SEELEY — For the first time in more than 11 months, a high school athletic competition was held in Imperial County as the Imperial Valley League cross-country season got under way at Sunbeam Lake Park here on Saturday, Feb. 20.
Three separate dual meets were held, with Calexico taking on Brawley in the first race, followed by El Centro’s Central against Southwest, and Holtville against Palo Verde of Blythe. Start times for the dual meets were staggered to allow for a more controlled environment as part of the COVID-19 protocols.
“2020 was a hard and strange year,” said senior Frederico Felix, Calexico’s top finisher at the meet on Saturday. “It’s been 11 months since I last heard the starting gun go off. Cheers to a great race today.”
The Bulldogs defeated Brawley in both the boys’ and girls’ races by walkover as the Wildcats didn’t have enough runners to register a score. But regardless of the score, the Calexico runners were just happy to be out of the house and on the course.
The smiles on the runners’ and administrators’ faces prior to the races showed how ready schools are to be leaving COVID restrictions behind and competing again.
“It was great seeing our athletes back in action,” said Mariano Velez, Calexico High School’s athletic director. “It’s been a long wait, but seeing the kids out there was uplifting; a very positive thing for our schools.”
Felix had the fastest time of the opening dual meet, completing the 3.1-mile course in a time of 17 minutes, 40.67 seconds. He was followed by Calexico teammates, senior Daniel Pinela (18:20.48) and senior Ricardo Campos (18:22.80) in second and third place, respectively.
Brawley junior Joseph Taylor (18:48.53) finished in fourth place, followed by senior teammate Dominic Kirkpatrick (19:33.81) in fifth.
The Bulldogs had the final seven finishers of the race with freshman Jesse Hernandez (19:56.53), senior Damian Torres (20:02.46), freshman Luis Jimenez (20:24.97), senior Jacob De Santiago (21:23.71), sophomore Esteban Esquer (22:16.38), sophomore Carlos Hernandez (23:36.23), and freshman Marco Esquer (23:38.05).
Bulldog Girls Walk Over Wildcats
On the girls’ side, Brawley was only able to field three runners and ended up forfeiting to the Bulldogs. When the race was run, the Wildcats’ Jaasiel Contreras crossed the finish line first with a time of 20 minutes, 49.07 seconds.
Calexico junior Brianna Gallegos (22:02.20) took second place.
“I really enjoyed the race even though it wasn’t the same as it used to be,” Gallegos said. “I’m just glad I’m able to keep running and have races, because I get to do something I really enjoy.”
Brawley senior Julitza Alvarez (22:06.10) finished third, followed by a trio of Calexico runners in senior Madison Longton (23:05.51), junior Andrea Garcia (23:07.92), and junior Nayeli Cano (23:09.70).
Rounding out the girls’ field was Brawley sophomore Lilandra Padilla (23:57.98) in seventh, Calexico junior Sarah Ojeda (28:09.26) in eighth, and Bulldogs’ freshman Rebecca Gonzalez (29:19.29) in ninth position.
“I’m glad we are able to have a cross-country season this year,” said Antonio Mayorga, Calexico’s cross-country coach.
The next race for the Bulldogs is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27, at Sunbeam Lake Park against Central Union High.
Spartans Run Past Southwest
Central Union High’s boys’ and girls’ cross country teams scored victories over crosstown rival Southwest at Sunbeam Lake on Saturday, Feb. 20.
The Spartans’ girls’ team beat the Eagles, 31-24. Results were:
Clarissa Gonzales, senior, Central (23:02.57)
Geneva Garcia, junior, Southwest (25:01.07)
Kayla Mesa, junior, Central (25:45.71)
Leslie Linarez, sophomore, Central (26:06.19)
Julissa Vizcarra, junior, Southwest (26:16.26)
Lucy Contreras, sophomore, Southwest (26:44.83)
Jocelyn Olague, freshman, Central (27:28.21)
Adalie Espinoza, senior, Southwest (28:38.80)
Myla Mora, freshman, Central (31:06.74)
Elizabeth Hernandez, freshman, Southwest (33:11.27)
On the boys’ side, Central beat the Eagles, 22-34. Results were:
Michael Zuniga, senior, Central (17:42.57)
Pedro Carrion, senior, Central (18:07.09)
Steven Gomez, sophomore, Southwest (19:00.53)
Edgar Mendez, senior, Central (19:22.02)
Miguel Ramirez, sophomore, Southwest (20:31.63)
Daniel Zavala, sophomore, Central (20:33.29)
Mason Rogers, junior, Southwest (20:59.03)
Brandon Villasenor, junior, Southwest (21:20.77)
Hector Lopez, junior, Central (23:52.30)
William Wright, sophomore, Central (23:53.26)
Grant Becker, junior, Southwest (24:45.76)
Francisco Vargas, sophomore, Central (26:44.93)
Matthew Herrera, junior, Southwest (27:08.27)
Southwest will next run against Brawley at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27 at Sunbeam Lake Park, while Central takes on Calexico at 9:30 a.m. on the same date and location.
Holtville Sweeps Palo Verde
In the closest race of the day, the Holtville boys’ team edged Palo Verde of Blythe, 25-30, but featured the fastest time of the day.
Vikings’ senior Alan Jimenez dominated the dual meet, finishing the 3.1-mile course in a time of 16 minutes, 18.51 seconds. His winning time was more than five minutes ahead of the second-place runner in the dual meet and more than 1:30 better than any other racer on Saturday.