Santa Clarita youth cross country club sending runners to USATF Junior Olympics championships

Racers take part in the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics Regional Cross Country Championships on Sunday, Nov. 19, at Central Park. Photo courtesy of Elaine Bingham, Santa Clarita Storm.

Last Saturday, five Santa Clarita Valley cross country teams advanced to the upcoming CIF State championships in Fresno.

It’s evident the valley serves as a hotbed for cross country and many of its prolific runners began running with the Santa Clarita Storm, the area’s youth track club.

The Storm had a sensational weekend of their own at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics Regional Cross Country Championships, which were for the first time hosted at Central Park.

For qualifiers, like Sunday’s, the Storm pools with the Valley United Striders, which takes runners from across the San Fernando Valley. Competing against the top youth teams from Southern California and Las Vegas, the Striders advanced 14 teams to the USATF National Junior Olympics Cross Country Championships in December in Tallahassee, Fla.

The Striders will advance 110 runners to the national championships, with 31 coming from the storm. The Striders’ girls and boys teams from age groups 8-and-under, 9-10 and 11-12, which have A and B teams as well, all advanced to the national championships. They also advanced their boys and girls teams in the 13-14-year-old age group, which don’t have B teams.

“Every year we’ve advanced some of our B teams, but we’ve never advanced this many teams to the next stage,” said Storm coach Elaine Bingham. “It was an amazing turnout. The kids work so, so hard.”

Their over 700 runners which pool into the Striders, essentially an all-star team, and those runners compete for spots on the team weekly.

Last year, the Striders’ girls and boys 8-and-under and 9-10 age groups took first place at the national championships. Their boys teams finished third in the 13-14 division with the girls team in sixth place.

Having the qualifiers at Central Park was especially momentous for Bingham, who helped developed the course when it was just a corn field.

“It meant a lot to be able to showcase the course,” Bingham said. “People who came in from San Diego and Las Vegas had a lot of great things to say about it. We think it stands up as one of the best courses in Southern California.”

Hector Martinez was one of the top finishers out of Storm racers, finishing eighth in the boys 13-14 age group. Isabella Duarte brought home ninth in the girls 13-14 age group.

The national championships will be held on Dec. 9 at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee.

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