FRESNO — The CIF State Division I girls race had national championship implications.
Great Oak High School was favored as the fifth ranked team in the nation and Buchanan seventh. Even after the tragic school shooting, Saugus was ranked 22nd in the nation. Then add the Monache girls into the mix.
“It does not get any tougher than this,” said MHS head coach Seth Ishida. “It is the best state championship race in the country. We were honored to qualify for this race.”
Monache had to be Central Section champions in Div. II in 2017 and runner ups in 2018 just to be promoted to Div. I. The girls had to beat McFarland, Clovis West, and Clovis North to get here.
On Saturday at Fresno’s Woodward Park, the Marauders ran an inspired 5,000-meter state championship race.
There were three personal records with the biggest surprise being Marina Barragan running in the front for a personal record in her mile at 5 minutes, 41 seconds on her way to 59th place with an 18:51.3.
“It was hard,” she said afterwards. “Painful but you know what? The ladies here are so great, that if I could be with them, I’d be great too.”
Barragan removed 39 seconds from her second-team all-Valley performance a week before and tied teammate Aislin Taylor for the third fastest time in Monache girls history on the course behind former Marauders’ JoJo Zorn and Marilou Ruiz.
“That was my best run,” Barragan said. “And it’s all thanks to them. If it wasn’t for them or my team, I wouldn’t have done that. I’m so thankful.”
Back at the state meet for the second year in a row, Barragan said she felt “blessed” and hoped she made her team and former teammates proud.
“It feels great. I feel blessed for being here, especially with the girls we have right now. But like I miss the other girls that were with us last year. And I just wish they were a part of this. But I’m glad to represent them. I think I made them proud today. Some of them are here too, so I’m happy about that,” the senior said.
Still trying to catch her breath seconds after her finish, Barragan said her body was sore but it was worth it.
“The entire team ran their hearts out from wire to wire, in real-time scoring at the mile mark ahead of Davis, Arroyo Grande, Dougherty Valley of the North Section and Del Norte of San Diego,” Ishida said.
Aryanna Guzman had another great personal record to come in at 119th with 19:40. “She is our captain and leads by example,” Ishida said.
Alexa Queenan was third on the team with a PR in her first mile under six minutes on her way to 138th place with a 20:00 5K — 40 plus seconds faster than her old PR.
Chanel Bradley was the fourth scorer, coming in 156th with a time of 30:37. “Chanel fought for every place during the race, out kicking a competitor by .3 seconds at the finish,” Ishida said. Salma Ramos was the fifth scorer and turned in a solid run of 20:49 for 162nd.
“Aislin Taylor was not feeling well, yet put in an effort that would remind me of some of the heroic things I have seen in the Army,” Ishida said. “Her legs gave out and she stumbled at the end of the race, went down, and still managed to get across the line. She gave every last bit and could have given up, but she didn’t.”
Taylor managed 164th in 20:56. It was a true moment of valor.
Monache’s youngest runner, Sophia Mendoza, gained valuable experience with an excellent PR of 21:28 for 177th.
“I could not have asked for more from these girls all year long,” Ishida said. “They did everything I asked of them and more. The most important thing is for them to know how much I have enjoyed being around them. They are the hardest working athletes that I have ever had the pleasure to coach. I will miss our four seniors Marina, Aryanna, Alexa and Salma. What a way to graduate. It was an historic season.”
Monache finished 19th in Div. I. It’s the highest place a team, male or female, for that division in the history of the city of Porterville. Buchanan pulled off the upset for first with 67 points ahead of seven-time champion Great Oak of Temecula at 71 points. Saugus finished with 130 points for third.
From Summit Charter, freshman Alexa Gomez placed 155th with a time of 22:37 while teammate, sophomore Demaree Lewis, was 162nd in a time of 22:48.