Holtville High School senior Alan Jimenez (front right) gets ahead of the pack at the start of the Vikings’ Imperial Valley League dual meet against Imperial at Sunbeam Lake Park near Seeley on Saturday, Feb. 27. | CATHI PHILLIPS LARIOS PHOTO
(Updated on Wednesday, March 3, to include cross-country results from Tuesday, March 2.)
Gerardo Lara has been coaching athletics at Holtville High School for more than 30 years, and he’s been coaching Viking cross-country runners for some 25 years, yet he hasn’t seen many athletes like senior Alan Jimenez.
Jimenez has taken first place in of Holtville’s first three cross country meets this season, breaking the 16-minute mark on Saturday, Feb. 26, with a time of 15 minutes, 52.25 seconds in the 3.1-mile race.
“Alan is driven,” Lara said. “Of course, a lot of kids want the glory, but most kids don’t want to do the hard work and take care of the small details to be elite. Alan values his talent, and he values competition.”
Most 17-year-olds aren’t watching their diet and making sure they get enough rest each night.
“I’ve set goals for myself and my ultimate goal is getting under 15 minutes,” said the 17-year-old senior. “It’s all about my diet and training. As long as I fulfill what I need to do, I know I can get under 15 minutes. If that happens, that would be my biggest achievement. But let’s take baby steps, I want the (Sunbeam course) record first.”
The record for the course at Sunbeam Lake is 15 minutes, 43 seconds. Jimenez’s best time on the course came in late 2019 when the Imperial Valley League cross-country meet was there, and he posted a time of 15 minutes, 51 seconds.
The confident Jimenez said he thinks as long as he feels right, he can get the new course record within the next few races.
“I just want to go and give it my best, and I know I can get something close to the record,” Jimenez said after posting the best time by more than two minutes on Saturday. “It depends how I’m feeling at the race. Some days I feel amazing, and it feels effortless.”
Lara said the chance for Jimenez to watch fellow Viking Eddie Quintero a few seasons ago helped in his preparation. Quintero ran cross country and track and earned a partial athletic scholarship to California State University, San Marcos.
The longtime coach said Jimenez has next-level work ethic and can succeed at the collegiate level.
“Based on his enthusiasm and his drive, Alan can run at any college that’ll take him,” Lara said. “His body will mature at 18 or 19, and people usually run their best at age 21 or so. If his body continues to mature and follow the current trend, there is no doubt he’ll be successful at the college level.”
Jimenez didn’t let COVID stop his training even though high school athletics came to a halt a year ago. He continued to work with Lara and the coach’s son, Gerardo Lara Jr., through the summer months to be ready should a season present itself.
With his times, Jimenez should get a long look from several colleges.
“I’d prefer to stay in California. So far, most of the letters I’ve gotten have been from out of state,” said Jimenez, who recently got accepted to California State University, Fullerton for his academics. “College running coaches emphasize track times. They know courses are different, so they look at track times to evaluate runners.”
In Saturday’s race against Imperial, Jimenez’s closest competitor finished more than two minutes behind the speedy Viking. Even though Jimenez won the race, the Tigers beat Holtville, 23-38, in the team competition.
Other boys’ races from Saturday saw Central Union High defeat Calexico, 20-36, with Spartans’ senior Michael Zuniga winning the race with a time of 17 minutes, 27.93 seconds. Southwest got a walkover win against Brawley as the Wildcats didn’t have enough runners to record a team score. Eagles’ sophomore Steven Gomez won the race with a time of 18 minutes, 8.95 seconds.
On Tuesday, March 2, Holtville’s boys’ team didn’t have enough runners to record a team score and lost to Southwest. Jimenez again was the top runner of the day, posting a time of 16 minutes, 00.41 seconds.
Results from Tuesday were:
Alan Jimenez, senior, Holtville (16:00.41)
Miguel Ramirez, sophomore, Southwest (18:36.72)
Steven Gomez, sophomore, Southwest (18:40.04)
Mason Rogers, junior, Southwest (21:20.98)
Javier Hurtado, junior, Holtville (22:42.57)
Grant Becker, junior, Southwest (23:54.29)
Matthew Angulo, freshman, Southwest (24:17.74)
Gannon Strahm, freshman, Holtville (25:22.66)
David Magallon, freshman, Holtville (28:27.72)
Elijah Coenejo, sophomore, Southwest (30:14.68)
The other boys’ race held Tuesday, March 2, at Sunbeam Lake saw Calexico defeat Imperial, 23-32, with Tigers’ senior Aidan Vargas (17:52.66) edging the Bulldogs’ Jesse Hernandez (17:56.92) at the finish line.
Holtville freshman Lillian Strahm won her second consecutive IVL dual-meet on Saturday, Feb. 26, with a time of 20 minutes, 53.23 seconds, improving her time by two minutes over the previous week.
“I am optimistically excited about what we’ve seen from her so far,” Lara said about his top female runner. “She has shown a determination that has been amazing. Saturday, she stayed right with Imperial’s top runner and pulled away convincingly over the last 150 to 200 meters.”
Even though Strahm won the race, Imperial won the team score, 23-38. Results from the girls’ race were:
In other girls’ action on Saturday, Calexico defeated Central, 24-31, with Bulldogs’ junior Brianna Gallegos winning the race with a time of 22 minutes, 11.80 seconds. Southwest got a walkover win as Brawley failed to field enough runners to record a team score, but Wildcats’ senior Jaasiel Contreras won the race with a time of 20 minutes, 38.26 seconds.
On Tuesday, March 2, the Southwest girls’ squad beat Holtville, 19-36, in the third IVL dual-meet of the season at Sunbeam Lake. Southwest junior Sidney Garcia (20:48.33) snapped Strahm’s winning streak, edging the freshman by nine seconds.
Results from Tuesday’s race were:
Sidney Garcia, junior, Southwest (20:48.33)
Lillian Strahm, freshman, Holtville (20:59.25)
Geneva Garcia, junior, Southwest (24:59.69)
Julissa Vizcarra, junior, Southwest (26:20.27)
Adalie Espinoza, senior, Southwest (26:27.92)
Lucy Contreras, sophomore, Southwest (27:18.55)
Ashley Iniguez, senior, Holtville (28:18.82)
Danytza Sandoval, junior, Holtville (28:23.92)
Diana Acuna, junior, Holtville (29:30.35)
Maddy Singh, senior, Holtville (29:30.55)
Elizabeth Hernandez, freshman, Southwest (30:35.27)
Mariel Estrada, junior, Holtville (38:24.00)
The other girls’ race from Tuesday, March 2, saw Imperial edge Calexico, 28-29, with Tigers’ junior Natalie Lopez crossing the finish line first with a time of 21 minutes, 10.55 seconds.
The next round of IVL dual-meets is scheduled for Saturday, March 6, at Sunbeam Lake as Holtville takes on Brawley at 8 a.m., followed by Palo Verde of Blythe against Calexico at 9 a.m. and Southwest vs. Imperial at 10 a.m.