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CIF STATE CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS : Diaz, Rupprecht bring home medals, Valley Christian boys finish fifth in Division 5 race

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

 

FRESNO-Misty Diaz may not have finished first in the Division 2 race at the California Interscholastic Federation State Cross Country Championships, or even second or third. The senior standout who has been the best in the Suburban League for virtually her entire high school career also may not have set a new personal record.

But in her own way, she saved the best for her last race as a high school student-athlete, finishing in sixth place with a time of 18:01 on the Woodward Park course last Saturday morning. It was the second-best time by any Division 2 runner that was not part of a full squad.

 

Norwalk High senior Misty Diaz (center) stands with half of the medalists from the Division 2 race at the California Interscholastic Federation State Cross Country Championships last Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno. Diaz finished in sixth place with a time of 18:01.4

“We had a lot of plans going into this season and some mishaps before finals prevented her from going as well as we thought she would do,” said Norwalk head coach Ralph Casas. “But we regrouped, she had really strong week of training. A lot of teammates came out this week and she just did it.”

After the first 800 meters and again at 1200 meters, Diaz was running in second place. But she quickly dropped to 10th place after the first mile, running at 5:30.9. By the time Diaz reached the second mile, she was still in 10th place with a time of 12:24. 3. But something happened over the final mile.

“I was like this is my last mile and I have to push; I have to give it everything and try to pass as many people as I can,” Diaz said. “I just tried to keep a strong mentality in the last mile.”

“The biggest concern we have with Misty is that she would go out too fact and panic,” Casas said. “We talked about that a lot. Just before the race started, [I asked], ‘Misty, what are you going to do if you panic?’ And she had it down; she knew exactly what to do. She said in the end ‘nothing was going to stop me from achieving my goals’.”

Diaz, the two-time Suburban League champion who won her final six league races, pushed through and made sure she didn’t have a repeat performance of 2016. Diaz, running in Division 3 last year, finished in 21st place with a time of 18:34. She leaves as one of the best league cross country runners, one of the best in the CIF Southern Section and quite possibly the state. One thing is for sure, Diaz has left her legacy as the school’s best runner.

“In the beginning, I wanted to stay in the front because last year I went off in the front and I started falling behind,” Diaz said. “This time I wasn’t going to fall behind. I was going to try to stay up front. I tried my best to do that.”

“I can’t tell you how many text messages I’m getting from her teammates,” Casas said. “It’s like the entire school is behind Misty, and I think that’s a legacy that will carry on because she’s now shown everybody that it’s possible to do this. It’s not something that is for other teams, other schools or other people. Norwalk can accomplish these things and Misty proved it today.”

Earlier in the morning, the Valley Christian High boys team was also making a second straight trip to the state championships, claiming fifth place in Division 5 with 137 points. There were 24 teams that competed in the race. Last year, the Crusaders finished in third place with 134 points and earned an award, which goes to the top three teams. But V.C. graduated its number three runner, Nathaniel Tamminga. However, the one-two tandem of seniors Josh Rupprecht and Ryan Vreeke picked up the slack all season and again in the state finals.

“We graduated our number three runner, and so we knew going into this season that we had to pull up the back of our pack,” said V.C. head coach Christina Dekker. “We have a really great one-two punch with Ryan and Josh and we really missed our number three from last year and it created a big gap. Those teams that came in ahead of us, they are all so tight. All you can do is hope you that they get a really great time.”

“We’ve definitely had our struggles with the one and a half to two miles,” Rupprecht said. “For some reason, some of us just have a hard time sustaining through that period. So, we’ve been working on doing some mile repeats and getting that stamina [up] and just the mental drive in when our bodies our tired.”

Valley Christian High senior Josh Rupprecht displays his medal for finishing in eighth place at the California Interscholastic Federation State Cross Country Championships last Saturday.

Rupprecht and Vreeke each got out to a fast start, running in second and third place respectively with times of 5:01.7 and 5:01.8. Their performances helped the Crusaders garner 69 points, good enough for first place after the first mile. It was a bit of a surprise, considering that the team was leading division powerhouse Thacher High, albeit by nine points at the time. Even at two miles in, Rupprecht was tied for first place with a time of 10:53.1. But the Crusaders began fall back a bit and when it was all said and done, Rupprecht had crossed the finish line in eighth place at 15:59.8, still good enough for a medal. Vreeke was 15th with a time of 16:18.1 and senior Hayden Lee came in 45th place at 17:02.

Rupprecht said he was concerned a little bit prior to the race. He had tripped on the concrete start at the Clovis Invitational earlier this season and had to grab onto Vreeke to pull himself up. At Woodward Park, the runners began the race on a concrete slab.

“The first mile was fast, but I don’t think it was as fast as the Clovis Invitational,” Rupprecht said. “I think we were five minutes) flat. At the two mile (mark), the front pack was kind of separating away and I thought to myself, ‘I just have to stick with them’. I just had to stay there and try to keep away from the next pack so I could get a good placement It was tough.”

The remainder of the V.C. runners were senior Payton Kooi (17:17.4), junior Mark Szekrenyi (17:35.8), senior Joseph Kamstra (18:10.7) and freshman Isaac Rubio (18:39.2).

“I have a hunch that since the beginning of last year, we weren’t so driven and ready to go for the win because we had no idea of what our potential was,” Rupprecht said. “But this year, we’ve been thinking to ourselves the whole time we have to go for this. We have to go for the win, we have to push really hard, and that might have taken a toll on us.”

Despite graduation five of the top seven runners, Dekker isn’t too discouraged about what lies ahead for next season, calling it a year of transition but not starting over from scratch

“I hope they’re not too disappointed,” Dekker said. “We know that we love it when we win, but we also know that winning isn’t everything. They’re not just great runners, they’re great people. We’re just really excited for them in terms of being fifth in the state is pretty amazing and we’re going to try to just encourage them with that.”

“It’s incredible,” Rupprecht said. “My sophomore year, we didn’t make it to state. But just coming here is so much fun. It’s really cool to see all these people who are dedicated to the sport. It’s just fun to come as a team and spend the night up here at a hotel. It’s just really great bonding; it’s a good time.”

The first race of the morning featured V.C. senior Marian Ledesma, also making her second straight trip to the Division 5 state finals. Last season, Ledesma came in 29th place with a time of 19:42. In her final high school cross country race, Ledesma finished in 17th place at 19:21.

 

Valley Christian High senior Marian Ledesma comes up on the finish line at the California Interscholastic Federation State Cross Country Championships last Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno. Ledesma finished in 17th place in the Division 5 race with a time of 19:21.

 

“I’m really happy to be here,” Ledesma said. “This was my season goal, to make state again. I didn’t quite get the time I wanted. I was going for sub-19, but I beat last year’s time.”

Through the first mile, Ledesma was running in 24th place with a time of 5:55 and she maintained that position after two miles, running 13:22. Of the individuals who ran in the division (not associated with a full team), Ledesma was the eighth fastest runner. Ledesma, who also runs the 800-meter in track and field in the spring, said seeing the 800-meter markers throughout the hilly course helped her.

“I think I’ve done a lot more hill work this season,” Ledesma said. “So, in practice, I definitely have gotten better on hills. It was harder to have a good mental game this year. I think it comes with senioritis a little bit.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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