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CHS boys, girls begin cross country season
•Bulldogs host Vikings, Spartans
coach Owen Brown
The members of Ceres High School’s cross country program huddle around coach Owen Brown prior to competing against Johnasen on Feb. 23 at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park. - photo by DALE BUTLER/Ceres Courier

The members of Ceres High School’s cross country teams competed for the first time this season this past week.

Cross country is usually staged during the fall but was moved to the spring because of COVID-19.

High school athletics had been put on hold since mid-March of last year when the statewide shutdown began in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s been a long time since they’ve competed. We’re trying to recondition them so they can run three miles.”
Coach Owen Brown

“The most enjoyable part was seeing them cross the finish line,” Bulldogs’ first-year head coach Owen Brown said. “It’s been a long time since they’ve competed. We’re trying to recondition them so they can run three miles.”

Ceres High played host to Johansen on Feb. 23.

The Western Athletic Conference South Division competition was held at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park.

“It was the first meet (of the season),” Brown said. “It didn’t go as smoothly as we hoped. The course was a little harder than remembered. The kids hit a couple proverbial walls where they felt their tanks were empty. They had to regroup. I expect them to bring their times down quite a bit during the second meet.” 

Ceres High’s varsity boys team lost 22-33 to Johansen.

Eduardo Ortiz led the Bulldogs with a fourth-place finish.

He completed the 3-mile course in 22 minutes, 46 seconds.

Ceres High teammates Rey Sota (23:48), Cesar Bolanes (24:46), Paul Ruiz (24:30) and Nathan Martin (31:06) placed fifth, sixth, eighth and 10th, respectively.

“Cesar had a great sprint to the finish,” Brown said. “He looked like a superstar.”

Ceres High’s Elizabeth Mercado placed third in a field of seven during the varsity girls race, which Johansen won by forfeit as a team due to the Bulldogs’ lack of depth.

Mercado posted a time of 30 minutes, 5 seconds on the 3-mile course.

“I expect her times to continue to improve,” Brown said.

Bulldog teammate Wendy Lizola did not compete against the Vikings.

“Her appointment for her physical was the day after the race,” Brown said. 

The members of Ceres High’s and Johansen’s cross country programs walked the course prior to competing.

The bottom half of the course looks drastically different.

The city of Ceres is currently working to restore the lower terrace to its more natural condition. 

It will be completed and reopened very soon to the public.

“They really put a lot of work into the park,” Brown said. 

Davis 19, CHS 36 (boys)

 Double forfeit (girls)

Ceres High’s cross country teams competed for the second time in four days at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park on Feb. 26.

“I’m pleased all our runners’ times are coming down rapidly,” Brown said. “This is partially a result of the COVID dilemma, where students gave up on conditioning after being shut in for so long. There wasn’t much time to training before the season abruptly started so now we are seeing big gains with every week.”

Eduardo Ortiz led Ceres High’s boys team, which sustained a 19-36 loss versus WAC North Division member Grace Davis.

He finished the race in a season-best time of 21:08.

Bulldogs teammates Rey Sota (21:33), Cesar Bolanes (21:53), Ryan Ashby (25:42), Simon Mann (27:52) and Nathan Martin (28:59) took sixth, seventh, eighth, 10th and 11th, respectively.

“Our boys improved by a couple minutes on average,” Brown said. “We were within striking distance the first half of the race. We need a little bit more time to get into better condition. It was very clear (Grace Davis’) boys stayed in shape.”

Ceres High’s and Grace Davis’ girls teams didn’t have enough runners to post team scores so the meet was ruled a double forfeit.

Elizabeth Mercado paced the Bulldogs.

She finished first overall (29:20).

Mercado trimmed 45 seconds off her previous-best time. “I’m very pleased about that,” Brown said. “She’s excited.

Wendi Lizola (29:21) and Esmeralda Garcia Guzman (34:12) took second and third, respectively, while making their season debuts with Ceres High.

The Spartans didn’t have any runners compete against the Bulldogs.