The Calhoun Yellow Jackets cross country teams have emphasized running in a “swarm” all season, and that mentality paid off with a region title and a region runner-up finish on Tuesday.
The Calhoun boys had several runners finish closely together, all in the top 17, at the Region 6-AAA Meet at the Resaca Battlefield Tuesday to earn a region crown, and the Lady Jackets followed the same strategy with their top five runners placing in the top 19, to come in second-place as a team on a tiebreaker to Coahulla Creek.
Calhoun coach Justin Lindsey said both of his teams performed well and stuck to the strategy they have developed throughout the season.
“One of our goals every year is to compete for a region and state title, and we really push for that,” said Lindsey. “Finishing as region runner-up the past few years for the boys has really left a bad taste in our mouth, but now that we’ve got the one (a region title), I think that will set the tone for the program the next few years. These guys really bought into ‘swarm’ running, and they showed that today.
“Our girls all gave 100 percent today, and considering the injuries and changes to the lineup this season, to finish as runner up on a tiebreaker by one place is very impressive to me. I think as a group, the girls ran their best race today, and I’m extremely proud of them.”
The Jackets were led by Felipe Barrios and Brody Blalock, who finished back to back in sixth and seventh, respectively, with times of 18:13 and 18:17. Julio Lopez was next up in 11th with a time of 18:35, Jonathan Santana followed in 14th with an 18:48 and Francisco Pena completed the team score with a 17th-place finish and a time of 19:15. Calhoun’s sixth runner was also close behind as Ben Tow took 19th with a 19:21. Calhoun finished with a team score of 55 to take first over Coahulla Creek (72), Sonoraville (80) and Murray County (101).
Barrios, a freshman, said he was really happy with his performance and the performance of the entire team to bring back the region crown.
“I’m really proud of myself and all the hard work I put in paying off,” said Barrios. “I put that work in for my team, my family and God, and today was a really good day at Region. To be a part of a team that wins the region my freshman year is incredible. I’m so proud of our team. We all are a family, and we are really there for each other. All our hard work that we’ve put in together paid off with this region title. Now, our goal is to go to State and win it. We believe in ourselves, and we want to be the best. We’ve been working hard to be on that level, and now we get to show it.”
The Phoenix made program history as the first team to qualify for the state cross country meet in either girls or boys competition. They were led by John Graves, who finished in 10th with a time of 18:27. A trio of Sonoraville runners came in shortly thereafter with Nahum Trenti taking 12th (18:39), Spencer Ford finishing 15th (19:03) and Maurilio Segura coming in 16th (19:12). Ben Stewart rounded out the third-place team score with 27th-place finish (19:59).
“I’m just so excited for the boys,” said Sonoraville coach Butch Burch. “They have improved all season long, and we set it as a goal back when we started to go to State as a team. We’ve held that as a goal all year, and they’ve worked hard to achieve it. I always say that practice and training is the adventure and race day is a celebration. Today, for our boys to be the first varsity cross country team in the program’s history to qualify for State, this is a big celebration.”
In the girls’ race, the Lady Jackets finished with a team score of 51 along with Coahulla Creek, forcing the tiebreaker to go to the higher-finishing sixth runner for both teams. The Lady Colts edged it out on the tiebreaker as their sixth runner finished 22nd, which was one spot ahead of Calhoun’s sixth runner in 23rd.
Calhoun’s top finisher was Adamariz Perez in third individually with a time of 22:24, and her teammate Mari Morales took fifth with a time of 22:40. Ashley Jaramillo was the third Lady Jacket to place in the top 10 in eighth (22:44). Teresa Nguyen (16th, 23:37) and Emily Driscoll (19th, 24:08) completed the team score. Angie Peguerosa finished 23rd for Calhoun with a 24:34.
Sonoraville’s Riley Triplett had an impressive individual performance to finish third with a time of 22:22 to qualify as an individual for the State Meet. She is the second Lady Phoenix ever to qualify for State.
“This is such a blessing,” said Triplett, a freshman. “To work hard and see it pay off is great. To do it as a freshman and get the chance to go to State to represent my team and my school is a huge honor. Just being able to run at State against the best competition and wear your team colors is something I am extremely proud to get to do. Plus, doing what I love and doing it all for God’s glory makes it even more special.”
“Riley is the type of kid that comes out every day, no matter if it is a practice or a meet, and gives everything she’s got,” said Burch. “She has improved in every race this year. She’s the kind of kid that comes around once in a coaching career, and she achieved her goal today of qualifying for State with a third-place finish. She’s an impressive runner as a freshman so I’m really excited to see what lies ahead for her over the next few years. She is going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
Murray County’s Jesse Martinez was the individual region champion in the boys’ meet with a time of 16:46, and Bremen’s Grace Clements took the individual title for the girls with a time of 20:33.
The team and individual qualifiers will now have a week and a half to get ready for the Class AAA State Meet at Carrollton next Saturday. The Class AAA boys race will start at 9:30 a.m., and the Class AAA girls race will follow at 10:15 a.m.