2011 Earthquake Invitational Preview by Coach Gustavo Ibarra

San Benito High School (Hollister) is proud to host their very first Earthquake Invitational! The meet is set for this Saturday, October 1st at the schoolís track complex and adjacent fields. The course is 5,000 meters and is mostly flat with some slight climbs and mostly dirt trails. The meet will have an open middle school race along with the traditional Frosh/Soph, Junior Varsity, and Varsity divisions. Although only 10 teams have signed up for the inaugural edition, the competition for top bragging rights will be quite competitive for both genders although some squads will be short-handed with school festivities as well as SAT testing. Most teams are from the CCS with a couple making the longer trek from the Central Valley.

For the varsity ladies we have a great toss-up dual set up between CCS teams Aptos and host San Benito. Aptos continues to be under-ranked at the start of the year but that will quickly change as they have put together a squad that could contend for top section honors, especially if they shore up their 5th runner. On paper they are ranked 11th overall in CCS but donít be fooled. They are coming off a nice run at Stanford and should fare very well if all of their girls run here today with a busy homecoming week for them. If Aptos is short-handed, San Benito, currently ranked 4th overall in CCS, will steal the show. They won Earlybird with the fastest squad of the meet award and will want to run hard at home. Both of these teams feature amazing front-running and look to have their 4th and 5th runners seal the deal for them. The Central Valley will counter with Madera South and McFarland. Madera South has been grouping very well lately and showed well at Stanford. They donít have the great up-front running but in a smaller meet they may win it with their pack running. McFarland has a historic state-wide tradition on the boysí side and the ladies will hope to shine here as well. They showed very well at their own invitational already with a great 1-5 spread. Christopher has quietly put together a good group at the new school in Gilroy and is coming off their first league cluster meet win. Leland has a great leader and will hope to place in the top 5 here. North Monterey County could also be in the mix if the squad is intact. Other squads that hope to show well include Notre Dame (Salinas) and Alvarez.

Individually, Nikki Hiltz (Aptos) has gotten 2011 off to a blazing start and can be currently considered the top runner in CCS! She continues her climb to elite levels after she blazed a 4:43 mile good for 3rd in state in the spring sport and has kept it going on the trails this fall! She debuted this fall at Earlybird with a blazing 17:44 that moved her to #2 all-time at Toro Park which has hosted many big meets and CCS championships. Last Saturday she ran a very fine 17:24 at Stanford which was the fastest by any CCS runner and 5th fastest out of the whole state-level meet! With a flat course here look for her to use her un-matched speed to run away with the win. Vanessa Estrada (San Benito) has already had to chase Nikki twice this season and did it in fine style at Earlybird cranking an 18:11 at Toro Park good for 12th all-time there! She is running on her home course today and will not have the hills where Nikki has pulled away in the past so weíll see if the 3rd time is the charm for the upset. Alyssa Johnson (Leland) was only 6 seconds back of Vanessa at Stanford and could contend also if the front two donít take notice. Clare Peabody (Aptos) hopes to surprise the older girls and should help lead a fierce chase pack. Sofia Rios, Daisy Jimenez, and Yasmine Felipe (Madera South) will work closely to lead their tight pack in true cross country team running. Carmen Hernandez and Veronica Garcia (McFarland) will also work together to spear-head their attack. Maura Forbush (San Benito) will go out hard and try to hang on to the front chase pack as will Alex Lathos (Notre Dame) and Meghan Morse (Aptos). Yulisa Abundis (Aptos) and Amy Quinones (San Benito) are some of the top 9th graders around and have boosted their teamís stock! Linda Delgado and Valentina Montano (North Monterey County) work well together for the Condors. Others to watch include Cynthia Gonzalez (Christopher) and Anessa Rashid (Madera South).

For the gentlemen we have a great match-up up-front with some traditionally rich programs that are staking claim as some of the best in the state as well as a historically un-matched squad. Division II power Madera South from the Central Section has been on a tear lately although the state rankings only show them at #9. Weíll let the cat out of the bag to the state rankers and let them know that Madera South is much better than their current ranking. They ran well at some early season meets in the valley and flew to the 2nd fastest time ever at Toro Park at Earlybird two weeks back. That performance alone puts them up with some of the best teams the state has seen the last few years from this region. And to cap it off, just this last Saturday, they ventured to the Nike Pre-Nationals meet in Oregon and placed a very impressive 2nd place among some great competition with a key scorer a bit off. If they click they could match up with almost anyone. They will run great here even with one key scorer out SAT testing. San Benito (Hollister) has a great friendly friendship with Madera South but when the gun goes off we will see quite a race between two teams that know each other very well. They have also been on the move in the elite ranks and will shine as the host team. They ran a great 81:28 school record team-time at Toro Park last week that moved them to #8 all-time and are coming off a big win in the Division I race at Stanford. The Balers are getting better week by week and feature a great inter-changeable crew that packs a strong 1-5 punch. They look to upset perennial section power Bellarmine down the road to stake claim as the top overall team in CCS as well as improving on their 10th place school-best showing at state in the very tough Division I field. Small-school super-power McFarland joins the party as the program that historically has shined the most. They have an incredible 9 state titles and enjoy a very rich tradition in the sport. Their success during the 90ís under was incredible enough to gain nation-wide attention and coverage. These three teams are the class of the field here and we may see 15-20 of their runners in the top 30 today. Leland has a good crew that will be holding off the rest of the field and could mix it up with McFarland nicely. They feature one of the individual favorites in the field that will help them up-front. Palma and North Monterey County will be shooting for a top 5 finish with Aptos, Christopher, and Alvarez rounding out the field.

Individually it could get very interesting with a group of runners that are not afraid to push the pace and have interchanged several times already this season. There are 4-5 runners in the field that could steal the show on any given day. Richard Ho (Leland) has the best credentials in the field and had a fine showing at Stanford running 15:49. He has been a force in the sport since he splashed on the scene winning Earlybird in 9th grade. He recently won that race for his 3rd title in 15:41 but was upset a week later at Chieftain on the same course losing by 4 seconds in a close head-to-head dual to newcomer Ruben Collins (San Benito) who blazed a 15:44. Ruben was a tad off at Stanford but should bounce-back here for the tie-breaker between the two. Jose Herrera (Madera South) will seek to up-end both of them coming off his very fine 15:49 5k at Portland Meadows. He runs hard early on and also has teammates Ismael Guzman, Juan Navia, and David Garcia to show off the purple and white up-front and to work together. That being said, Said Hernandez (San Benito) led his crew at Stanford and Steven Velarde has been great for the Balers and will add tons of red near the front. Jose Monireal (McFarland) will help lead his teammates Eril Garcia, Abran Ayon, and Danny Garcia to also add some red up-front. Our darkhorse pick is Omar Vasquez (San Benito) who struggled early on with some illness but is slowly rounding into his summer form. Jacob Calvillo (Leland) will also have teammates Sean Flaherty and Sean McCarsthy to help him shoot for a top 10 finish. Others to watch include Felix Cervantes (Alvarez), Andres Guerrero (North Monterey County), Colby Meyer (Aptos), Chris Chen (Palma) and teammates Johnny Corral and Ricardo Esqueda (San Benito).