West Ranch cross-country runner Alexis Fernandez quickly made a name for herself in the first month of her freshman year in 2018.
After placing top three in two out of her first three races with a second-place finish in the Freshman Division at the Fastback Shootout and third at The Master’s University Cross-Country Invite, Fernandez blazed her own path throughout the year being mentioned among the Foothill League’s best runners.
“It was incredible, but a little different,” Fernandez said. “Training is a little hard at the varsity level, but we slowly went to a higher mileage around 40 miles, but I’ve competed at the Junior Olympic level for many years so it wasn’t that much of a jump to compete against the same level of athletes.”
Accepting the challenge, Fernandez lived up to her expectations after being named the 2018 All-SCV Girls Cross-Country Runner of the Year.
“It’s such an honor because it showed that all the hard work that I put in with my team and my coach was all worth it,” Fernandez said.
Finishing in second-place at Foothill League finals at Central Park in Santa Clarita with a time of 18 minutes, 11.49 seconds, Fernandez admits that she didn’t really change much for CIF-Southern Section prelims and finals at Riverside City Cross-Country Course.
“We didn’t really change that much for regionals,” Fernandez said. “I just really enjoyed prelims and finals at Riverside because I like track more and it was a flatter course because I like speed over endurance so I really enjoyed the dirt course.”
Improving her time by 36 seconds, Fernandez finished the CIF-SS Division 1 finals in 10th-place with a time of 17 minutes, 14 seconds after running the course in 17 minutes, 50 seconds just a week earlier at CIF-SS prelims.
With her top 10 finish, Fernandez and the rest of the West Ranch girls team joined the West Ranch boys team qualifying for the state meet.
“We were unsure because we came into the race in eighth and we had to be inside the top seven, but we moved up to fifth-place with the finish,” Fernandez said. “We were all jumping for joy. My teammate Sophia was crying because it was her first year making it to state and that’s such a great accomplishment.”
At the state meet at Woodward Park in Fresno, Calif., Fernandez was the top finisher for the Wildcats, clocking in a time of 18 minutes, 18 seconds, good for 20th-place in the Division 1 race.
“It was a great experience because I got to compete with faster athletes who helped me improve my own races and training,” Fernandez said, “At that elite level it was a dream come true because those girls are the foremost athletes.”
Grateful to win the award, Fernandez hopes to continue her success during track season.
“It’s such an honor to be nominated and win the award because Santa Clarita Valley has the best runners and has such competitive leagues,” she said.
“I’m just excited for track season. I love the mile and the 800 and hopefully, I’ll keep working hard and my hard work will pay off.”
All-SCV Girls Cross-Country Team
Brooklyn Bendrat, Freshman, Saugus
Bursting on the scene in 2018, Bendrat was among the top five girls runners for the Centurions. She finished in fourth place at the Foothill League finals clocking in a time of 18 minutes, 25.71 seconds.
Jacqueline Cascione, Senior, Saugus
The veteran leader of the Centurions girls team, Cascione set the standard of what Saugus girls runner should encompass. She finished in seventh place at the Foothill League finals and was the fastest Foothill League girls runner in Division 2 at CIF-SS finals.
Isabella Duarte, Freshman, Saugus
Young and nimble, Duarte was able to turn heads after her sixth-place finish at the Foothill League finals. Finishing with a time of 18 minutes, 32.9 seconds at the state meet in the girls Division 2 race, Duarte was the second-fastest Centurion settling at No. 30.
Hailey Kirsch, Valencia, Junior
Kirsch was the top girls runner for Valencia and proved it by coming in first at the Foothill League finals with a time of 18 minutes, 3.26 seconds, finishing eight seconds faster than Fernandez. She finished 25th at the CIF-SS finals with a time of 17 minutes, 48 seconds.
Julia Pearson, Sophomore, Saugus
Finishing third at the Foothill League finals, Pearson was Saugus’ fastest runner of the day finishing 10 seconds ahead of the fourth-place finisher with a time of 18 minutes, 25.71 seconds. At the state meet, Pearson was the top finisher in Division 2 from the Saugus girls team, placing 12th with a time of 18 minutes, 10.1 seconds.
Abigail Welch, Junior, West Ranch
Finishing fifth at the Foothill League finals with a time of 18 minutes, 26.05 seconds, Welch churned in a time of 17 minutes, 59.8 seconds at the CIF-SS finals behind Fernandez and Kirsch. She finished 58th at the state meet in the Division 1 girls race.