Liberty Charter High School, which recently relocated its Lemon Grove campus to Alpine, will be doubly represented at this year’s state cross country championship meet not only as a history-making team qualifier but will be led on the Woodward Park course in Fresno by senior Micah Sanchez, this year’s Division V section boys individual champion.
That’s two championship banners to hang at some point in the future.
Currently, Liberty Charter’s relocated campus on the former Alpine Elementary School site does not have a gymnasium. As the school gains enrollment and continues to excel in the athletics arena, a plethora of championship banners will surely evoke campus – and community – pride.
This year’s section finals took place last Saturday at Balboa Park’s Morley Field across five divisions in two gender fields. The Lions, paced by Sanchez’s best time on the day among all 615 boys runners in all divisions combined, won the Division V team title with a low score of 48 points — well ahead of Francis Parker and Calvin Christian’s runner-up total of 92 points. Sanchez covered the three mile course in 15:08.6 to win the division title, placing eight seconds ahead of Francis Parker junior York Bourgeois (15:16.3) and nearly a minute ahead of Calvin Christian junior John Bitner (16:01.7) in third place.
The Lions placed three runners among the top eight finishers in the surprisingly large 147-deep field. Senior Gabriel Gastelum finished sixth in 16:44.4 while junior Samuel Morales was eighth in 16:54.7. Junior Joel Bray, Liberty’s fourth scorer, finished 13th in 17:17.8 while sophomore Aidan Burr, the Lion’s final scorer, placed 20th in 17:28.4.
Sanchez entered the 2022 cross country season as a state qualifier in the 1,600-meter distance at last spring’s state track meet in Clovis after winning the distance at the section finals with a personal record time of 4:16.80.
He enters the state meet highly decorated after winning the 34th annual Coach Downey Cross Country Classic on Sept. 30, the 40th annual Asics Southern California Invitational on Oct. 8 and the Frontier Conference league finals on Nov. 3.
STATE OF MIND
East County will be exceedingly well represented at the upcoming Nov. 26 state meet by four team qualifiers and four individual qualifiers.
The top three teams in both the Division II boys and girls fields at the section finals advance to Fresno while the top three teams in the boys Division III, Division IV and Division V fields advance, plus the top four teams in the Division III girls field, the top three teams in the Division IV girls field and top two teams in the Division V girls field, also get the chance to make the trek.
Only the top two teams in both the boys and girls Division I fields qualify for the state meet.
It’s definitely an elite group that squeezes through, not to mention the even more stringent rules placed on individual qualifiers.
Grossmont (Division II boys champion), Liberty Charter (Division V boys champion), Steele Canyon (Division II boys runner- up) and Santana (Division III boys third place) all will compete in state championship races as team qualifiers.
Grossmont edged Steele Canyon by five points to win the Division II boys team title. Senior Russell Blakely finished second among the 129 individuals in the race, trailing race winner Tom Bell, a senior from Mt. Carmel, by seven seconds.
Bell timed 15:16.3 while Blakely crossed the finish line in 15:23.1.
The Division II finals resembled more like a dual meet between the Foothillers and the Cougars with seven runners from the two Grossmont Hills League schools placing among the top 10 finishers.
Grossmont senior Ian Rosen finished fourth in 15:45.3 while Steele Canyon seniors Dominic Rizzo (fifth, 15:46.3) and Bradley Bell (sixth, 15:49.2) made it four East County runners among the top six finishers.
The two league rivals weren’t finished plugging up the running lanes.
Grossmont seniors Joshua Edwards (15:57.1) and Mason Coyle (16:09.9) were seventh and eighth, respectively, while Steele Canyon sophomore Micah Senn (16:12.1) and Cougar senior Juan Guzman (16:17.6) were 10th and 12th, respectively.
Steele Canyon senior Juan Pablo Arredondo rounded out the Cougars’ five scorers in 17th place in 16:36.9.
Grossmont sophomore Loan Reyes rounded out the Foothillers’ five scorers in 24th place in 16:57.8.
Granite Hills sophomore Orlando Carrillo placed 17th in 16:38. However, only the top 14 runners were eligible as individual state qualifiers.
Vista was the final team qualifier in third place with 91 points.
Santana squeaked past La Costa Canyon by three points to secure the final team qualifying berth in the Division III boys race. The Sultans finished with 119 points to 122 for the Mavericks.
Sage Creek won the division title with 67 points while University City finished runner-up with 94 points.
Senior Jayson Oliver was Santana’s top finisher in eighth place in 16:11.1, followed by senior Connor Cheary in 11th place in 16:22.9, senior Cameron Thomas in 14th place in 16:30.1, junior Vincent La Bruno in 26th place in 16:54.7 and junior Trevor McDonald (60th in 17:54.5).
El Capitan finished fifth in the field with 139 points while Monte Vista was eighth with 186 points. West Hills placed 13th among the 15 scoring teams with 337 points.
Besides Santana as a team qualifier in the Division III boys race, two Monte Vista runners qualified as individuals: seniors Finn McClure (fourth, 15:52.9) and Steven Valadez (sixth, 16:04.4).
El Capitan senior Amber Chase (16th, 19:29.5) qualified as an individual in the Division III girls race as did Mt. Miguel junior Garrett Cloyd (11th, 16:29.3) in the Division IV boys race.
Liberty Charter placed fifth among the 13 Division V girls scoring teams.