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Dawgs, Hawks wrap up season at WAC Finals
Ashley Anaya
Ashley Anaya brought home a ninth-place medal from the Western Athletic Conference Finals on March 16 at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park.

Ceres High’s and Central Valley’s cross country programs closed out the COVID-delayed season on March 16 at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park.

The Bulldogs and Hawks competed at the Western Athletic Conference Finals.

The 2020 campaign was supposed to be held in the fall but was moved to the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“There was so much uncertainty,” Ceres High coach Owen Brown said. “I’m just happy we had a season. The kids had fun.”

“The hardest thing about our season was it was so short,” Central Valley leader Michael Mrgudic said. “Normally, you have the summer to train. The challenge was how fit we could get in a month while racing twice a week without burning out at the end. We progressed slowly but surely. We raced ourselves into shape. I appreciate the kids for trusting the training.”

Central Valley’s and Ceres High’s boys teams finished ninth and 10th, respectively, with scores of 183 and 205 at the WAC championships.

Senior Alejandro Gonzalez paced the Hawks with an 18th-place finish in a field of 64.

He completed the 3-mile race in a personal-best 19 minutes, 36 seconds.

“We were hoping he’d be top 10,” Mrgudic said. “He was outside of that goal. You can’t knock his performance. He ran the best time of his life. He crushed it. He’s a great guy to have coached. He was a leader not only in times but at practice. I wish he had another year.”

Central Valley teammates Jeremy Alvarez (22:00), Alfredo Garcia (22:04), Daniel Soares (22:12) and Jesse Vazquez (22:18) placed 44th, 45th, 48th and 50th, respectively.

Alvarez, Garcia and Soares set personal records as well.

“I’m pleased with how our boys did,” Mrgudic said. “They all did their best. Four out of our five guys PR’d. They raced exactly how we planned. They did awesome.”

Eddie Ortiz was Ceres High’s top finisher.

Ortiz (20:10) set a personal record while taking 24th.

“He did fantastic,” Brown said. “He was our team captain. He was a great example to the younger runners.

Bulldog teammates Rey Soto (20:41), Cesar Bolanos (20:59), Paul Ruiz (21:21), Ryan Ashby (22:27), Simon Mann (24:45) and Nathan Martin (24:47) placed 33rd, 36th, 38th, 52nd, 61st and 62nd, respectively.

Bolanos, Ruiz and Ashby all posted personal-best times.

“Many of them improved,” Brown said. “It was great to see.”

Unable to post team scores due to a lack of numbers, Ceres High’s and Central Valley’s girls tied for last place with Beyer and Grace Davis.

The Hawks had just one runner compete at the WAC Finals.

Junior Ashley Anaya posted a personal-best time of 23 minutes, 59 seconds en route to a ninth-place showing on the 3-mile course.

She earned all-league honors for finishing in the top 10.

The race featured 41 individual competitors.

“That was definitely one of the big highlights for us,” Mrgudic said while talking about Anaya’s performance. “She met her goal. We knew she would be in the mix if she had a good day.”

Wendi Lizola led the Bulldogs.

She took 14th in a personal-best time of 24:48.

Lizola was a late addition to the team.

“She didn’t have a ride to practice,” Brown said. “Based on that, she did great. In a more normal year, she would have had a better chance (at medaling).”

Ceres High teammates Esmeralda Garcia-Guzman (26:23) and Elizabeth Mercado (26:31) placed 22nd and 24th, respectively. Garcia-Guzman and Mercado also set personal records.

Central Valley’s junior-varsity girls cross country team had two individuals medal at the WAC championships.

Claudia Aguilar and Victoria Guajardo finished sixth and seventh, respectively, during the 2-mile race.

Aguilar (17:02.37) edged out Guajardo (17:02.69) by less than half a second.

The top 8 finishers were awarded medals.

Ceres High’s Keira Johnson (18:30) placed 11th overall.

Eddie Ortiz
Eddie Ortiz was the Ceres High School boys cross country teams’ top finisher at the WAC Finals. Ortiz placed 24th overall in a personal-best time of 20 minutes, 10 seconds on the 3-mile course.