Student Runners Race in Morro Bay Invitational

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

September 21, 2023

Nearly a thousand runners from some 50 high schools competed in the Morro Bay Invitational Cross Country Meet on Sept. 9 and two of the local kids ran away with their races. 

In the Girls’ Varsity Race, Mia Torrecillas, a senior from Highland High School in Palmdale, Calif., ran away from the field timing in at 16 minutes and 2.4 seconds. (The varsity and jayvee race- course is laid out at 3 miles but on this day, it was shortened considerably to 2.56-miles, due to the timing of the high tide.)

Second place went to Liberty High of Bakersfield senior, Aubrey Thompson in 16:56.4. San Luis Obispo High’s junior, Phoebe Drazsnzak was third in 17:01.5 and Liberty High senior, Nicole Bridges was fourth in 17:15.5. Fifth went to junior, Valorie Jimenez of Madera South.

Morro Bay’s Mia Bennett, a junior, was 23rd to lead the Lady Pirates in 18:31.2. Noleena Fahy of Morro Bay, a senior, was the only other Lady Pirate to run varsity and finished 109th in 21:47.

In the team scoring, San Luis Obispo High ran away with the win scoring 74 points with Madera South second at 91. Third went to Clovis High with 109 points and fourth was Highland with 123. Fifth was Stockdale with 189 (in cross country the lower the score the higher the place).

In the Boys’ Varsity Race, Templeton High’s senior, Joshua Bell, left everyone eating his dust, winning in an impressive 13:22.2 over 45 seconds ahead of second place finisher SLOHS senior, Weston Greenelsh in 14:09.2. Bakersfield High’s junior, Alex Valencia was third (14:25.2); Paso Robles’ junior, Tyler Daillak finished fourth in 14:15.6; and Bakersfield junior, Liam McKnight was fifth in 14:16.2.

Morro Bay’s top finisher was Otis Kelly, who was 21st in 15:05. Junior Eli Waldman was 96th in 16:36; and sophomore Nathan Fuller was 135th in 17:38. Junior, Jack Walker was 148th for Morro Bay clocking 17:51.2; sophomore Dominic Holst was 154th (18:08); sophomore Joaquin Cuellar ran 19:16 (185th place); and senior Michael Pascual was 209th in 11:04 for the Pirates, who finished 16th out of 28 schools in the team scoring and amassed 483 points. 

Also, Coast Union High junior, Diego Gomez ran the race finishing 165th in 18:31.

The Boys’ Varsity Race had 219 runners competing and once again it was SLOHS that ran off with the win, scoring just 45 points (top-5 runners). Second place went to Clovis High with 87 points, and Bakersfield was third with 108. Fourth went to Dos Pueblos with 134 and fifth was Stockdale with 148.

PRHS was eighth with 240 points and THS was 10th with 277. 

One of the bright spots on the day was Morro Bay’s Lucas McAlpine, a freshman, who won the frosh-soph 1.54-mile dash, clocking 9:67 3 seconds ahead of second place finisher, sophomore Aldan Hernandez of Clovis High (9.09.6). Third went to freshman Johnny Duffy of Dos Pueblos High (9.17.6). Fourth was freshman Jordan Blen of Justin Garza HS; and fifth was freshman Jack Vasquez of Bullard. 

Other Morro Bay Frosh-Soph runners included freshman Maddox Miner in 10:01.4. In 31st place was freshman Ahti Johnson of Morro Bay (10:19.0) with freshman Cameron D’Aunoy in 10:19.6. Freshman James Lee of Morro Bay ran 10:29 good enough for 44th place. Junior Danel Velasco Ontanon of Morro Bay ran 11:01.9 and took 64th place. Morro Bay’s Gabriel Yanez-Michel, a freshman, ran 11:10.2 and was 74th.

There were 136 runners in the Frosh-Soph Dash, which was just 1.6 miles due to the timing of the high tide, as the MBHS course goes out onto the beach for a long stretch through shifting loose sands and hard pack.

Team wise, Dos Pueblos won with 63 points; Clovis was second with 91; and Morro Bay took third with 117 points.

In the Boys’ Junior Varsity Race (3 miles), Clovis West secured the top-4 spots, plus sixth and seventh that needless to say ran off with the meet win. Junior Benjamin Sanchez won in 15:08.6; second was Cody McNeal in 15:09.8; third was sophomore, Kaid Titus (15:38.8) and fourth was junior, Jimmy Sanchez. Do Pueblos High sophomore, Linus Martin was fifth in 15:50.2. Clovis’ Jace Jorgensen (sophomore, 15:50.6); and senior Jack Titus (15:57.8) finished sixth and secenth respectively.

Morro Bay’s top runner was junior, Odin Grafton who was 118th in 19:04.3; with Emmanuel Rios 143rd in 19:50.4. Sophomore, Alexander Esparza was 147th for Morro Bay (19:55.5); and Logan Bautista (sophomore, 20:49.5), was 173rd. The JV Boys’ Race had some 220 runners compete and Clovis ran took the win scoring 16 points, which is just one point above a cross country perfect score of 15.

Dos Pueblos was second with 68 and SLOHS was third with 81. Stockdale finished fourth with 133 and Atascadero was fifth with 184. Paso Robles came in ninth with 262 points and Templeton was 14th with 413. Morro Bay was 20th with 543 points.

Morro Bay didn’t have any runners in the Girls’ JV Race but SLOHS sure did, in fact MBHS’ district mates took the Top-2 spots with junior Regan James winning the 3-mile race, in 19:48.6 with teammate sophomore, Molly Berkeland second in 19:54.8. Third went to Emma Rose of Los Osos High School; fourth went to Madelyn Porter, a freshman from Liberty High in Bakersfield (20:25.1); and fifth was Ashley Hansen of Dos Pueblos (20:27.3).

The Girls’ Frosh-Soph Dash saw MBHS’ other bright spot on the day as two freshmen, Shelby Taylor and Wendy Wilson went 1-2 for the Lady Pirates clocking 10:28 and 10:28.8 respectively. MBHS freshman Lily Buller was fourth in 10:37.5. But three runners, even three in the Top-4 isn’t enough scorers to field a team, as SLOHS again took the team title with an outstanding 19 points. 

SLOHS freshman runner Kasey Abercrombe was third (10:30); sophomore, Carly Meeks was sixth (11:06.2); followed by Aurora Peterson (freshman, 11:20.2) in seventh; freshman Charlotte Petit in eighth (11:20.6) and freshman Leah Siciliano ninth (11:22.7).

The high school this year added 1.6-mile races for girls and boys in middle school and had a great turnout among the budding harriers. Los Osos Middle School’s Ella Lobos was their top finisher in 20th place in 13:02. Abagail Bautista was 22nd (13:18.1). Charley McGauley of Cayucos Middle School was 25th (13:31.9); Reya Bohlander of LOMS was 32nd (14:17.4); and Reya’s teammate Sophia Waldman was 33rd (14:20.7).

Two more LOMS runners, Anali Arroyo and Lotus Krout followed each other across the line with Arroyo in 40th and Krout 41st, clocking 15:40.1 and 16:05.7 respectively. Liberty Martinez of LOMS was 49th (17:04.6). 

The race had 51 runners and Kastner Int. ran to a perfect score of 15 taking all five Top-5 spots (they also got Nos. 8-10). LOMS (75) was third behind SLO’s Laguna MS (52).

In the Boys Middle School race, LOMS’ Oliver Zaitz finished third in 10:09.6 to lead the local kids. Teammate, Dylan Hitchcock was seventh (10:19.3). LOMS’ Sage Olivas was ninth (10:21.4); and Seamus Wolf was 11th (10:24.3); and Chase Taylor of LOMS was 13th (10:28.2). The boys’ race had 79 runners and once again Kastner won with just 18 points (they took the Top-2 and 4-6). LOMS was second with 40 and Laguna third with 75. Old Mission School in SLO was fourth with 116.

The middle school races are something MBHS Athletic Director Tyler Hoyt had wanted to start and it seems off to a good start.

Begun in 1980, this year marked the 43rd running of the Pirate Invitational and once again was staffed by volunteer school officials, coaches, athletes, parents, and students. Among the volunteers were retired MBHS coaches Roger “Doc” Ludin (soccer) and Cary Nerelli. 

Doc Ludin coached soccer for about two decades and Nerelli coached MBHS’ cross country and girl’s basketball for even longer. (He’s now head coach of Mission Prep’s girls’ basketball.)

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