The West Ranch boys cross-country team won its fifth consecutive Foothill League title this season and senior Wildcats boys runner Hunter Romine was at the forefront of the team’s accomplishment.
Kicking off the cross-country season with a fourth-place finish in the boys senior race at the Fastback Invitational with a personal record of nine minutes and 41.9 seconds in the two-mile race, Romine set himself up for a career year in his final go-around on the cross-country team.
“Putting a good time and getting fourth kind of gave me some confidence and momentum to carry out throughout the rest of the season,” Romine said. “I think that race gave me a good time, gave me a good place and kind of where I wanted to be, set up everything else and everything fell into place.”
Recording two back-to-back first-place finishes and setting two PR’s in two different races throughout the season, Romine never finished a race worse than 15th place to earn him the distinction of All-SCV Boys Cross-Country Runner of the Year.
“This is a very prestigious award, only one person gets it,” Romine said. “I’m just really excited that I was able to, in my senior year, put forth the season that I needed to and be rewarded with this accomplishment at the end of the season.”
During his junior season, Romine had an opportunity to learn and run alongside 2018 All-SCV Boys Cross-Country selections Evan Bates and Isaiah Seidman, who are currently freshmen running for Gonzaga University and the United States Military Academy, West Point cross-country team, respectively, and learned how to lead a team.
“This year, I just tried to help our boys stay focused, have some goals that we wanted to look forward too and keep the team upbeat and focused the whole time,” Romine said. “I wanted everyone to accomplish what they wanted to during the season and as a team, as a captain, as a leader just try to do everything that I can do to meet those goals at the end of the season.”
Finishing in second place at Foothill League meet No. 1, individually and as a team, only made Romine and the Wildcats even hungrier and more determined to place better at league finals.
Romine collected a top-five finish at The Master’s University Cross-Country Invitational and two top-15 finishes at the 2019 41st Asics Clovis Cross-Country Invitational and at the Riverside Invitational before league finals.
This time around at Foothill League finals, the last league race, Romine stayed focused and remembered his training to not only win the league title, but best his time by more than eight seconds, clocking in at 15:34.1.
With Romine’s finish, the West Ranch boys’ team earned its fifth league title in as many years.
“Coming down the home stretch, it was really emotional because I’ve known a bunch of people that have won the race,” Romine said. “I know this league is super-competitive so being the league champion was overwhelming and I was happy that I pulled it out.”
Romine advanced to the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 prelims at the Riverside City Cross-Country Course where he placed first in his respective heat in 15:20.8 to qualify for the finals the following weekend.
At CIF-SS Division 1 finals, Romine finished 15th and just missed out on qualifying for the state meet, but set another PR. He finished a full-six seconds better, in 15:14.8.
“I’m definitely happy to finish off my cross-country career with a PR, I was ecstatic about that,” Romine said. “I was a little bummed about not making it to state, but we don’t always have our best races, we don’t always have the best seasons. Pulling out the PR made my day. I was happy with the team’s performance, we all ran well. Even though our season may have not been all that we wanted it to, I was happy with how our team hit adversity and kept pushing through.”
Romine’s cross-country career may have come to an end at the CIF-SS Division 1 finals, but his perseverance throughout the season will carry into the track and field season as Romine hopes to make an impact on the team.
“I’m excited for track and being able to race people in my league,” Romine said. “Hopefully, get some new PR’s in the 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter and hopefully go far in those events.”
While Romine prepares for track and field season, the senior is waiting to hear back from West Point to see if he got accepted.
“I’ve been talking to the coaches for a while and that’s my goal,” Romine said. “If I get in, that’s where I’m going to go. Hopefully, I hear back from them in January. I talked to them and they said if I get accepted, then I’m in.”
All-SCV Boys Cross-Country Team
Dylan Gatua, junior, West Ranch
Continuing his successful West Ranch career in his junior campaign, Gatua was as consistent a runner as anyone by finishing top four or better in five races this season. Improving his Foothill League finals time by 3.3 seconds (he finished the first league meet in 15:43.7) for second place, Gatua set a season record at the CIF-SS Division 1 Finals with a time of 15:25.3.
Blake Gallardo, junior, Saugus
One of the Centurions boys leaders, Gallardo finished with two top three finishes at the two-mile Palos Verdes Mini-Meet in 10:24.3 and the Foothill League Finals three-mile race in 15:51.9 seconds. At CIF-SS Division 1 finals, Gallardo finished in 49th place in 15:40.2
Joseph Ahart, junior, Hart
Leading the revival of the Hart boys cross-country team, Ahart had his best fino fourth-place finsih in 15:31.2had his best finish of the season at the Asics/ Cool Breeze Invite with. At the first Foothill League meet, Ahart clocked a time of 16:03.6 and improved his time by six seconds to finish in fifth place at Foothill League finals. He advanced to the CIF-SS prelims and finals 14th and 55th, respectively.
Kyle Stevens, junior, Canyon
Stevens began the season with high hopes, but after teammate Freddie DeAnda went down with an injury, Stevens became the team’s most consistent boys runner. Stevens earned two top five finishes at the Asics/ Cool Breeze Invite and the Kenny Staub / John Barnes Invitational. He set a PR at the 2019 SCV Cross-Country Invite in 15:26.4 on his way to a first-place finish.
Jaden Wiley, sophomore, Hart
Wiley began the season with three top 25 finishes at the Great Cow Run, Asics/ Cool Breeze Invite and Foothill League Meet No. 1. He set a season record in the three-mile Woodbridge High School Cross-Country Classic in 15:35.7 before rounding out the Foothill League season in sixth place with a time of 16:05.2.
Frank Lofton, senior, Canyon
Lofton finished in 19th place in 17:06.9 at Foothill League meet No. 1 before improving his time by almost one minute a little under two months later at the Foothill League finals and finished in 16:11.3 for eighth place.