SEELEY — For the first time in more than 11 months, a high school athletic competition was held in Imperial County as the Imperial Valley League cross-country season got under way at Sunbeam Lake here on Saturday, Feb. 20.
Three separate dual meets were held, with Calexico taking on Brawley in the first race, followed by El Centro’s Central against Southwest, and Holtville against Palo Verde of Blythe. Start times for the dual meets were staggered to allow for a more controlled environment as part of the COVID-19 protocols.
“The smiles on the kids’ faces reflected a sense of accomplishment that we finally got here,” said Gerardo Lara, Holtville High’s longtime cross country head coach. “We were finally back running and competing again, and everyone, from the kids to the coaches and administrators, all felt good about what we were doing.”
The biggest reason to smile for the Vikings was the amazing time put up by senior Alan Jimenez. With hopes of earning a college scholarship, Jimenez trained during the time no high school sports were being played to be ready in case there was a cross-country season.
The training showed as he finished the 3.1-mile course in 16 minutes, 18.51 seconds. His time was more than five minutes faster than the nearest runner in his dual meet and more than 1 minute, 30 seconds faster than anybody else who ran in any dual meet on Saturday.
“I knew he was going to do well, and he ended up improving by 12 seconds over his last 5-kilometer time,” Lara said about his top runner. “He ran by himself today and still posted that time. When he gets challenged, I think he’s ready to break the 16-minute mark and go well below that by the time the season ends.”
The Vikings won the boys’ race against Palo Verde, 25-30, and the Holtville girls’ squad beat the Yellowjackets, 20-35.
Vikings’ freshman Lilian Strahm surprised the field with a first-place finish in her first high school competition on Saturday, completing the course in 22 minutes, 51.34 seconds.
“She had been training throughout the preseason and is a very disciplined, hard-working young lady,” Lara said. “I anticipated her doing well but she exceeded our expectations.”
Strahm said she just wanted to give a good effort.
“I wasn’t nervous until right before the race,” Strahm said. “I was thinking I’m just going to go out and do my best. My sister, Amelie (a member of last year’s cross-country team), worked with me and we’ve been training.”
Results from the boys’ dual meet were:
Alan Jimenez, senior, Holtville (16:18.51)
Javier Hurtado, junior, Holtville (21:33.10)
Jarred Randall, junior, Palo Verde (21:39.59)
Rio Albanez, sophomore, Palo Verde (21:52.71)
Diego Rios, sophomore, Holtville (22:09.98)
Jared Hull, freshman, Palo Verde (24:12.04)
Gannon Strahm, freshman, Holtville (24:16.31)
Madden Dowling, sophomore, Palo Verde (27:31.30)
Athan Escamilla, sophomore, Holtville (37:37.00)
Results from the girls’ race were:
Lilian Strahm, freshman, Holtville (22:51.34)
Amanda Strahm, senior, Holtville (24:20.03)
Savanah Hedge, senior, Palo Verde (27:16.80)
Lesley Sandoval, junior, Holtville (27:38.94)
Jacqueline Sanchez, junior, Palo Verde (28:13.93)
Danytza Sandoval, junior, Holtville (30:01.25)
Melissa Torres, senior, Holtville (30:22.56)
Jasmine Vasquez, sophomore, Palo Verde (30:59.39)
Jorgensen Heidi, freshman, Palo Verde (32:47.53)
Summer Hedge, junior, Palo Verde (33:23.13)
Kiarra Higginson, freshman, Palo Verde (33:35.91)
Ellen Rodriguez-Velazquez, junior, Palo Verde (35:11.51)
Vivian Salazar, freshman, Palo Verde (35:54.01)
Mariel Estrada, junior, Holtville (39:31.30)
Kaylee Green, freshman, Palo Verde (44:27.00)
Holtville returns to Sunbeam Lake Park for a dual meet against Imperial at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27.
Calexico Sweeps Wildcats
The Bulldogs defeated Brawley in both the boys’ and girls’ races by walkover as the Wildcats didn’t have enough runners to register a score.
Frederico Felix had the fastest time of the dual meet, completing the 3.1-mile course in a time of 17 minutes, 40.67 seconds.
Results from the boys’ race were:
Frederico Feliz, senior, Calexico (17:40.67)
Daniel Pinela, senior, Calexico (18:20.48)
Ricardo Campos, senior, Calexico (18:22.80)
Joseph Taylor, junior, Brawley (18:48.53)
Dominic Kirkpatrick, senior, Brawley (19:33.81)
Jesse Hernandez, freshman, Calexico (19:56.53)
Damian Torres, senior, Calexico (20:02.46)
Luis Jimenez, freshman, Calexico (20:24.97)
Jacob De Santiago, senior, Calexico (21:23.71)
Esteban Esquer, sophomore, Calexico (22:16.38)
Carlos Hernandez, sophomore, Calexico (23:36.23)
Marco Esquer, freshman, Calexico (23:38.05)
On the girls’ side, Brawley was only able to field three runners and ended up forfeiting to the Bulldogs. When the race was run, the Wildcats’ Jaasiel Contreras crossed the finish line first with a time of 20 minutes, 49.07 seconds.