Daily Pilot Boys’ Cross-Country Dream Team: There’s no breaking Fountain Valley’s Benjamin Prado

Fountain Valley's Benjamin Prado is the Daily Pilot Boys' Cross-Country Athlete of the Year.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

From his cool concentration on race preparation to his drive to win, there is no breaking Benjamin Prado, a junior cross-country runner at Fountain Valley High School.

Prado continues to progress, elevating his performance to the standard of a league champion this past season. Perhaps that is because he is constantly thinking about ways in which he can improve himself.

“[I am] always doing stuff to help me for the sport,” Prado said. “… You eat right, sleep well, and [do] extra stuff, like I do a lot of weightlifting, just get stronger to prevent injuries.”


His results were consistent and so was his demeanor — one that is a calming influence from a leader who galvanizes the rest of the Barons to push themselves a little further.

Fountain Valley's Benjamin Prado (855) competes in the Central Park Invitational boys' Section 1 race on Oct. 2.
Fountain Valley’s Benjamin Prado (855) competes in the Central Park Invitational boys’ Section 1 race in Huntington Beach on Oct. 2.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Prado, the Daily Pilot Boys’ Cross-Country Athlete of the Year, led the charge as Fountain Valley repeated as the champions of the Wave League. On a personal level, his time of 15 minutes 20.6 seconds bested not only those in the Wave League but the entire Sunset Conference as a whole.

“I get way more excited about Ben’s performance than he does,” Fountain Valley coach Steve Knowles said of Prado. “I’m sure inside he’s very happy, but he’s just kind of a quiet guy, but the team loves him.

“They look up to him, kind of worship the ground he walks on. When they talk about who’s fast, they start comparing with Ben.”

Fountain Valley beat Huntington Beach 24-44 for the Wave League title at Central Park in Huntington Beach, a venue at which Prado has experienced a great deal of success. He was third in 15:16.9 in the Central Park Invitational, but his older brother, Esteban, 21, topped that time, running 15:13.6 to win the Open Division race at the meet.

Fountain Valley junior Benjamin Prado (957) competes in the Dana Hills Invitational on Sept. 25 at Dana Hills High School.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The sibling rivalry is very much alive between the two, with Knowles jokingly questioning whether Esteban truly wanted to see Benjamin eclipse his high school times.

“Right now, I’m starting to close in on him,” Prado said of chasing down his brother’s times. “He’s close now. I’m thinking this season for track, I’ll probably beat him, so our rivalry is nice. He keeps me pushing. He helps me a lot training-wise.”

As a cross-country and track and field athlete, Prado still has significant time remaining in his high school career. In his junior cross-country season, Prado placed in the top 10 in six out of seven starts, while also crossing the finish line in under 16 minutes in every 3-mile race.

Huntington Beach’s Makenzie McRae leads the Daily Pilot Girls’ Cross-Country Dream Team for 2021.

Dec. 31, 2021

That included seventh-place finishes in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 preliminaries in 15:53.8 — a narrow miss for Prado as far as advancing to the section final as an individual — and at the Dana Hills Invitational, where he set a new personal record with a time of 15:00.2.

Prado professed that he is hungry to break 15 minutes.

“When I got that, I was like, ‘Wow, I was that close,’” Prado said looking back on the Dana Hills race. “I’m hoping that this season — the upcoming one — I’m going to go under 15 [minutes] as much as I can.”


Nate Miller

Sage Hill

Miller, the only coach that the Sage Hill boys’ and girls’ cross-country programs have known since the school opened with the beginning of the millennium, guided the Lightning to the CIF State cross-country championships, the area’s only boys’ team to pull off the feat this season. Jack Johnston, Jason Li, Max Perin, William Alexander, Daniel Joshi, Brooks Orradre and Ethan Ball toed the starting line for Sage Hill in the return of the CIF finals to Mt. San Antonio College, where the Lightning finished seventh to earn the coveted trip to Fresno. The Sage Hill boys’ program has competed at state three other times — in 2005, 2007 and 2011.

Edison junior Wylie Cleugh approaches the finish line in the Orange County cross-country championships on Oct. 16.
Edison junior Wylie Cleugh approaches the finish line in the Orange County cross-country championships on Oct. 16 at Oak Canyon Park in Silverado.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)


Wylie Cleugh

Edison | Jr.

It was a roaring start to the season for Cleugh, as he logged a runner-up finish in the Sunny Hills Wayne Walker Invitational and a third-place showing in the Laguna Hills Invitational in grade-level races. That momentum carried into the Central Park Invitational, where Cleugh clocked in with a new lifetime-best time of 15:38.0 in finishing sixth. Cleugh, who burst onto the scene and contributed as a freshman for the Chargers, also finished second in the Division 2 (large schools) varsity race of the Orange County Championships.

Fountain Valley's Shane Hill finished second against Marina at the Vikings' home course in Huntington Beach on March 13.
(Raul Roa )

Shane Hill

Fountain Valley | Sr.

The Barons won the Wave League championship during the pandemic-impacted spring season for the 2020-21 school year, with Dezi Hernandez leading the way. Benjamin Prado emerged as the leader of the pack for Fountain Valley in its repeat league title performance, but Hill was a key contributor to both of those squads. He was third in the Wave League and fifth overall in the Sunset Conference finals with a time of 15:47.4 this fall. Earlier in the season, he posted a career-best time of 15:39.7 in the Woodbridge Classic. Hill also placed sixth in 17:11.9 on the 5K-course at the Larry Burgess Las Vegas Invitational, a meet at which the Barons took home the title in the large schools division.

Jacob McQuirk

Huntington Beach | So.

Huntington Beach’s ace was Nolan Walt, but not far behind was McQuirk, giving the Oilers a solid one-two punch at the top of their lineup. McQuirk ran 15:48.1 to place fourth in the Wave League and sixth overall in the Sunset Conference finals. Huntington Beach earned the second automatic bid out of the Wave League to reach the CIF postseason, where McQuirk knocked 12 seconds off his earlier appearance on the hills of the Mt. San Antonio College course. McQuirk placed 19th in 16:25.8 in Huntington Beach’s heat of the Division 1 preliminaries.

Mael Metis

Laguna Beach | Sr.

You play the cards you are dealt, and after a lost season in 2020, Metis fared well in virtually every race he ran in this past season. It began at the Cool Breeze Invitational (13th, 15:47.7), and his standing within races only improved from there. He posted career-best times for 3 miles at the Woodbridge Classic (15:32.0) and for a 5K at the Clovis Invitational (16:29.4). A runner-up in the race for the Surf League’s individual crown, Metis led Laguna Beach through to the Division 4 final, in which he placed 26th with a time of 16:16.6.

Costa Mesa senior Edward Rodriguez, right, competes in the Division 4 race of the CIF Southern Section finals on Nov. 20.
Costa Mesa senior Edward Rodriguez, right, competes in the Division 4 race of the CIF Southern Section cross-country championships at Mt. San Antonio College on Nov. 20.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Edward Rodriguez

Costa Mesa | Sr.

Rodriguez saved his best for last, running a lifetime-best time of 15:39.6 to place fifth in the Orange Coast League finals. The Mustangs senior was the primary obstacle in the way of Santa Ana posting the perfect score of 15 team points at the meet, and he succeeded in that endeavor. Rodriguez had a win to his credit in a grade-level race at the Woodbridge Classic in 16:19.2. He was also fourth in the small schools varsity race of the Orange County Championships. Rodriguez delivered a strong showing in the Division 4 final (17th, 16:04.9), but the limit of five individuals that could advance to state had already been reached.

Huntington Beach's Nolan Walt, left, competes against Edison's Wylie Cleugh, right, in a dual meet at Edison High School.
Huntington Beach’s Nolan Walt, left, competes against Edison’s Wylie Cleugh, right, during the Huntington Beach Union High School District cross-country dual meet at Edison High School on Feb. 13, 2021.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Nolan Walt

Huntington Beach | Sr.

The Sunset Conference finals developed into a two-horse race, with Walt supplying the challenge to Prado with a runner-up time of 15:26.3. With Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach both being members of the Wave League this season, Walt was a victim of circumstance, as an individual that finished behind him in the Sunset Conference’s combined race format was crowned the Surf League’s champion. Walt, who was a runner-up in the Wave League for a second straight season, placed 12th in 16:18.7 in his heat of the Division 1 preliminaries.

Newport Harbor junior Kenny Wanlass competes in the Division 2 race of the CIF Southern Section finals on Nov. 20.
Newport Harbor junior Kenny Wanlass competes in the Division 2 race of the CIF Southern Section cross-country championships at Mt. San Antonio College on Nov. 20.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Kenny Wanlass

Newport Harbor | Jr.

Wanlass regularly posted 3-mile race times well south of the 16-minute mark. He tore through the flat course of the Woodbridge Classic at SilverLakes Sports Park in 15:12.2, and he authored a ninth-place finish at the Temecula Twilight Invitational behind a personal record of 15:11.8. Wanlass, who was the Surf League champion in 15:34.2, was third overall in the Sunset Conference finals, and he put respect on that accomplishment by advancing through the Division 2 preliminaries as an individual into the section final, in which he was 38th with a time of 15:53.9.


Name, School, Year

Diego Alonso, Fountain Valley, So.

Vincent Beaumont, Marina, Sr.

Luke Fowler, Edison, Sr.

Diego Gonzalez, Ocean View, Sr.

Luke Grunburg, Newport Harbor, Sr.

Jack Johnston, Sage Hill, Jr.

Raoul Kelly, Edison, Sr.

Nathan Kutscher, Pacifica Christian, Sr.

Jasper Mahmood, Corona del Mar, Jr.


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