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Providence's Montijo runs way to state competition in cross-country

Providence's Montijo runs way to state competition in cross-country
Providence High's Nick Montijo runs in the boys' Division V race at Saturday's CIF Southern Section cross-country finals in Riverside. (Raul Roa \ Staff Photographer)

RIVERSIDE — Providence High senior Nick Montijo had serious doubts about performing prior to the the CIF finals Saturday morning at the Riverside Cross-Country Course.

As he readied throughout the week to compete in the boys’ Division V finals as an individual, the Bellarmine-Jefferson transfer experienced problems with his shoulder, putting his hopes in further jeopardy.

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Montijo withstood his self-doubt and his injury to become the first Providence runner to qualify for the CIF State Championships next Saturday after running to an eighth-place finish with a time of 15 minutes, 45.2 seconds over the three-mile course.

“I was skeptical [of making state], but after my success in the prelims, I thought I had a chance,” said Montijo, who won his heat at last week’s preliminary race at the same course.

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“I just wanted to finish the race, go home and eat — most importantly.”

The state finals will be held at Woodward Park in Fresno and Montijo’s Division V race is slated for an 11:30 a.m. start.

While the Pioneers runner was able to advance, girls’ teams from Burbank and Burroughs and an individual Bulldogs runner saw their seasons come to an end in the CIF finals.

Burbank sophomore Andres Leon also competed as an individual in the Division I boys’ race, making his first appearance in the finals, which served as a valuable learning experience.

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The sophomore finished 103rd in 15:51.4.

“Today felt a little different because I was without my team and I was racing some really good guys,” Leon said. “I’m really glad I got to experience the finals, because now I can come back next year with my team and I can share the experience with them and I can use this to better myself in the coming years.”

For Burbank and Burroughs in the Division I girls’ race, it was an experience for the inexperienced.

Competing against powerhouses like Great Oak and West Ranch, the Pacific League champion Bulldogs and cross-town rival Indians saw improvement in the schools’ finals performances.

The Bulldogs finished 10th overall with 309 points, while the Indians placed 24th with 497.

“This [meet] shouldn’t be the focus,” Burbank co-coach Kathryn Nelson said. “They came out of the Pacific League winning all three races, all three divisions. That’s what we have to focus on — the positive things that we did.

“This is a good day, we moved up 10 places from last year, but the season, overall, we have to walk away very happy and not let this overshadow this.”

Burbank junior Sol Fernandez led the pack with a 41st-place finish in 18:10.3. A pair of Bulldogs sophomores, Mckynzee Kelley (59th; 18:27.5) and Elin Markarian (61st; 18:28.3), followed Fernandez, as seniors Shalom Mejia (85th; 18:45.4) and Jamie Levin (92nd; 18:51.3) rounded out the top five runners.

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“It’s a blessing to have a young team with seniors on it because you have girls with history and experience that can teach the younger ones and this group in particular, our 10th graders, is incredibly motivated,” Nelson said.

Making its third finals appearance in school history for the girls, the young Indians team saw sophomore Jordan Guzman lead the way with a 18:31.0 effort that was good for 63rd place.

“We finished 24th, some people will look at it as last, but that’s just a number,” Burroughs coach John Peebles said.

“The kids went out and performed to the best of their ability today. A couple of them had 15-20 second PRs today on the course, and that’s what we wanted them to do, go out and compete. It’s a good experience with a lot of kids coming back, so hopefully we can build upon this for the future.”

Freshman Sophia Navarro (87th; 18:49.4), senior Julianna Navarro (119th; 19:14.5), freshman Savannah Hernandez (121st; 19:14.8) and senior Lakely Nealis (137th; 19:31.1) compiled the top five for Burroughs.

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