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December 1, 2021

Gilroy’s Ruelas repeats as Pacific Div Champion

Even after winning the Monterey Bay League Pacific Division Cross Country championship last year, Monica Ruelas didn’t feel victorious as she crossed the finish line. But after repeating as Pacific Division champion Oct. 31 at Toro Park in Salinas, the Gilroy High junior was elated.
“Trying to win it for the second straight year, I felt determined and really excited,” said Ruelas, whose time of 21 minutes, 8 seconds easily beat second-place finisher Ariana Locsin of Monte Vista Christian by 20 seconds. “I’m feeling really confident in the way I’m running. I’m more experienced now and just more confident.”
Ruelas will be running in the Central Coast Section Champ-
ionships on Nov. 14 at the famed Crystal Springs Course in Belmont.
“I want to make it to state real bad, so yeah, I’m ready for CCS,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about state for a while.”
Christopher senior Natalie Filippi finished third in 21:29 to secure a berth in the
CCS Championships.
Although Filippi didn’t run a PR (personal-record), she was satisfied in her performance, knowing she had given everything she had. The runners in the field dealt with tough conditions, with temperatures hitting a high of 82 degrees—not exactly conducive for PRs.
“It’s not fun when the sun is beating down on you and you have to run hard the whole way through,” Filippi said. “It’s usually cooler here, and I wasn’t expecting the weather to be this hot. I’m glad it’s over. I felt like I pushed myself because at the end I was really tired and had a hard time breathing.”
Christopher coach Bill Ripple told Filippi just before the finish line that she was going to CCS, which gave the four-year varsity standout a bit of extra energy to finish strong.
“Natalie is all guts and determination,” Ripple said.
Gilroy’s Karla Lozano, Aida Olmos and Bethany Soriano finished 12th, 22nd and 28th, respectively. Christopher’s Isabella Jimenez, Natalie Green and Lucero Cortes placed 24th, 30th and 31st, respectively.
In the boys competition, Gilroy will be sending three of its athletes—Jonathan Viveros, Jose-Tony Barradas and Jesus Sanchez—to the CCS Championships. The trio finished fifth, sixth and eighth, respectively, spearheading a strong team effort. The Mustangs’ top six runners finished in the top 20, as Ruben Perez (15th), Braulio Campos (19th) and Eric Heiser (20th) helped Gilroy to a second-place team finish, just three points behind Pacific Division champion Watsonville.
Viveros and Barradas had near-identical times—Viveros finished in 18:02 and Barradas in 18:03—and the two just happen to be cousins. The two stayed together on the 3.0-mile course, and it paid off in a big way. Knowing they had to start conservatively and finish fast, Viveros and Barradas did just that, passing several runners in the last half of the race.
“Our coaches have been training us to not go out as hard (at the start),” Barradas said. “We tend to go too hard in the beginning and die off once we hit the hills. Today we kept our pace and it helped a lot because once we came down (the hills) we were passing everyone, and it gave us a lot of confidence.”
Viveros and Barradas have been pushing each other for a while. They have a competitive rivalry, connected by a bond to help each other improve and get faster.
“I know my cousin can always keep up with me,” Viveros said. “We’ve been running together (and against each other) since middle school.”
Viveros attended Solorsano Middle School and Barradas South Valley Middle School. Viveros said the two have come a long way since their middle school days.
“In the sixth grade I sucked. I was the kid carrying the water bottle,” Viveros said. “He was more of the kid who did soccer. Then he got more into soccer and I took up running (more seriously) in the eighth grade. Then we both started running together again in high school, so it was a big change going from competitors
to teammates.”
The race was a redemption of sorts for Barradas, who had stomach issues a year ago and finished in 71st place in 19:12.
“I’m satisfied with how the race turned out,” Barradas said.
The Christopher boys qualified for CCS despite finishing fifth in the Pacific Division. That’s because a team from every division from each league championship earns an automatic spot into the CCS Championships, and the Cougars were the only team from the Division II classification from the Pacific.
“It’s nice for the seniors to be able to participate in their final year and great for the underclassmen to be able to compete at that level so they get that (CCS) experience,”
Ripple said.
Christopher’s top finisher was sophomore Austin Hudson, who took 24th. Alejandro Diaz (27th), Andres Vega (28th), Gabriel Campuzano (32nd), Andre’ Selby (34th), Alex Partida (38th) and Jacob Buchner (41st) rounded out the team scoring. For Ruelas, running cross country represents her desire to achieve her potential in every phase of her life.
Ruelas has a tremendous emotional bond to the sport because her older sister, Maritza, who is now running for Colorado Mesa University, was a standout runner at Gilroy and Hartnell College. Growing up and even to this day, Monica has viewed Maritza as a role model.
“If it wasn’t for my sister or my mom (Silvia), I wouldn’t be running,” Ruelas said. “They mean everything to me. Maritza and I are really close. Our relationship has grown as the years pass by. I’m trying to follow in her footseps.”
Ruelas hurt her back leading up to the race, but that didn’t prevent her from finishing strong in the heat.
Ruelas will have to summon up an even better performance in the CCS Championships if she wants to make it to state, and she’s never been more confident in her abilities than she is now.
“My sister is coming down to visit on the 22nd (of November), and I’m really hoping to make it to state because I want her to see me run,” she said.

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