Alaina Zamorano (center), Eloise Martenson (left) and Trang Woolridge were all smiles after going 1-2-3 in the Varsity Girls 5K at the Coach Jerry Downey Classic at Morley Field. (All photos by Jeffrey Parenti)
SAN DIEGO -- El Cajon Christian's Alaina Zamorano wasn't planning to set a meet record heading into the 32nd Coach Downey Classic cross country meet on Friday.
Santa Fe Christian's Ryan Todd thought that it could be a possibility because he knew it was a good, deep field of runners.
The Coach Jerry Downey Classic was started by the late St. Augustine coach to offer smaller schools a chance to go head-to-head. Smaller enrollment doesn't mean smaller talent.
Zamorano sliced four seconds off the meet record after Todd equaled the fastest ever run in the meet that is staged over 5,000 meters at Balboa Park's Morley Field, although this version of the course does not include the brutal Upas Street hill that is part of the layout for both the CIF-San Diego Section and Foot Locker National Championship races.
Zamorano, a junior, clocked an 18:54 winning time, trimming four seconds off the previous best of 18:58 by La Jolla Country Day's Lexi Watkins in 2017.
Zamorano bolted right into the lead and was never threatened as she won by 44 seconds over Santa Fe Christian sophomore Eloise Martenson (19:38) and more than a minute over Cathedral Catholic's Trang Woolridge (19:58), who was competing in her first race after sitting out 30 days because she transferred from Westview over the summer.
"I beat a Watkins record?" said Zamorano right after she finished. "I raced against her as a freshman and it was the experience of my life. I thought I had a chance for a record but I wasn't sure. I heard my coach (Rhonda Kirwan) saying to 'go, go, go' so I decided to go.
"This is amazing. It was important to do well here because I was running against a lot of the better runners in Division 5, one's I'll face at CIF and State. This year I really plan to put up a fight for the State championship."
Zamorano finished 10th in the CIF-State Championships a year ago at Fresno's Woodward Park 5K course, and had an almost one minute improvement.
"I wasn't thinking record but my half-mile (2:30) and mile splits (5:45) were faster than usual," said the slightly-built Patriots runner.
"I run this course for my league meets and the CIF championships, so I'm real comfortable here. This year I'm more determined, more hungry. I'm gaining confidence by the week."
A better than one minute improvement over a year ago can do that.
As for the boys race, six runners were still in contention with a mile remaining but a quarter-mile later Todd suddenly found himself in the lead -- not especially a good thing.
"This felt amazing," said Todd who bettered his time of last year when he placed sixth by 62 seconds. "I really expected Riley (defending champion Riley Burns of Maranatha Christian) and the Crawford runner (second place Byaombe Mloko) to push me and with about three-quarters of a mile to go, I suddenly found myself in the lead. I didn't mean for that to happen, it surprised me, but I kept looking back because I thought someone for sure would make a run at me."
Mloko, ninth in this race last year, was a couple of strides behind Todd as they hit the slight incline grass sprint to the finish. Todd never gave ground.
"It was scary when I took the lead," Todd said. "I thought to myself, 'what have I done?' We had an incline before the finish and I felt slow."
Apparently not very slow.
"It's a big win because I'm not sure if I can win State this year but I think our team can," Todd said.
The Eagles have been extremely competitive in every meet and are expected to be among the favorites at Mt. SAC in the Division 5 Sweepstakes.
"Who knows?" said Todd, "maybe next year I can make a run at breaking 15 minutes. I just wanted a time around 16 and I got it. I'm not disappointed I didn't make a move earlier for the record because I ran what I had in me."