The top 15 boys are ready to run at the Imperial Valley League Cross Country Championships at Sunbeam Lake near Seeley on Saturday, March 20. CATHI PHILLIPS LARIOS PHOTO

Nerves, Excitement Abound at IVL Cross Country Finals

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SEELEY — The first completed sport during this COVID-shortened school year has come to an end with the running of the Imperial Valley League Cross Country Championships at Sunbeam Lake Park on Saturday, March 20.

The IVL cross-country season was the first to start, with dual meets beginning on Feb. 20. Now, with Saturday’s championships, it is the first to be completed as there is no CIF-San Diego Section championship meet planned due to the pandemic.

Holtville High School freshman Lillian Strahm crosses the finish line two seconds ahead of Central Union senior Clarissa Gonzales at the Imperial Valley League Cross Country Championships at Sunbeam Lake near Seeley on Saturday, March 20. CATHI PHILLIPS LARIOS PHOTO

The IVL championships take the top-15 runners from the dual-meet season and combine them into one race. Placing in the top 10 at the IVL championships earns an athlete the All-IVL designation.

In the girls’ race, Brawley Union High senior Jaasiel Contreras was crowned IVL champion with her time of 20 minutes, 37.50 seconds over the 3.1-mile course. The IVL champion on the boys’ side is Holtville senior Alan Jimenez, who finished Saturday’s race in 15 minutes, 58.39 seconds.

“Today wasn’t my best run, but I made the best of it and did what I could,” said the 18-year-old Jimenez, who set the IVL course record a week prior with a time of 15 minutes, 40 seconds. “I give myself a C or a C-plus for today’s race. The hills got me a little bit, and I wasn’t feeling great.”

For not feeling great, Jimenez still won by nearly 80 seconds as the second-place runner was Central Union senior Michael Zuniga (17:17.36).

The rest of the All-IVL selections were: Central senior Pedro Carrion (17:37.54), Imperial senior Aidan Vargas (17:38.47), Southwest sophomore Miguel Ramirez (17:50.71), Southwest sophomore Steven Gomez (17:55.79), Calexico senior Ricardo Campos (18:07.44), Central senior Edgar Mendez (18:13.58), Calexico senior Federico Felix (18:25.06), and Imperial senior Victor Paniagua (18:27.34).

“I was feeling a little bit nervous before the race and a little bit overwhelmed because I knew this was my last race,” said the Bulldogs’ Campos. “It was emotional, and I just told myself to leave it all out there and not have any ‘What ifs?’”

The girls’ race was more contested than the boys, with six runners coming within a minute of Contreras, including Southwest junior Sidney Garcia (20:43.00), who was just six seconds behind the Brawley senior.

Calexico High senior Federico Felix leads a pack of runners at the Imperial Valley League Cross Country Championships at Sunbeam Lake near Seeley on Saturday, March 20. CATHI PHILLIPS LARIOS PHOTO

The rest of the All-IVL runners were: Calexico junior Briana Gallegos (20:58.17), Holtville freshman Lillian Strahm (21:09.36), Central senior Clarissa Gonzales (21:11.02), Imperial junior Natalie Lopez (21:22.90), Brawley senior Julitza Alvarez (21:26.46), Imperial sophomore Angelique Graham (22:22.25), Calexico senior Madison Longton (22:42.55), and Calexico junior Andrea Garcia (22:52.30).

“When I woke up today I was feeling lazy, but when we got here I was really excited and nervous,” said the Bulldogs’ Gallegos, who set a personal-best time by close to 30 seconds. “It was a really good race for me. I wanted to get in the top five, and I ended up in the top three.”

Results from the boys’ IVL championships:

Alan Jimenez, senior, Holtville (15:58.39)

Michael Zuniga, senior, Central (17:17.36)

Pedro Carrion, senior, Central (17:37.54)

Aidan Vargas, senior, Imperial (17:38.47)

Miguel Ramirez, sophomore, Southwest (17:50.71)

Steven Gomez, sophomore, Southwest (17:55.79)

Ricardo Campos, senior, Calexico (18:07.44)

Edgar Mendez, senior, Central (18:13.58)

Federico Felix, senior, Calexico (18:25.06)

Victor Paniagua, senior, Imperial (18:27.34)

Joseph Taylor, junior, Brawley (18:59.15)

Damian Torres, senior, Calexico (19:22.09)

Daniel Zavala, sophomore, Central (19:34.59)

Dominic Kirkpatrick, senior, Brawley (19:43.20)

Benico Cabanit, junior, Southwest (26:03.42)

Results from the girls’ IVL championships:

Jaasiel Contreras, senior, Brawley (20:37.50)

Sidney Garcia, junior, Southwest (20:43.00)

Briana Gallegos, junior, Calexico (20:58.17)

Lillian Strahm, freshman, Holtville (21:09.36)

Clarissa Gonzales, senior, Central (21:11.02)

Natalie Lopez, junior, Imperial (21:22.90)

Julitza Alvarez, senior, Brawley (21:26.46)

Angelique Graham, sophomore, Imperial (22:22.25)

Madison Longton, senior, Calexico (22:42.55)

Andrea Garcia, junior, Calexico (22:52.30)

Lilandra Padilla, sophomore, Brawley (23:53.52)

Amalia Cardona, sophomore, Imperial (24:14.13)

Elyssa Martinez, senior, Imperial (24:19.68)

Geneva Garcia, junior, Southwest (24:57.94)

Julissa Vizcarra, junior, Southwest (25:03.36)

The Imperial Valley League Cross Country Championships girls’ race gets started at Sunbeam Lake near Seeley on Saturday, March 20. | HOLTVILLE HIGH COURTESY PHOTO
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