CROSS COUNTRY: Gilroy’s Ruelas qualifies for CIF State Championships

Athena Alarcon heads down the final mile of the course Saturday

Emerging from the hills of Salinas’ Toro Park on Saturday, with
roughly 800 meters remaining in the Division I race, Gilroy’s
Maritza Ruelas received some encouraging words from spectators and
fans, as well as a key piece of information from one of her
coaches.
Emerging from the hills of Salinas’ Toro Park on Saturday, with roughly 800 meters remaining in the Division I race, Gilroy’s Maritza Ruelas received some encouraging words from spectators and fans, as well as a key piece of information from one of her coaches.

“I heard my coach telling me I needed to move up three spots,” Ruelas recalled.

It would have been all too easy for the Gilroy junior not to take the advice of her coach, what with the exhausting hills portion of the 3.1-mile course now complete, and roughly 10 to 15 of the best runners in the Central Coast Section running in front of her.

But Ruelas took the information in earnest, not knowing how close it would all be in the end. And it’s a good thing she did.

Moving up exactly three spots in the race, she said, Ruelas finished ninth overall at the CCS Division I Championships on Saturday and, most important, garnered the last qualifying spot toward the State Championships, which will be held at Fresno’s Woodward Park on Nov. 27.

It will be Ruelas’ second consecutive trip to the state meet. Although anything more than the 19:37 she clocked on Saturday would not have sufficed.

It was that close.

“I just run the race. That’s about it,” she said. “I’m not even thinking about what place I get.”

Individuals who qualify to state must first figure into the top 12. State-bound participants then include the top five individuals who do not compete on the top two teams, which, in this case, was an honor bestowed upon CCS champion Carlmont and runner-up Gunn.

What was left was San Benito’s Vanessa Estrada (4th, 18:58), Wilcox’s Lalida Maokhamphiou (6th, 19:21), Evergreen Valley’s Samantha Garcia (7th 19:30), Silver Creek’s Sonia Mannan (8th, 19:36) and Gilroy’s Ruelas, all of whom advanced as state-bound individuals on Saturday.

However, a bittersweet feeling swept over Ruelas after the race. Although she will advance to state, she will be Gilroy’s lone participant.

“I feel lonely now,” she said. “Some of the guys are gonna come practice with me. But they’re also moving on to winter sports. I’m gonna be all by myself.”

Making matters even more difficult to swallow, her teammate, Athena Alarcon, finished 10th overall in 19:37 — one spot behind Ruelas, although with a near-identical time (full times were not provided).

“Maritza was the fifth (individual) runner and Athena just missed it,” Gilroy cross country coach Cathy Silva said.

Alarcon was runner-up at the Tri-County Athletic League Championships two weeks ago at Toro Park, although Silva pointed out that among Ruelas, Alarcon and fellow junior Savannah Silacci, who finished 20th overall Saturday in 20:17, Gilroy’s top three girls are always alternating for the top spot on the team.

“We haven’t had the same person come in consistently for us,” Silva said. “They’re so close and their talent is so similar.”

On Saturday, it was Ruelas’ turn.

“She’s always running her best race at CCS, and she did it again,” Silva said. “She’s always peaking at the right time.”

Two weeks ago at TCALs, Ruelas clocked a 20:11 at the Salinas course. Her time at CCS on Saturday was approximately 34 seconds faster.

“I think what helped me was just looking ahead (at the pack) and trying to get closer and stay closer to the finish,” she said.

Ruelas later added, “That’s the best I’ve done this entire season.”

For Chelsey Kalata (78th, 22:41), Noemi Rivera (90th, 22:52) and Jessica Arciga (91st, 22:54), their times on Saturday at Toro Park were also season bests. The three rounded out Gilroy, which finished sixth overall in Division I.

The Mustang boys, meanwhile, took seventh overall behind Division I champion Bellarmine and runner-up Carlmont.

Gilroy was led by junior Kyle Collett, who finished 23rd overall in 16:39, some 27 seconds better than his performance at TCALs.

Timmy Williams was 45th overall in 17:10, while Humberto Gaeta (50th, 17:17), Jose Gabino Ramirez (51st, 17:18), Ryan Swenor (60th, 17:27), Jose Gerardo Ramirez (73rd, 17:45) and Enrique Villanueva (81st, 17:54) rounded out the team.

CCS — DIVISION I

BOYS

Team (Top 10 Only)

1, Bellarmine, 30; 2, Carlmont, 95; 3, Menlo-Atherton, 101; 4, San Benito, 123; 5, Salinas, 151; 6, Gunn, 161; 7, Gilroy, 215; 8, Alisal, 242; 9, Serra, 257; 10, Wilcox, 273.

Individual (Gilroy Only)

1, Miguel Vasquez, Andrew Hill, 15:51; 23, Kyle Collett, 16:39; 45, Timothy Williams, 17:10; 50, Humberto Gaeta, 17:17; 51, Jose Gabino Ramirez, 17:18; 60, Ryan Swenor, 17:27; 73, Jose Gerado Ramirez, 17:45; 81, Enrique Villanueva, 17:54.

GIRLS

Team (Top 10 Only)

1, Carlmont, 61; 2, Gunn, 100; 3, Palo Alto, 127; 4, San Benito, 136; 5, Alisal, 190; 6, Gilroy, 192; 7, Salinas, 195; 8, Leland, 213; 9, Silver Creek, 215; 10, Homestead, 215.

Individual (Gilroy Only)

1, Jessie Peterson, Carlmont, 18:23; 9, Maritza Ruelas, 19:37; 10, Athena Alarcon, 19:37; 20, Savannah Silacci, 20:17; 78, Chelsey Kalata, 22:41; 90, Noemi Rivera, 22:52; 91, Jessica Arciga, 22:54.

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