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Suburban League individual cross country champions: Norwalk senior Misty Diaz and Cerritos sophomore Cole Sawires Yager. 


By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

The Cerritos High boys cross country team will leave the Suburban League the same way it entered the circuit back in 1988-as champions. The Dons, behind sophomore Cole Sawires Yager, picked up 35 points and outlasted La Mirada by 15 points in the league finals last Thursday at Knabe Community Regional Park.

It was the seventh league championship for Cerritos, which will move into the 605 League next season. Last season, La Mirada defeated the Dons 22-39. Sawires Yager came in first place with a personal record of 15:21, barely getting past Christian Santiago of La Mirada by two seconds.

“I knew I had some tough competition with Christian Santiago from La Mirada,” Sawires Yager said. “He put up a really, really good race. It’s pretty awesome. When we got towards the finish line, I knew I had to beat him.

“Christian was beating me and basically I saw the wall in front of me,” Sawires Yager continued. “If I didn’t break it, I wouldn’t run the time I wanted, and I wouldn’t beat him. So, I broke it.”

Cerritos seniors Mario Amaro (15:45) and Fredrick Inada (15:48) finished in fifth and sixth respectively while seniors Jaineel Patel (16:01) and Vraj Patel (16:07) crossed the finished line in 11th and 12th respectively to help the Dons claim their first league championship since 2015. In that season, then-junior Bill Chuang took home the individual title with a time of 16:28.

“Getting my PR here was great,” Sawires Yager said. “I was actually aiming for a better PR, but I know that now, I’ll be able to do that at [the CIF finals].”

After the 1998 title, Cerritos saw Norwalk High reel off eight consecutive championships before the Dons won it in 2007. Cerritos also has league titles in 2008, 2012 (shared with Norwalk) and 2013. Next season, Cerritos will be in the new league with Artesia, John Glenn, Pioneer and Whitney high schools as well as Oxford Academy.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Sawires Yager said. “Running in this league last year and this year for me was really fun. I look forward to going into the new league and taking on new challenges there and continuing to improve.”

Norwalk finished in third place with 66 points with junior Jacob Castro finishing in third place in 15:36. The next Norwalk runner to cross the line was junior Gregory Tavares, who came in 13th place at 16:12. He was the first of three straight Lancer harriers to finish as juniors Bryan Catarino (16:20) and Joseph Franco (16:22) followed soon after. Junior Marc Marquez (16:53) rounded out Norwalk’s scoring with a 21st place finish.

Both Cerritos and Norwalk, situated in Division 2 of the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section, will advance to the preliminaries today and Saturday. Artesia and Glenn were the bottom two teams with 162 and 210 points respectively. The top Artesia runner was junior Daniel Alonzo (16:46) while the Eagles were paced by junior Michael Angelo Davis (18:27).

For the girls, it was status quo once again as Norwalk seniors Misty Diaz and Ruby Galindo reigned supreme, finishing in the top two spots while aiding the Lady Lancers to their third straight league championship. Norwalk picked up 36 points, followed by 48 by La Mirada and 49 by Cerritos.

“It was an interesting year,” said Norwalk head coach Ralph Casas. “It was one of the most relaxing years because everybody was on board. Everybody knew what they had to do. They didn’t panic. It seems as if they had a unified goal and they accomplished the goal.”

Diaz crossed the line at 16:48, a course record as the finals were run on a 5k course instead of the three-mile course that is most commonly used at this location. Galindo came in at 17:36 while sophomore Natalie Juarez was seventh at 19:11. Rounding out the top 15 for Norwalk were juniors Viviana Rios (11th, 19:32) and Elizabeth Gallardo (15th, 19:47).

“From the beginning, I never expected to get this far,” Diaz said. “But I just kept pushing and kept wanting to improve my times. Today I really wanted to break 17:00. That was my plan from the beginning of the season and I hadn’t broken it and I was getting upset. So, today was my day; I had to make it my day.”

“It certainly doesn’t hurt to have two of the fastest girls in the area on the team,” Casas said. “And the rest of the team thinks that’s normal. They think that’s where they want to be because that’s what they grew up with; that’s what they’ve seen. They’re not afraid to work hard because they see them modeling that type of work ethic. It’s gotten to the point where success has become contagious.”

Diaz, regarded as one of the top runners in the Southern Section and quite possibly the state, ends her league campaign with six straight first place finishes. Last season, Diaz won the league finals at La Mirada Regional Park with a time of 18:37. Before last season, you have to go back to 2004 to find a Norwalk first place runner in the league finals-Jessika Cos.

“I’m going to miss them,” Casas said of Diaz and Galindo. “And it’s not just their athletic ability. They are such good people. They’re kind, they work well with the rest of the team, they lead by example, they don’t show off, they don’t brag about their accomplishments. They always expect themselves to do better. I don’t know what else to say.

“Misty had a goal all season and that goal was to break into the 16s,” he later added. “We weren’t supposed to run this course today. It was a last-minute change. She knew going in, because we were planning to run the 5K course that she would have to work really hard today. When she found out we were running this course, she just got a boost of enthusiasm and adrenaline that I think catapulted her to that time. She was not going to miss running that time today.”

“We’re like glue, I guess,” Diaz said of herself and Galindo. “During the races, sometimes I rely on her and sometimes she relies on me.”

Cerritos junior Jaide Lin (18:45) and freshman Sofia Vasquez (18:53) finished in fifth and sixth places respectively while senior Laura Sato came in eighth place at 19:19. The other two Cerritos runners who contributed to the 49 points were junior Lauren Park (14th, 19:45) and senior Marie Chu (16th, 19:50).

Glenn, which had to recruit runners 24 hours before the race, finished with 199 points while Artesia mustered 207 points.