Wildcats and Indians exceed expectations at Asics Clovis Invitational

West Ranch's boys cross-country runner Dylan Gatua runs with the pack in the 5,000-meters varsity boys Championship race at the Asics Clovis Invitational at Woodward Park in Fresno on Saturday. Photo courtesy Margaret Reilly

West Ranch boys cross-country runner Dylan Gatua was put in an unusual position at the Asics Clovis Invitational held at Woodward Park in Fresno on Saturday.

The junior runner was selected as the only Wildcats boys runner to take part in the 5,000-meter boys Championship race, which featured top boys runners like Newbury Park’s Nico Young and a slew of other talents, without his teammates by his side.

“It was a new situation that I wasn’t accustomed to. I’ve always been fond of big races,” Gatua said. “I just went through the race like it was another day at work and I wanted to stay composed and calm throughout the entire race.”

Having ran the course before, Gatua stayed on track throughout the race, buying his time until he could give a good kick in the final stretch of the race.

Gatua finished in 27th place in 15 minutes and 35.4 seconds, while Young won the race in 14:28.9, a full two seconds ahead of runner-up, Highland’s Leo Daschbach.

“This race was a little faster than what we are accustomed to,” Gatua said. “Of course having some great talents in there and having a lot of good people to push you, but that’s what you live for. That’s why you run, to be pushed by the best and I’m just happy to be in that race.”

While Gatua raced in the championship, teammate Hunter Romine paced the rest of the Wildcats boys team in the 5,000-meter XL School race, recording a top 20 finish, coming in 15:58.7 for 15th place.

Felix Breitbach (16:35.8) and Brandon Arana (16:40.8) finished behind Romine in 45th and 56th place, respectively.

Johnathan Mendoza placed 90th, Barton Pida 123rd and Sean Gatua 148th to help the boys team finish ninth out of 32 schools.

“The boys did not finish as well as they could, to be honest,” said West Ranch head coach Cyndi Hoelzel. “They had an off day, but we will rebound. I’m not worried about it, they are not worried about it.”

The relatively young Hart boys team had the highest finish of the Foothill League schools, finishing in fourth place in the 5,000-meters Large School race.

A pair of juniors, Joseph Ahart and Jason Lucero contributed, finishing in 16:22.1 and 16:35.1 for 23rd and 37th place, respectively. 

Sophomores Jaden Wiley (48th), Carson DeSpain (70th), Zachary Chan (103rd) and Davis Bos (121st) all recorded sub-17:30 times. Nathan Guyton finished 153rd for the Indians.

The Indians girls team also participated in the 5,000-meters Large School race and finished in 25th.

Kaitlyn Rivadeneira had the highest finish for the girls, coming in 66th place in 20:33.3, while sophomore Anette Brecko and Brielle Wiley finished inside the top 120 runners in 112th and 118th place, respectively.

Alexis Garcia came in 122nd, Miriam Cuellar 167th and Laura Valadez 195th.

Ranked No. 8 in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 rankings heading into the race, the West Ranch girls team finished 19th in the 5,000-meters girls Championship race.

Senior Abigail Welch and Hayden Washington worked together to finish 69th and 72nd to guide the girls team to the finish.

Welch finished in 19:10.8 and Washington in 19:16.1, a new personal record.

“I really liked the way Abbey and Hayden were able to work together, even though it was a very large group, and be able to finish very close to each other,” Hoelzel said. “I’m actually exceptionally proud of Hayden. She’s a sophomore and she ran a big race and she actually did a PR for the course.”

Tracy Sterkel (20:12.3), Jessamine Jin (20.14.9) and Shefali Breitbach (20:37.8) finished 110th, 112th and 127th.

Olivia Bates finished 144th and Leah Pastorio 149th.

The Foothill League finals are looming and will be held on Saturday, Nov. 2 at Central Park.

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