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Measured by the tape
Four locals test skills against best in the state
River Valley High’s T.J. Wy already is carrying the banner as being the Falcons’ first runner to qualify for the State Cross Country Meet.
But the senior carries the added incentive of running in honor of his grandfather, who passed away last week.
“I’m feeling pretty pumped. I’ve got my family ... and friends to help support me. And I’ve got a school to make proud,” Wy said about today’s Division III race.
“But I’m also running for my grandfather,” Wy continued. “He’s always supported me in everything I’ve done. This one is for him.”
Wy is one of five Mid-Valley runners to qualify for the meet at Woodward Park in Fresno. Four will compete.
Joining Wy are Tony Perez of Sutter, Wheatland’s Jessica Carpenter, both in Division IV, and Colusa’s Carli Marengo in Division V.
Another Colusa runner, Hector Garcia, qualified for the state meet, but won’t be running.
This actually isn’t Wy’s first state cross country championship event. As a sophomore, he competed in the Ohio state meet, finishing in the top 50.
When he moved to California, Wy went out for soccer instead.
“It was a new environment here for me and I was just trying to get adjusted,” Wy said.
He switched back to cross country this fall because “my heart is geared toward running.”
Wy said he would like to break his personal best for 3.1 miles, which is 16 minutes, 15 seconds.
“I hope to run under 16,” said Wy, and, “it would be great if I broke into the top 30.”
Wy’s strategy is to run the first mile in 5:10 to 5:20 and then run the second and third miles progressively faster.
Perez came one place shy of qualifying for last year’s state meet, and if that wasn’t enough incentive to qualify this fall, the junior used his sister Angelica’s playful ribbing to help motivate him.
“She said I wasn’t (going to qualify) because I didn’t train enough during the summer,” Perez said.
He used that motivation to inspire him to work harder.
“Every time I did great in a race, I called her and told her,” Perez said. “She always told me to run faster.”
When he finally qualified for the state meet, his sister was was there with congratulations.
“She hugged me and then called all of our relatives in Oakland to tell them,” Perez said.
Perez said now that he is in the race, he has additional motivation to do well.
The two runners who finished just ahead of Perez last season to knock him out of the state meet – Kevin Jorgenson and Aiden McKee of Yreka – are back as sophomores this season.
“I want to beat them,” said Perez, who wants to break the 17-minute mark. His best time for 3.1 miles is 17:23.
Perez has a scouting report on the state meet course from Mike Haines, a Sutter coach and father of Chris Haines, who ran in the state meet last year.
He also got some training tips.
“He told me to increase my mile time and run a lot of hills,” Perez said.
“Where you’re at after one mile is usually where you’ll finish,” he added.
Perez said his strategy will be to go out real fast and back off a little bit at the halfway point. He will then increase the pace over the last mile.
Carpenter said she has taken advice from a former Wheatland runner, Tot Harper, who ran at the state meet.
“She told me to do a lot of long runs to prepare for the meet,” said Carpenter, who is a freshman. “I know it’s going to be hard, so we (she and coach Denise Wright) have been doing a lot of sprint work and a lot of hills.”
Carpenter said her goal is to finish in the top 25 runners. She also is aiming to run about 18:30. Her best for 3.1 miles is 18:36.
Marengo said her goal is to break 20 minutes. Her best time is 20:12.
Even though it was Marengo’s goal all year to make the state meet, actually qualifying still came as a surprise.
“I couldn’t believe I did it. I’m so happy,” Marengo said.
While she is only a freshman, Marengo actually has seen the course, so she knows what to expect. She went to last year’s race to cheer on Colusa’s Mallory Mumma.
Marengo likes the fact that her race is the first of the day.
“I like running when it’s colder,” she said.