Thursday, Nov 14 2013 10:37 PM

Stockdale, running with heavy heart, wins fourth straight SWYL title

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    East's Angel Valdez and Highland's Savannah Berry ran side-by-side for the early part of the SEYL girls race but in the end it would be Berry crossing the line first with Valdez finishing second.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Stockdale's Blake Haney (526) wasted no time getting to the front of the SWYL boys varsity race at Hart Park. Haney is one of the top high school distance runners in the nation.

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  3. 3 of 6

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    West High's Gustavo Del Castillo, left, leads the boys varsity cross-country race past brillant fall colors at Hart Park. Del Castillo held his lead and won the event.

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  4. 4 of 6

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Bakersfield's Maggie Baker wins the SWYL varsity girls cross-country race by a comfortable margin.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Driller Maggie Baker, center, leads the start of the SWYL varsity girls cross-country race at Hart Park. Baker would go on to win the event with Liberty's Morganne Hill, left, (519) finishing second. Centennial's Molly Pruett is #549.

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  6. 6 of 6

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Bakersfield assistant cross-country coach Sally Baker cheers on the start of the SWYL boys varsity race.

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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer

On the day of Blake Haney's final cross country race in Kern County, running was just about the last thing on his mind.

But Haney ran, and he won, as usual, taking the Southwest Yosemite League championship in 14:58 on Thursday on a three-mile course at Hart Park.

Related Info

Cross Country

League Championships

At Hart Park; 3 miles

Southwest Yosemite League boys

Team: 1. Stockdale 43; 2. Independence 75; 3. Bakersfield 77; 4. Liberty 81; 5. Frontier 88; 6. Centennial 140.

Individual: 1. Haney, S, 14:58; 2. Kan, F, 15:40; 3. Kelley, S, 15:53; 4. Lemminn, F, 16:09; 5. Morales, L, 16:16; 6. Gonzalez, I, 16:17; 7. Menchaca, I, 16:22; 8. Ramirez, I, 16:35; 9. Thompson, S, 16:41; 10. Hill, L, 16:42.

Southeast Yosemite boys

Team: 1. Foothill 25; 2. North 36; 3. Highland 83; 4. Garces 85; 5. Tehachapi 138; 6. East 182.

Individual: 1. Garcia, F, 16:02; 2. Magana, F, 16:26; 3. Lopez, N, 16:37; 4. Wanner, N, 16:39; 5. Lopez, N, 16:42; 6. Timmermans, F, 16:47; 7. DeLeon, F, 16:48; 8. Machado, H, 16:54; 9. Calderon, F, 16:59; 10. Franco, N, 17:02.

JV: 1. FHS; 2. THS; 3. NHS

FS: 1. FHS; 2. HHS; 3. EBHS

South Yosemite boys

Team: 1. West 32; 2. Ridgeview 37; 3. South 85; 4. Golden Valley 100; 5. Mira Monte 107.

Individual: 1. DelCastillo, W, 16:01; 2. Flores, R, 16:07; 3. Villanueva, S, 16:14; 4. Meneses, W, 16:16; 5. Moore, W, 16:29; 6. Moronez, R, 16:35; 7. Torres, R, 16:37; 8. Ramirez, S, 16:41; 9. Gonzalez, R, 16:42; 10. Lopez, W, 16:46.

JV: 1. RHS; 2. SHS; 3. GVHS

FS: 1. GVHS; 2. RHS; 3. SHS

Southwest Yosemite girls

Team: 1. Centennial 46; 2. Frontier 51; 3. Stockdale 62; 4. Liberty 66; 5. Indpendence 109; Bakersfield N/A

Individual: 1. Baker, B, 18:47; 2. Hill, L, 19:01; 3. Cortes, S, 19:08; 4. Klepacki, S, 19:23; 5. Jennilee Reyes, F, 19:27; 6. Jenessa Reyes, F, 19:30; 7. White, C, 19:34; 8. Pruett, C, 19:48; 9. Chumbe, I, 19:52; 10. Varner, C, 20:05.

Southeast Yosemite girls

Team: 1. North 47; 2. East 79; 3. Garces 89; 4. Highland 90; 5. Foothill 98; 6. Tehachapi 98

Individual: 1. Berry, H, 18:29; 2. Valdez, E, 18:57; 3. Penner, G, 19:14; 4. Silva, F, 19:34; 5. Pelzer, N, 19:45; 6. Thompson, N, 19:46; 7. Haycock, H, 19:57; 8. Marshal, N, 20:02; 9. Namey, T, 20:18; 10. Perrault, T, 20:30.

JV: 1. NHS; 2. GMHS; 3. EBHS

FS: 1. FHS; 2. GMHS

South Yosemite girls

Team: 1. Ridgeview 32*; 2. Golden Valley 40*; 3. Mira Monte 80; 4. West 88; 5. South 130

*Ridgeview and Golden Valley split team title

Individual: 1. Ayala, GV, 18:19; 2. Aguilar, R, 18:52; 3. Herrera, MM, 20:24; 4. Aguilar, GV, 20:48; 5. Moronez, R, 20:48; 6. Armas, R, 20:50; 7. Larios, W, 21:05; 8. Dimas, R, 21:13; 9. Garcia, GV, 21:36; 10. Estrada, GV, 21:41.

JV: 1. RHS; 2. GVHS

FS: 1. SHS; 2. RHS; 3. GVHS

Afterward, Haney took off his Stockdale singlet to reveal what was really on his mind -- and painted on his undershirt: "We Love Coach Johnson."

The Mustangs won their fourth straight league title but lost a member of their family Thursday when beloved assistant coach Bill Johnson died from a rare form of skin cancer in the morning.

"He means about as much as anyone to me," Haney said. "He motivated me, kept the pressure off of me. Just a great coach.

"Before, I didn't even know if I'd be able to race. I was breaking down pretty bad. But we've got a great group of guys and they calmed me down. I was just running for coach."

Haney, ranked as the nation's top high school distance runner by multiple running websites, will take an official recruiting visit to the University of Oregon this weekend. He said he's narrowed his college choice to Oregon or Stanford.

The Mustangs backed up Haney's performance with a third place from Keane Kelley (15:53) and a ninth from Tyus Thompson (16:41), another runner who was close to Johnson. Brandon Kan of Frontier was second in 15:40.

Now Haney and company will prepare for the Central Section championships next Thursday and the CIF State Championships on Nov. 30. Both are run at Woodward Park in Fresno.

"The big meets start Thursday," Haney said. "That's where my focus is."

Golden Valley's Mariah Ayala backed up her Kern County championship from Saturday with the best girls time of the day; she ran 18:19 to win the South Yosemite League title.

"I've been working this year on my consistency," Ayala said. "In other years, sometimes I wouldn't go to practice or I wouldn't run my hardest. This year, I'm trying as much as possible. It's paid off so far."

It was Ridgeview's girls, led by second-place Fernanda Aguilar (18:52), who edged Golden Valley 32-40 to force the teams to share the league title; Golden Valley earned its share by sweeping regular-season dual meets.

West High snapped the five-year reign of Ridgeview's boys team in the SYL. The Vikings edged the Wolf Pack 32-37 behind the individual championship of senior Gustavo DelCastillo, who ran 16:01.

"I'm more happy for the school and the team," DelCastillo said. "It shows we are a competitive team, and it makes me proud that West is up there. These guys are like my brothers on this team."

DelCastillo's victory was typical of the day's individual races: He pulled away from the pack in the first mile and then cruised, battling only the clock and his own fatigue rather than other runners.

"It's kind of tough when there's nobody in front of you," said DelCastillo, who ran 15:28 on the same course Saturday. "I just didn't feel any motivation."

It was a similar story for SEYL girls champion Savannah Berry of Highland, whose 18:29 was 28 seconds ahead of second-place Angel Valdez of East.

"You're just trying to hold on," Berry said. "It's hard when you're by yourself. You want to slow down or look behind you, but you have to keep telling yourself you can't."

North High won the girls SEYL team championship easily, with four runners placing in the top 12. The Stars cemented their title after sweeping the league's regular-season dual meets.

"There are so many good runners in our league individually that it was a dogfight all the way through," Stars coach Adam Dawson said. "Different girls stepped up at different times, and we were able to do it without a true No. 1-type runner. We have a real tight group, and we don't get bothered when we see a few people in front of us."

Bakersfield High sophomore Maggie Baker had gotten used to seeing a few runners in front of her at SWYL meets, but that all changed in the championship. She ran 18:47 to out-pace Liberty's Morganne Hill (19:01) and Stockdale's Vanessa Cortes (19:08). It gave Baker her first league title after older sister Sarah won four in her high school career.

"The league is so competitive that it was nice to see it all come together for me today," Maggie Baker said. "It was hard following my sister; it's tough to be compared to her. But she calls me before races and supports me. The other girls are super supportive, too. I've been lucky to have such support."

Centennial ended Stockdale's run of SWYL girls titles, scoring 46 points Thursday to Frontier's 51, Stockdale's 62 and Liberty's 66. The Titans snuck ahead of Stockdale into second place.

Abby White led the Golden Hawks with a 19:34 good for seventh place. Normal No. 1 runner Molly Pruett battled through illness and minor injury to finish eighth in 19:48.

"It feels wonderful; I'm so happy for the girls and how hard they've worked," Centennial coach Vondre Armour said. "Every race has been decided by just 4-6 points, and we knew today we had a target on our back. We've had some issues with sickness and injury, but we've had some girls switch out and hold their own."

Armour hopes Centennial can compete in the rough-and-tumble Division I race at next week's section meet.

Foothill's boys, on the other hand, think they have a chance to win the Division III meet. Chris Garcia ran 16:02 to win the individual SEYL title as the Trojans rolled to team victory, 25-36 over North.

Garcia collapsed shortly after the finish line, was helped to his feet and then struggled over to the water cooler with a smile.

"Oh, that last mile, if it wasn't for God, I don't think I would have finished," Garcia said. "I just kept saying, 'One more mile to go. One more, one more, one more.'"

It was the Trojans' first outright league title since 2006. They figure to compete with West and Ridgeview to challenge favored Fresno-Roosevelt in the D-III race next week.

"This has been going on, building, since a lot of these guys were sophomores," Foothill coach Paul Contreras said. "We dropped some of them down to the frosh-soph and JV level so they could run together. I'm really proud of these guys. All the credit goes to them."

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