Emmanuel Perez Stuns At CIF SS Prelims

* Emmanuel Perez runs at the CIF Southern Section Prelims.

Photo credit: Raymond Tran / MileSplit


By Tomoki Chien / MileSplit California

Top runners tend to use the CIF Southern Section preliminaries as a workout, taking a small break from the grueling four-straight weeks of California postseason racing.

Not Emmanuel Perez. The Cathedral senior stormed his way to a time of 14:39.3 over the 3-mile course at Mt. SAC on Saturday for the fastest time of the weekend, running what was essentially a one-man race in the third heat of the Division IV competition.

The performance was so fast, in fact, that it at one point looked like the Northern Arizona University commit might take the CIF record.

Seniors Jason Parra of Millikan and Anthony Fast Horse of Ventura rounded out the other top finishes on the boys side, posting 14:48.8 and 15:09.3, respectively, over Friday and Saturday. 

"At state I'm going to go for the record," said Fast Horse, who just recently committed to the University of Oregon. "So I wanted to run alone today to try and practice that."

Parra, for his part, made something of a statement out of his race. The recent Notre Dame signee walked into the season with high expectations, but fell short and placed 50th at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic -- a meet he was expected to win. He said he suffered side pain while racing.

But he's climbed his way back, building confidence as the season has worn on with respectable finishes at the ASICS Clovis Invitational and Mt. SAC Cross Country Invite. Still, he was yet to make a statement performance to show he remains a serous contender for the state title. That came on Saturday.

"It made me proud," Parra said. "It makes me believe in myself again. ... We've been trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together the entire season. We're not there yet, but after this week going into the next one, we should be there."

On the girls side, Santiago (Corona) junior Rylee Blade ran the fastest time of the meet on Saturday with a 16:49.0, beating out Ventura junior Sadie Engelhardt's 16:52.4 from the previous day. 

Blade led her team to a 42-point, first-place finish in its heat.

"It's been a long season and I'm so proud of how much I've already accomplished," Blade said. "But still have a few more goals."

The Ventura girls, to their credit, managed to place 1-2-3-5-17, scoring just 27 points to win their heat. That finish bodes well for a team that has historically struggled to land big titles as a group to back up Engelhardt's marquee performances.

Sophomore Aelo Curtis, junior Tiffany Sax and sophomore Melanie True have begun to look like an increasingly strong supporting cast for Engelhardt ever since the team's second-place finish at Clovis.

"Going into Clovis, we didn't know we were going to place second at all," Engelhardt said. "Just the fact that we're running faster in practices than before Clovis really gives us a lot of confidence."

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