Clovis News: Sports

Section cross country mark falls

In the chill of an autumn Saturday morning at Woodward Park, a fly of an athlete from Redwood High did what no one has before him in the Central Section.

Justin Vilhauer, at 5 feet, 6 inches and 118 pounds, so tiny his concern should be getting run over, not running, clocked a section-record 15 minutes, 2 seconds over the 3.1-mile course to place third in the boys Division II race at the CIF State Cross Country Championships.

A 15:07 by Sanger's David Naranjo had stood for 25 years before the Rangers junior ran 11 seconds faster than he ever had at Woodward -- the longtime primary venue for not only the section, but state.

"It feels, awesome, it feels amazing," Vilhauer said. "I thank the Lord for everything. He gave me a great gift and I just ran with it."

Unfortunately, the greatest of gifts in the section rarely are great enough to grab gold on the extraordinarily competitive state level.

And, on this day, while beating 191 runners, Vilhauer's best was a couple of strides behind champion Elias Gedyon of Loyola-Los Angeles, who required a D-II meet-record 15:00 to beat him.

Edison-Huntington Beach's Matt McElroy also timed 15:02, but inched ahead of Vilhauer for second. Vilhauer's time is fourth-best all-time in the division.

But that was perfectly fine with Ruben Gonzales, Vilhauer's five-year mentor, who, after the race, wrapped his right arm around the runner, threw up his left, pointed three fingers toward the 10 a.m. haze and trumpeted repeatedly, "No. 3, No. 3, No. 3."

"He's been my support system," said Vilhauer, the two-time section D-II titlist.

His performance was clearly the highlight on an otherwise mediocre day for section representatives.

Buchanan did send out retiring 16-year coach Marty Simpson with some warm, if not sensational, gifts.

Competing in D-I, Bears senior Heath Reedy placed fifth in the boys race with a personal-record 15:14, and junior Macy Bricks finished sixth among the girls (17:49).

Buchanan's boys, a year after placing second in section-record fashion, finished ninth as a team. And the Bears' girls were sixth.

Individual medals were given to the top-10 finishers in each of the five divisions. In addition to Vilhauer, Reedy and Bricks, the section landed but two others in Roosevelt senior Johnny Sanchez (15:31) in D-III and Mission Prep junior Annie Mooney (18:24) in D-V.

Clovis senior Saylah Barserian's determined sprint to the wire fell just short with an 11th-place 18:05.

Two weeks ago, Vilhauer registered a 39-second section D-II conquest in 15:20.

Saturday, he was so much faster.

"My goal was to break 15 [minutes] and win state," he said. "The first mile went kind of slow, so I tried to relax and go with them because I didn't want to push the pace and use more energy. I wanted to save that for the finish line. I've struggled in the last mile, but I had someone push me the whole way, so I'm happy."

Redwood coach Joe Gonzales looks forward to three more seasons with Vilhauer -- two in track and field and one in cross country.

"He's getting stronger and faster, and he's pretty strong mentally," Joe Gonzales said. "So I expect good stuff in track and cross country, again, next year."

Section splits ...

-- Section D-I champion Reedy, 13th in the state meet a year ago, opened with a 4:41 mile to lead a large pack, then followed with 4:59 and 4:32 splits to beat his personal record by 2 seconds.

"I hit the mile feeling really solid," said the athlete who's being recruited by Long Beach State, UC Davis, Syracuse and Purdue. "I kind of got jostled a bit going into the second mile, but I was able to hold on all right and I finished the last mile as hard as I could. I can't ask for more than that."

-- Bricks toasted the section D-I field in 17:35, but went out a bit fast this time.

"I wanted to PR and place, but it was harder than I thought, I guess. I was really tired at the end. But to medal is exciting."

-- It was an ecstatic experience for Roosevelt's Sanchez, who set a school record while becoming the program's first medalist.

This, after finishing 17th as a junior. "To make school history and get the record, too, I'm really happy about it. A lot of hard work paid off."