Freshman, sophomore lead Buchanan girls to state cross country medals
His legs progressively tightening, his body spent, Fresno High’s Evert Silva finally found the finish line just before noon Saturday at Woodward Park, collapsing just beyond it.
Her legs having a bit extra, her body surging like one wouldn’t expect from a freshman on this stage, Buchanan’s Corie Smith gave a final burst at the line.
Silva placed fourth in Division III with a time of 15 minutes and 9.6 seconds on the 3.1-mile course, beating his personal record by 10 seconds.
Smith placed fourth in Division I at 17:35.8 – No. 1 all-time for a freshman among current members from the Central Section and tied for eighth all-time among state freshmen.
Dramatically different body language at the wire for Silva and Smith, but same results and that’s the best the section had to offer regarding individual performances at the 30th CIF State Cross Country Championships, which received a downpour 15 minutes after the conclusion.
The section’s only other medalists (top 10) in a meet that drew 1,977 entrants in five boys and girls divisions were Buchanan sophomore Meagen Lowe (sixth, 17:36.7) and Coalinga senior Ivan Ayala (seventh, 15:50.6, D-IV).
As a team, however, Buchanan’s girls did what no one from the section had before them, timing 91:55 for their top five runners while averaging 18:23.
That broke their own section record of 92:11 in 2012.
“Oh, it’s amazing,” said Lowe. “I knew Corie and I were going to be up there, so for everyone else to pull through is just amazing.”
In addition to Smith and Lowe, who ran in stride for all but the final 100 meters, the Bears received a 44th from junior Katie Nili (18:40.3), a 59th from freshman Amanda Dolberg (18:59.6), a 63rd from junior Clare Hernandez (19:02.3) and a non-scoring 54th from senior Mackenzie Mora (19:08.2).
“They really dug down and came together as a team,” Buchanan coach Brian Weaver said a week after the team scored a near-perfect 22 while capturing its 15th section title by 45 points at the same site.
Smith and Lowe couldn’t run down Davis junior Olivia O’Keeffe (17:28.9) and King-Riverside sophomore Lauren Peurifoy (17:29.3), but the Bears pair inspired each other by running in tandem.
“Since this summer, we’ve asked the girls to run together, in packs and as teammates,” said Weaver a year after his girls placed fourth as a team. “It just encourages them more.”
Smith passed Davis’ Sofia Castiglioni (17:35.9) with the final lunge.
“I felt like I had a little bit left in me,” Smith said. “So I was like, ‘You know what? If I fall down at the finish then it’s just the end so I might as well try.’”
Using a similar ploy with an extraordinary pattern of success were the boys and girls from Great Oak-Temecula of the Southern Section.
The Wolfpack boys, led by senior Solomon Fountain (sixth, 15:20.7) and juniors Jacob Korgan (10th, 15:30.0) and Carlos Carvajal (15th, 15:36.5), totaled 78:12 and averaged 15:39 a runner while coasting to a third straight D-I title with a team ranked third nationally by Dyestat.com.
Great Oak’s nation second-ranked girls went 3-8-11-15-20 with Nicole Rice (17:32.5), Evelyn Mandel (17:43.1), Kiyena Beatty (17:53.3), Sydney Belus (17:58.6) and Sandra Pflughoft (18:08.9) while averaging 17.52 and equaling its course record with a total of 89.13.
Madera South’s boys placed fifth in D-I after going fourth, third and second the past three years.
Stallions senior Miguel Villar was hoping to improve on 11th- and 10th-place finishes the past two seasons, but he faded in the last mile after running with the pace-setters and placed 14th in 15:33.4 – 18 seconds off his personal best.
“I was in good position,” he said, “but my legs kept slowing down and slowing down; they just didn’t respond. It just hit me. I don’t know.”
He ran on four section D-I championship teams: “I’m blessed to be in the shoes I am. I’m proud of my guys; I love every single one of my teammates.”
Fresno High senior Silva was attempting to become the school’s first gold-medalist since Michael Kasahun won D-I in 1996.
And Silva pressed the leaders before his legs betrayed him in the final 200 meters: “I was hurting for sure. I decided to hurt all I could and go for the win. I fought as hard as I could, but I just didn’t have it in the last 200. I’ve never given more in a race. Today was one I’ll remember for sure.”
Finishing ahead of him were Rubidoux-Riverside’s Eric Gonzalez (15:03.3), Redwood-Larkspur’s Liam Anderson (15:05.3) and Cathedral Catholic-San Diego’s Joaquin Martinez (15:07.4).
The best time of the day was turned in by Armijo’s Luis Grijalva (14:50.1) in D-I in his latest in a series of Sac-Joaquin Section duels with Davis’ Michael Vernau (14:56.4).