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El Toro's Gonzalez turns plan into triumph
WALNUT - El Toro senior Juan Gonzalez stated days before Saturday’s CIF-SS Division 1 final race that his plan would be to stay with the lead group of runners early with the hopes of maintaining enough energy late to finish strong.
With concise precision, Gonzalez executed his plan and was rewarded with top individual prize in the Southern Section.
Gonzalez won the Division 1 individual title and had the best overall time of the meet at the CIF-SS Divisional Finals at Mt. San Antonio College.
“The plan worked for me again and it was a good race,” Gonzalez said. “Following instructions helped me at the end.”
The usual challenge of the steep rolling hills and banked ascents that define the Mt. Sac course was absent from Saturday’s competition. Overnight and early morning rain made the course hazardous enough in spots that CIF officials switched the meet to the flatter and predominantly concrete alternate race course a couple of hours before the first race.
Undeterred by the course change and a quick early pace, Gonzalez stuck to his pre-planned race strategy. He hung with the lead group throughout the early and middle portion of the race before sprinting ahead for good later in the final mile.
Holding off a final late surge by Arcadia junior Estevan De La Rosa, Gonzalez crossed the finish line in a time of 14:00.
“I kind of measured it during warm-ups and I timed my kick pretty well,” Gonzalez said.
De La Rosa (14:01) and Vista Murrieta senior Porter Reddish (14:04) were second and third, respectively.
Trabuco Hills senior Naoki Omatsu (14:13) placed fourth, leading the Mustangs (140 points) to the state meet with a third place team finish.
“We needed to start a little faster than we planned because of the rain course and the guys held on,” Mustangs coach Liam Clemons said. “This team is feeling very good right now and they are all on the same page.”
South Coast League rival Dana Hills grabbed the final automatic state meet qualifying berth by finishing seventh.
Edison senior Jeff Thies (14:18) was eighth and advanced to the state meet as an individual.
For the third straight season, the St. Margaret’s Tartans took home the team title in Division 5, placing three runners in the top 10 to defeat second place Flintridge Prep (46-61).
The Tartans were led by senior Brandon Price (14:41), who held a lead coming down the final straightaway before being edged at the finish line by senior Isaiah Thompson of Sherman Indian High (14:40).
“I didn’t know that he (Thompson) had a kick like that,” Price said. “It’s hard to be disappointed because I gave it my all. We knew that Flintridge would go out fast, so I tried to go out quick to string them out.”
“I’m happy that our team won, which is more important than the individual win.”
The Tartans’ scoring gap among their second, third, and fourth runners helped key the win. Price’s younger brother Collin (15:02) was fifth, with senior Sebastian Luna (15:08) placing ninth, and senior Garrett Corwin (15:11) coming in 11th.
“Once we got some guys healthy, we’ve started to see a turnaround and the training that we have put in is starting to come together,” Tartans co-coach Dylan Wade said. “Though we trained for the hills, we’re built a little bit better for speed without the hills and running the rain course helped us out.”
Three of the county’s top individual runners will compete for a state title in Division 2. Canyon senior Austin Goins and Villa Park junior Garrett Corcoran were stride for stride coming down the final straight away in a battle for second place behind race winner Bryan Fernandez of Dos Pueblos (14:06). Both runners were credited with a time of 14:08, with Goins being credited with a second place finish.
"I liked the rain course, and even when I was getting tired at the end, I just let it all go and put it all on the line,” Goins said. “The competition with Garrett has gone back and forth throughout the season.
“I love our rivalry and we know how to push each other.”
Corcoran will compete at the state meet for the first time.
“This race was about executing what I needed to do,” Corcoran said. “Making it to state is something that I have expected of myself throughout the season.”
Godinez senior Jose Penaloza (14:15) finished fifth in the race and will compete at the state meet for the second straight season.
“I was expecting the hill course, but making it back to the state meet makes me happy,” Penaloza said.
Brea Olinda will represent the county at the state meet in Division 3. Led by a seventh place finish from junior Brennon Koryta (14:28) and a 10th place finish from freshman Austin Tamagno (14:30) the Wildcats (123) came in second behind section champion Palos Verdes (58).
“We went over running both the regular and rain course and the objective was to go out a little harder than we would have on the regular course,” Wildcats coach Jeremy Mattern said. “As a group, we didn’t really do that and worked hard to catch up.”
Buena Park senior Gilbert Solorza continued his strong late season performance, qualifying for the state meet with a third place finish in a time of 14:20.
“Coming to a new course threw off my training, but I knew I had to do what I had to do,” Solorza said. “This so far is the best accomplishment I’ve had in my high school career.”
Santa Margarita senior Gabriel Marasigan (14:43) and Mater Dei sophomore Michael Hulme (14:45) also qualified for the state final in Division 3.
Crean Lutheran (109) advanced to the state meet for the first time in school history, finishing second in Division 4 behind champion Salesian High (77). The Saints had three runners score in the top 12, led by sophomore Sean Pino who was fourth in a time of 14:42.
“The guys did a great job of growing and coming together this year,” Saints coach Tim Brink said.