Favorites Rule At Front At CIF-Central Section Finals

While senior Corie Smith ran away from the field en route to a third individual title, the rest of the Buchanan High pack weren't too far behind as the Bears posted 26 points in winning the Central Section Division 1 title for a fourth consecutive year. (Credit: DeAnna Turner)


FRESNO -- The Central Section Championships mostly went to form as 8 of the 10 top ranked teams won their divisions and the top individuals seemed to cruise to victories and qualify safely to next Saturday's State Championships on the same Woodward Park course. While the section is not deep with team talent this year behind the Buchanan girls and Clovis North boys, there should be no shortage of individuals hoping for top 10 finishes at State.

Here's a division-by-division breakdown of Thursday's CIF-CS Championships with photos by DeAnna Turner:

Division 1 Girls

The dominant program in the section the past quarter century has been the Buchanan girls (ranked No. 2 in the State) who won their 21st Central Section title in the past 25 years in one of their most dominant performances ever.  With a score of 26 points, the Bears outpaced runner-up Arroyo Grande (118) by 92 points with their first five runners in the top 9 overall. With all of their dominance in the Central Section, Buchanan will be looking for their first D1 State Championship in nine days against the most dominant program in the State the last 10 years, Great Oak.  If the Bears want to challenge the Southern Section power, they will need to have more than 3 or 4 of their runners "on" at the same time which they seem to have had a hard time doing consistently this year.  

D1 State favorite, Corie Smith (Buchanan, pictured), cruised to her third individual Section Championship in 17:15 by turning an 8 second lead at the mile into a 50 second victory over a trio of future stars.  Freshmen Erika Nyberg (Clovis East), Sydney Sundgren (Buchanan), and Taylor Jones (Arroyo Grande) ran 18:05, 18:09, and 18:14 respectively. With the graduation of Smith after this year, these three (and maybe more) will battle for Central Section supremacy for the foreseeable future.  

Monache was the final team qualifier along with Buchanan and Arroyo Grande.  Individual qualifiers for the State Championships include Nyberg, Miliana Perez (Clovis North), Dariana Miramontes (Madera South), Hilda Gonzalez (McFarland), and Kalei Aoki-Chance (Clovis West).

Division 1 Boys

The Clovis North boys (ranked No. 4 in the State) have been pointing to this season for a while, with a senior heavy team that looked like a podium team at the beginning of the season.  They still have the chance to accomplish that goal next week after winning the Central Section Championship with a team clearly not at 100% this week. Hopefully the next nine days will allow them to recover and be at their best against the best in the State.  

Isaiah Galindo (Clovis North) led the Broncos with his victory in 15:14 over an always tough Damian Gavilan (Paso Robles) who closed hard in 15:19.  Both runners have a great shot at top five finishes against D1's best. Ethan Jones (Liberty - Bakersfield) challenged Galindo during the first part of the race and could be a dark horse pick for a top 10 spot at State.

Clovis North (59) scored a 29 point victory over Buchanan (88) with Clovis West (114) in third.  These three teams were the top three at last week's TRAC Championship meet, but Buchanan ran 1:29 faster as a team this week to finish in front of Clovis West this time.  The individual qualifiers to State are Gavilan, Jones, Adham Maher (Stockdale), Jonathan Munoz (Arroyo Grande), and Juanathan Reyes (Stockdale).

Division 2 Girls

In the best team battle of the day, only fourteen points separated the top four teams with only the top two teams qualifying for State.  In the end, favorites San Luis Obispo (59) beat out Sanger (62), Paso Robles (65), and Madera (73) with the Sanger girls making the State Championship meet for the first time in twenty years according to Coach Sean Marzolf.  D2 girls may be the deepest girls division in the State, but a top 10 finish for San Luis Obispo or Sanger is not out of reach.

Individually, Unique Ford (Madera, pictured) continued her strong season with an 18:15 clocking that beat out Charlotte Castelli (Paso Robles) 18:30 and Nia Lamas (Sanger) 18:32.  Besides Ford and Castelli, the other individual qualifiers for State are Madeline Loff (Paso Robles), Linda Perez (Madera), and Nadia Salcedo (Tulare Western).

Division 2 Boys

The Ridgeview boys were moved up to D2 this year after their recent success in D3 including last year's State Championship due to the Central Sections competitive equity model.  Even with the increased competition in D2, the Ridgeview boys have performed well this year and have been ranked in the top 10 in the State at times. While they won the Section Championship by 7 points, they did get a scare from San Luis Obispo whose 27-second 1-5 gap was almost enough to upset the top heavy Ridgeview team.  Both teams could sneak into the top 10 at State if all their runners are at their best.

A highly anticipated individual battle included Jacob Yagers (Highland) and Alex Cuevas (Ridgeview) saw Yagers (15:48) win over Cuevas (15:55), but the times were a surprise since both boast personal bests under 15:17 at Woodward Park.  Assuming time was of no interest to either, expect them both to be top 10 individuals at State next week. Yagers, Emanuel Salas (Sanger), Yair Torres (Santa Maria), David DeLoera (Sanger), and Logan Jones (Atascadero) are the individual qualifiers to State.

Division 3 Girls

In another close team battle, Edison of Fresno (92) came in ranked 4th in their division, but pulled off the upset over Corcoran (95) and top ranked Highland (102).  Edison and Corcoran will head to the State Meet while Highland returns its entire top 5 next year looking for redemption.  

Jessica Valles (Sunnyside) ran away with the individual title here in 18:52.  She will be joined by Haley Ulloa (Highland), Elena Baltazar (Independence), Neyda Martinez (Highland), and Naylea Calderon (Righetti) as the individual qualifiers for the State Meet.

Division 3 Boys

Central of Fresno (35) got the most lopsided boys team win of the day with their 78 point victory over Frontier (113) and Foothill of Bakersfield (192).  All three qualify for the State Meet and Foothill of Bakersfield made the biggest jump of the day to qualify after being ranked 7th in the division coming into the meet.

Abel-Rudisha Teffra (Central, pictured) dominated the race with his time of 15:41.  He will be a strong competitor for a top 3 finish in D3 at the State Championships on his home course.  The individual qualifiers from the race were Cameron McFarlin (Coalinga), Lionel Aguayo (Lindsay), Franco Bermudez (Golden West), Diego Gonzalez (Sunnyside), and Nathan Herrera (Golden West).

Division 4 Girls

The team race here went true to form with the top 3 ranked teams in the division finishing in that order.  Nipomo (60) outlasted Yosemite (78) for the top spot and Fresno High (121) took the third team qualifying spot from the section.

The D4 race featured two hidden stars of the Central Section with Rachel Fitt (Bishop Union) 18:45 and Clover Cicoletti (Yosemite) 18:48.  Their small schools are nestled up in the mountains of Central California and the two of them have the potential to surprise at the State Meet and contend for top 10 individual medals.  Fitt joins teammate Sierra Burror (Bishop Union) as well as Kailey Kolesar (Tehachapi), Sonia Wasserman (Orcutt Academy), and Mikaela Ortega (Cesar Chavez) as the individual qualifiers to the State Meet.

Division 4 Boys

Porterville scored a small upset in the D4 race while beating top ranked Chowchilla.  The two teams were well ahead of the field in a close battle, but Porterville pulled away in the final mile for a 76-93 victory.  

Just like the team race, Jorge Sanchez (Porterville) outdueled Connor Borba (Chowchilla) for the individual title as well with a 16:42 to 16:56 victory.  Nathanael Rodriguez (East Bakersfield) led the individual qualifiers to State that also included Turner Williams (Yosemite), Mason Madden (Tehachapi), Patrick Thomas (Mission College Prep), and Patrick Espinoza (Robert F Kennedy).

Division 5 Girls

The strangest qualifying process of the day took place in the D5 girls race.  Because of the Central Sections competitive equity divisional placement, there are many teams in D5 with a CBED enrollment over 600.  The only problem is, the CIF does not allow schools over 600 to compete in D5 at the State Meet. So, the teams had to decide whether to stay D5 and just compete for a section title or move to D4 and possibly qualify for State.  Many of the bigger girls teams chose to stay in D5 and so the two team qualifiers ended up being Mammoth (who won anyway) and 5th place Liberty - Madera Ranchos.

Mammoth senior Jordyn Harper (at left in picture above) won the section title over Sierra Pacific freshman Mickayla Mejia. Harper will be making her fourth consecutive trip to the State Meet.

Individual qualifiers also have to be from a school of 600 or less which meant four girls in the top 8 have their season end here and allowed a girl as low as 16th place qualify individually.  The individual qualifiers are Zoey Cardosa (San Joaquin Memorial), Jade Christensen (Desert), Alexa Gomez (Summit Collegiate), Emily Moreno (Riverdale), and Demaree Lewis (Summit Collegiate).

Division 5 Boys

In the D5 boys race the Central Section placement and CIF rule did not affect the team qualifiers.  Mammoth (29) got the sweep of D5 with a solid victory over Liberty - Madera Ranchos (59) with both boys teams joining their girls in qualifying for the State Meet.

The individual race here was between Mammoth teammates Ryan Furness 17:08 and Iain Ferguson 17:21.  With this likely feeling like a training run for Furness, expect a significant drop in time next week back at Woodward Park.  Individual qualifiers for the State Meet are Dylan Morgan (Riverdale), Ben Trefry (Lee Vining), Josiah Leever (Central Valley Christian), and Bryan Gonzalez (Riverdale).