The upward battle to state championships was won on Nov. 21 when the Bonita High School Girls’ Cross Country team made qualifications for the highest meet.
The battle was fought on none other than Mt. Sac, a famously tough course the team raced on less than a month ago. It is notorious for its killer hills, but those hills can be manipulated to the runners’ advantages.
“My plan is to go fast on the downhills. That’s what our coach has been telling us, and just race people and not worry about the time,” said sophomore Valerie Warner.
This week was quieter and more focused now that the seven girls are the only members left on the team. This is beneficial because they receive better attention from the coach and focus on themselves more.
Warner added, “It’s kind of cool because there’s less people around, so it’s more individual. It’s [also] kind of scarier because you know that it’s coming down to the wire.”
The pressure was set for the early morning race, but it was all relieved once the girls placed sixth and clinched a spot in the state championship.
Senior Kelsey Creese led the team as usual with 18:11.9, a five-second improvement since her last race at Mt. Sac. Creese is going to state for the third time in her high school career. Sophomore Alyssa Ward had major improvement of 24 seconds since her last race with a time of 19:08.3. Ward will cap off a fantastic rookie season with an appearance at state. Senior Alicia Villarreal finished at 19:34.3. Warner’s strategy worked this time with her improving five seconds since her last run at Mt. Sac with 19:50.6. In her last race on the course, senior Hollie Sedor finished strong with 20:14.9, 23 second less than last time. Junior Deanna Perez did well her first time on the course with 20:24.7. Junior Noel Del Toro finished out for the team with 21:48.6.
Anticipation took over once the race ended and the girls were uncertain if they made it or not. Eventually excitement filled the team when they found out about moving on from Coach Shalynn Johannson.
“All of us were gathered around right after the race and [Coach] Shalynn just walks up to us saying we made it and she started to cry. We all just started screaming and [had a] group hug and some of us started to cry because we just worked so hard for this. We were more excited than the team who got first!” Villarreal described.
The girls will compete on Saturday, November 28 in Fresno and will end a historic season with this being their second trip as a team since 2012.