran legged out a 37th finish in 22:31 for the final Bruin scoring position.

"I have three or four girls who keep getting better," Wood said. "I think we have a really good chance of surprising some people because they don't know very much about us."

Reyes, Bruin Boys Finish Third

Don't be surprised to see Riverbank runner Alex Reyes on the side of the road with a cardboard sign that reads "FRESNO" at the end of this month.

The talented runner sped to an impressive third place overall finish among a field of 142 competitors at the sub-section championships in Angels Camp on Saturday.

He, along with teammate Ben Hodges, are favorites to snare one of five available individual advancements to the CIF state championships in Fresno on Saturday, Nov. 28.

Of course, Riverbank could always advance as a team to state if the team finishes in the top three at Saturday's section finals like they did at last week's sub-section meet at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds.

But it will be tough, considering fourth place Christian Brothers was just four points behind and normally tough Escalon floundered to fifth in an off day on the course.

"This year it's really broken up near the top, so I don't know how things will play out," Riverbank coach Bruce Edwards said. "I feel like the second, third, fourth and fifth place spots are all up for grabs."

Riverbank was third as a team at subs after Reyes' 16:50 race in third and an eighth place finish from Hodges at 17:20. Irvin Carillo was 15th in 18:16 while Aaron Ortiz (33rd, 18:40), and Juan Figueroa (42nd, 18:59) wrapped up scoring (101 points).

Bret Harte finished well in first with 73 points while Cosumnes Oaks took second with 90.

Riverbank will coast into Saturday's section finals at Willow Hill in Folsom on the momentum of a solid but easy week of practice.

"You really can't work on anything at this point, but hope that you keep the boys healthy and sharp," Edwards said. "We're not going to overwork them this week."