Cross country teams set eyes on CCS



At Natividad Creek Park in Center Meet #3, senior Harry Ordiano sprints up the last hill. The varsity boys placed first; the girls placed third. “It was an important meet, so every moment counted,” Ordiano said.

Alisal’s varsity cross country teams have seen much success in the past, and last year was no different.  The boys’ team finished in second place in the Salinas City Championships, racking up 55 points.  The girls’ team placed first with a score of 32 points.  Both teams averaged a placement between third to first place in the Gabilan Division of the PCAL and qualified for CCS.  

Coach Steven Munoz has high, but reasonable expectations for his squads.  “We always strive to be the best.  Sometimes we come up short, but we always push our training to not only be the best in the league, but also the best for ourselves (to be the best that you can possibly be in that given season),” Muñoz said.

Graduation hit the program hard on both sides.  “It definitely makes it a lot more difficult without the experience (from runners),” Muñoz explained.  The only returner to the varsity team for boys is senior Harry Ordiano.  Ordiano was sad to see former runners go because they were his friends.   “It was different to make new bonds (this year) because we have to be really close to the team,” Ordiano said.  

After learning his new teammates’ personalities, he said that they all meshed well for the most part.  The team has two other seniors – Jaime Tena and Brian Pedroza; two juniors – Erik Luna and Jason Medina; sophomore Gustavo Perez, and freshman Fernando Herrera.  They are the youngest squad in recent memory which means more work cut out for Munoz and Ordiano in passing down their wisdom.  

As a key component to the boys’ team, Ordiano not only shines as a mentor but as a competitor.  “With Harry being our only varsity returner, it really motivated and encouraged me to work hard,” said Tena because he knew he had to be more disciplined to help form an exceptional varsity team.  

Last season, the highest Ordiano had ranked was 2nd, with a constant placement of 4th-5th.  This season he is Salinas’ City Champion (for a 5k he ran a time of 16:55).  Ordiano has objectives of his own to keep his first place name and to be a leader.  “It’s a different atmosphere, the team needs guidance in order to find success together,” said Ordiano.   However, he gets pushed by his teammates, too, like Perez.  Munoz says, “Gustavo is right there on Harry’s shoulder.”  Munoz wouldn’t consider this a potential rivalry but more of helpful cooperation.  When Perez is passing Ordiano, or vice versa, he encourages him to keep up, even in practices.  The whole team works together which is what they need in order to reach CCS.

The boys placed first for Center Meet #1, second for Center Meet #2, first for Center Meet #3, and they won the City Championship. “For our boys, (we are) definitely shooting for the league championship and to make the state championship,” Munoz said. 

On the girls’ side, the varsity team is made up of mostly underclassmen: juniors Abigail Bustamante and Carolina Nava; sophomore Bethzi Velazquez; and freshmen Kelly Vaca, Angelica Murillo, Erika Castro, and Cecilia Campos.  

Their team strength of packing is really being showcased.  Muñoz admitted that this year his girls’ team has had “the tightest pack of runners” for a very long time.  Typically, times are spread out from 1-2 minutes apart between the first and fifth ranked girl.  The current spread is only 1 minute among all seven girls. “They’re able to work and push off of each other” because of their close times, said Munoz.

Bustamante, who ran 21:00 at the PCAL Championship last year, said she wants to hit sub 21s by the end of the season and stay on varsity. “I’m normally up there, but the freshmen are taking control right now,” she said.  Although Bustamante is  the most consistent at the front, according to Munoz, he also admitted the girls have been running most like a committee.  Building this relationship is what Bustamante has enjoyed this season and why she keeps coming back for more. 

Munoz also praised Nava for her strong running. “She struggled with injuries early, but has recovered and started showing her potential to be one of, if not the, top runners on our team.”

The girls finished fourth for Center Meets #1 and #2, but in Center Meet #3, they bumped up to third place.  They placed second in the Salinas City Championships.  “On the girls end, we’re looking at a top 3 finish at this point with where we’re at. I believe that we can definitely do that,” said Munoz.  

Due to great teamwork, Muñoz believes that both teams will make it to CCS.  “Right now both our boys and girls should qualify unless we completely just drop the ball,” Munoz said.  The top half of the league makes it to CCS, but in the worst-case scenario, the boys’ team all qualify as individuals.  For the girls, “It could go to any person, whoever has their day,” admitted Munoz.