Buchanan High School’s cross country team has started its chase for championships. The Bears have made winning their tradition during the last 25 years.
This year, speedy freshmen made an early mark, while several seniors showed character and commitment in battling back from injuries. Team chemistry is strong.
“The older kids have embraced the younger kids,” said head coach Brian Weaver. “That’s been special among this group.”
At the Kingsburg 2-Mile, the first race of the season, Buchanan runners displayed the potential that should make the Bears a strong team this year, Weaver said.
In the sophomore boys race, for example, Dustyn McKenney tripped and scuffed a knee but still ran a personal best time of 10:45.94. He finished twelfth in a field of 142.
Furthermore, Buchanan juniors Katie Nili, Alyssa DeStatsio, Clare Hernandez and Sydney Fox finished second through fifth respectively in a field of 67. Nili ran a personal best time of 11:21.26, finishing behind only Blayney Dolan of Clovis North.
In the Tri-River Athletic Conference, Buchanan’s toughest competition will come from Clovis, Clovis East and Clovis North, Weaver said.
Of Buchanan’s girls team, he said: “I think we have enough depth to be successful, but the bottom line, it’s up to them.”
On the boys side, competition in the TRAC will be intense, Weaver said: “That will be a knock-down, drag-out fight.”
In the Kingsburg 2-Mile, a number of other Buchanan students did well.
(In Kingsburg, runners competed by grade level and gender. Results were posted at www.athletic.net)
▪ A talented corps of freshman girls — Corie Smith, Mia Jauregui, Giselle Uribe, Rachel Culver, Ariana Decker, Rebecca Lee and Ashley Rowland — showed their strength. “Those girls would be an amazing varsity team by themselves,” Weaver said.
None of them finished lower than 18th in a field of 67. Smith won the race with a personal best time of 11:20.08 followed by Jauregui and Uribe in second and third, respectively.
▪ Kelly Brewer, a freshman new to cross country, cruised to second place among 97 runners with a time of 10:15.45, a personal record. “He’s one of our top guys,” Weaver said. “If we had to have a varsity team today, he would be on it.”
Gabe Sigala finished 15th and Elijah Hernandez was 18th. Weaver calls them “talented young men” with the “ability to be all of a sudden amazing.”
Enrique Gutierrez of Clovis East placed first.
▪ Sophomore Meagen Lowe’s personal best of 10:57.49 was the fastest any Buchanan girl has ever run the course, Weaver said. She finished first in a field of 82.
Lowe realizes how good she can be, Weaver said: “You have to challenge her. But that’s with all of them.”
▪ Junior Hayden Hansen finished fourth out of 122 runners with a personal best time of 9:47.10. “He’s the kind of runner that every coach wants,” Weaver said. “He’s done it through hard work and commitment.”
▪ Senior Taylor Gonzales — running first in a field of 79 — set a personal record of 11:17.31. “Taylor’s always had an amazing attitude despite having some setbacks and injuries,” Weaver said. “I admire her for keeping her head up through all that, and it’s paying off in her senior year.”
Teammates Mackenzie Mora and Ellie Nardella placed third and eleventh, respectively.
▪ Senior Stewart Fernandez — who was hit by a vehicle last spring — ran 9:41.14 and placed fifth among 89. His time was a personal record.
In last year’s accident, the vehicle flipped Fernandez in the air, and he landed on his head and neck, Weaver said.
“They were extremely worried about trauma to that area. He basically did not train all summer long,” Weaver said. “But he’s re-energized, and he realizes how much he really loves this sport and how amazing he really can be.”
Buchanan has never been short on amazing runners.
Since the school opened in 1991, girls teams have won 18 league titles – the last in 2015. In addition, they have been Central Section champions 17 times and placed in the top three five times at the state cross country meet — winning in 1994.
Boys teams have won the league seven times, including in 2015. They also have reigned as Central Section champions four times and placed second at the state meet three times.
The list of individual Buchanan runners who have distinguished themselves includes Hagen Reedy, C.J. Albertson, Cody Brazeal, Lauren Saylor and Kyle Alcorn. Alcorn, a 2003 graduate, was a member of the U.S. Olympic team in 2012, competing in the 3000-meter steeplechase.
The excellence of Buchanan’s cross country program can be traced to former head coach Marty Simpson, Weaver said. Weaver started out as a volunteer assistant under Simpson.
“I think it was the passion and excitement that Coach Simpson had,” Weaver said. “We would take anybody and work with them and develop them. The idea was that anybody can get better.”
Simpson continues to be involved. He is an assistant coach along with James Soares and Allison Bartosch.
Said Weaver: “The beginning that Coach Simpson had was the foundation for everything.”