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Extra effort helps CHS take title at prestigious meet in Idaho

Claremont High School senior Alyssa Cantrell started out playing soccer, so she is accustomed to being knocked down. But that was soccer and now her passion is running cross-country.

However, last Saturday at the Bob Firman Invitational in Boise, Idaho, the girls elite 5k race started with a mass of 167 runners that quickly merged down to three columns, and then two. That is when Cantrell, whose legs felt “a little wobbly” before the race, stumbled and fell. But as she attempted to get up, someone knocked her down again.

CHS sports round-up

She got up and ran with a vengeance, setting her sights on one runner after another, determined to pass each girl. That big effort made Claremont’s day, because even finishing in 45th place at 19.04, the girls claimed the team title with 137 points, narrowly edging out Bozeman Montana, which tallied 140.

“When I fell, it knocked the wind out of me, it took half a mile to just to catch my breath,” Cantrell said.

“If she [Cantrell] hadn’t done that, we would not have won,” coach Bill Reeves said during practice on Tuesday at CHS.

Junior Sydney Hwang led the Claremont charge with her 10th place finish at 18:10 over the 5000-meter, 3.1 mile course. Behind Hwang were Azalea Segura Mora, 15th place at 18:16, Tess Rounds, 36th place at 18:59, Cantrell 45th and Angie Gushue, 50th place at 19:13.

The race included many top-ranked teams, so coach Reeves told his team to come out fast and go for a top-three podium finish. Their victory may have been a surprise, but it put the Pack on the radar and now the girls rank ninth in the nation.

Rankings for cross-country are calculated by Milesplit.com which is a nationwide news website for distance runners.

Athletic Director Mike Collins said it is the highest ranking of any Claremont team in any sport going back to at least 1994, when he started at CHS. Collins did note that Kori Carter was a number one ranked hurdler in 2010.

Hwang had to run in the shadow of teammate Annie Boos the past two seasons, but has emerged as the new leader of the girls team. She finished just 30 seconds behind the race’s winner, Mountain View Idaho’s Lexy Halladay.

Hwang fixed her eyes on Annie Hill of Glacier High School from Kalispell, Montana (their mascot is also the Wolfpack) and stuck with her the entire race. At the final turn Hwang made her move passing Hill, but the Montanan wouldn’t quit and narrowly won the sprint.

“That kind of fires me up,” Hwang said “I will have to work on my closing speed to make sure I don’t lose on the kick again.”

It took thirty minutes for the scores to be tabulated and Coach Reeves estimated that the girls had placed third.

“I was so shocked and surprised, I did not think we could win. We all started jumping up and down,” Hwang said. “I am really proud. It took every person to work hard to get that win.”

“It was a great day for the girls,” Coach Reeves said.

Hwang also credited Coach Reeves’ tough workouts with making the team both fit and focused.

The boys team took 13th place with Aaron Reyes leading the Pack in 53rd place at 16:23, followed by Adam Trafecanty, 68th at 16:33, Vicente Huerta, 84th at 16:41, Jeremiah Alarcon, 88th at 16:43 and Michael Carpenter, 114th at 16:56.

With both the boys and girls varsity teams in Idaho, it was up to their teammates to fill in locally at the Billy York Invitational in Riverside. But if those runners represented Claremont’s second tier, you would not know it from the results.

Claremont won team titles in the girls varsity A, JV boys, JV girls, frosh/soph boys and frosh/soph girls races. Boys varsity took the third place team title.

Claremont took two individual titles, with senior Kaitlyn Heckers winning the JV race and sophomore Mae Key Ketter winning the frosh/soph race. The Pack took 11 of the top 12 places in the girls JV race.

Coach Reeves planned to rest his top runners for the second Palomares League meet on Wednesday at Bonelli Regional Park to save their legs for the Clovis Invitational on October 7 and the league finals on October 28.

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com