FRESNO - What a season it has been for the boys cross country team of Porterville High School.
Not only did the Panthers win the program’s first Valley championship with a first-place finish in last week’s Central Section Division IV Championship race but senior Jorge Sanchez ran his way to an individual Valley title.
On Saturday, the team returned to Fresno’s Woodward Park for one last race - the CIF State Championship meet. The Panthers didn’t finish as well as they wanted, placing 21st of 25 teams, but they competed.
“I know some programs treat this like ‘Hey, you made it! That’s good enough.’ But that’s not our mindset,” PHS head coach Juan Jimenez said. “Our mindset is, if you’re going to be here you’re going to compete. And that’s been our motto the whole year. You step onto that line, you’re going to compete.”
In his first and last cross country season with Porterville, Sanchez continued to lead the team. The senior placed 40th out of 210 runners in the 5,000-meter Div. IV race with a time of 16 minutes, 14.5 seconds - a personal course record.
“It was just like a lot faster than I expected it to be,” Sanchez said. “Just a little more painful. It was just crazy at the end. And then we got out really quick. A lot of shoving. It was just like, cause I’m new, I didn’t expect all of this. But I guess that’s part of learning when you’re new. It’s alright.”
Sanchez was able to start well and run with the front pack for most of the race. But with so many runners, some of his teammates weren’t able to start off as well. Coach Jimenez highlighted just how important the start is in a state race.
“You’re at the state meet where everybody comes in a big, huge mass,” Jimenez said. “Once the first couple of guys that are way out there come in, then it’s just a steady stream of kids. And if you get stuck in the back, oh boy, you’re in trouble.”
For Porterville, junior Ethan Rangel (17:36.1) placed 144th, junior Josh Meneses (17:49.7) 153rd, sophomore Joshua Jimenez (18:02.8) 164th, sophomore Misael Lopez (18:19.3) 177th and junior Luis Ortiz (18:20.2) 178th. Senior Firo Rodriguez ran a personal best 18:57.9 for 195th place.
“We brought ourselves back into the race,” coach Jimenez said.” Our numbers weren’t all that great cause we were in the 150s, a lot of our kids. However, again, you have to consider what kind of a race you’re in. … So that’s the part where we need to grow a little bit.”
With the state meet over, now it’s time for the Panthers to have some fun and celebrate an outstanding season.
“Now we’re just going to have some fun,” Jimenez said. “And well deserved fun. They’ve worked hard for this. I’m excited for what we’re going to be doing in the offseason.”
That offseason begins in two weeks. And while the Panthers outdid themselves this year, they have nearly everyone returning and they’re already looking forward to next season.
“We had fun,” Jimenez said. “It was an exciting, exciting season full of a lot of firsts. And I’d like to have a lot more first next year. Seconds, if you will.”
Lindsay’s Lionel Aguayo closed out his senior season with a 16:36.5 finish for 78th in the Div. III race. He dropped 18.8 seconds from his time at last week’s Valley championship race for a course PR.