The562’s cross country and track & field coverage is sponsored by an anonymous donation, in appreciation of Coach Ron Allice.
The 2023 Moore League cross country season started with a bang on a beautiful Tuesday evening at El Dorado Park, as both course records were taken down by Millikan Rams.
Senior Jason Parra cruised to victory in the boys’ race with an impressive time of 14:10.01, while Millikan sophomore Nadia Mejia ran a 17:26.66 to finish first in the girls’ race, dethroning Poly sophomore Avery Peck who won this race a year ago.
The Millikan boys dominated the team competition, sweeping the top three spots while placing all five scorers in the top eight. Wilson took second with three of the Top 10 finishers while defending champions Long Beach Poly took third. That’s a significant result for the Bruins, who haven’t beaten their rival Jackrabbits since 2005.
“I’m very happy, but I told the guys it’s just step number one,” said Millikan boys’ coach Pedro Ramirez. “We won this last year, but it didn’t work out in the end, so we told them this is just step number one. We’ve got to win at league finals.”
To no one’s surprise, Parra led the race from start to finish, picking up his second individual win at El Dorado during his career. The super senior turned heads with his course record time, which was over seven seconds better than his mark from last year. Still, in typical Parra fashion, he was hoping for more.
“I think it was a good race. I think that my intention was to do bigger things,” said Parra after his win. “I was trying to break 14, I really wanted to do it, I would have been the first person to ever do it two years in a row but, you know, unfortunately, things happen … But there’s a lot more to improve on. I was kind of expecting to break the course record because of how hard I trained during the summer but I felt good. It wasn’t a perfect race, but I think I did good.”
Shortly after his victory on Tuesday, Parra announced his commitment to the University of Notre Dame via his Instagram page.
His winning time was more than 70 seconds ahead of the field, and the chase pack was sporting lots of Millikan blue. Teammates Maximiliano Ramirez (15:22) and Jack Brown (15:36) rounded out the top three, with Lakewood’s Gabriel Rojas throwing down a great time of 15:44 to finish fourth for the Lancers, up ten spots from his finish in 2022.
Millikan was without Aiden Ransom in this meet, and he’s expected to be a key contributor for the Rams going forward.
In his stead, Millikan’s Eric Plascencia (15:51) took fifth, Emmett Wechsler (15:54) was eighth and Joaquin Ocampo (16:08) rounded out the top ten spots.
“I feel we are more relaxed this year than last year,” Ramirez said. “I think last year we had a lot more pressure, but probably from the coaches putting pressure on them. So this year we said let’s just train, and whatever happens, happens. We worked hard in the summer but I think we’re definitely more relaxed than last year.”
Those three Rams were separated by a trio of Wilson Bruins as Kyle Holland (15:52) and Cash Obando (15:53) went 6-7 and Tommy Pincherli (15:55) was the final sub-16 runner, finishing ninth for Wilson.
Luke Deeble was the top finisher for Poly, clocking in at 16:17 to place 12th. He was followed by teammate Archie Byrom (16:28) in 13th.
Ivan Perez (17:43, 25th) was the top finisher for Cabrillo and J’Moises Vazquez (18:09, 26th) led the way for Jordan.
Despite not producing the individual winner, the Poly girls showed off their depth by placing runners 2-4 and putting all five scorers in the top nine. The Jackrabbits comfortably won the team competition over Millikan in second place.
“The team ran super strong,” said Poly head coach Mandy Wainfan. “It’s hard, especially when your leader that you expect is not necessarily in the place that you expect them to be, and they all took that in stride and worked together to move up. So that was great to see.”
Mejia’s performance stole the show, and her time of 17:26.66 bested the previous course record of 17:29.23, set by Poly’s Camille Lindsay back in 2021. She said she was confident she could get there since her PR is faster than the course record, but it was still a remarkable improvement from last year, when she posted a time of 20.54.3 to win the frosh/soph race.
Mejia was firmly in the big time now, and was staring at the back of Peck for much of her race. However, just after the 2-mile mark, she was able to make up the roughly 20-yard gap between them, and then she gradually pulled away for an impressive 33-second win over Poly’s Alexa Hernandez Lujan in second place.
“I was really scared to go up against her knowing how good she is, and how strong she has been this year and last year,” said Mejia, showing her respect for Peck. “It was very challenging mentally, but she really helped me to push myself, especially with everyone telling us that we’re doing great and we’re gonna be in sync. So it was a really good race.”
As Peck began to lose steam and Mejia saw her opportunity to capitalize, she said she visualized the win and went for it over the final mile.
“I was just thinking about how great this would be for me, and how amazing I would feel after winning the race and getting the course record,” she said.
It was no doubt a disappointing loss for Peck, who is still working her way back to full strength after taking the entire spring and part of summer off to recover from injury. She helped set a blistering pace early to push herself and Mejia toward a course record, but was unable to maintain it for the entire race.
“Anytime somebody takes time off, especially when it’s their freshman year, coming off an amazing season, top in the league, it’s really hard mentally to get back into it,” Wainfan said of Peck. “We’ve been working on building her from the ground up, placing those foundation blocks to create a supportive environment for her, rather than hammering results and needing to win every single race, so we’re still working on that. It’ll come with time, but I think today was one of those days where it’s just evident that we’re working on foundation stuff.”
Peck still performed well with a third-place finish, posting a time of 18:21. She was surrounded by the Hernandez Lujan sisters with Alexa taking second in 17:59 and Evelyn placing fourth in 18:45. Poly’s Estefany Garcia Hernandez was sixth in 19:30 and Brynn Jolly took ninth for the Jackrabbits in 19:54.
Last year’s runner-up, Wilson’s Natalie Maahs, took fifth place in 19:19, while teammate Sofia Alvarado was seventh in 19:39.
For Millikan, Emily Gonzalez (19:47, 8th) and Madison Caceres (20:08, 10th) joined Mejia in the top ten.
Caleeya Jackson (20:21, 11th) was the top runner for Lakewood and Ashley Huerta-Tungui (26:15, 26th) led the way for Cabrillo.
The Moore League will reconvene on Oct. 10 for the second Moore League cluster meet, held at Discovery Wells Park on Signal Hill.