The562’s cross country and track & field coverage is sponsored by an anonymous donation, in appreciation of Coach Ron Allice.
It was a historic day for the Millikan cross country program–and, after years of building, a day the Rams will never forget.
Senior Jason Parra made history as he became the first athlete to win four Moore League individual cross country titles since TJ Reyes did it 1988-1991, and set a new league record at Heartwell Park with a 14:30 clocking at the three-mile course. He also led his team to their first league title since 1992, as they had their varsity seven all finish in the top eight.
Parra broke the league record by two seconds, and said it was worth the pain and suffering it took to do it.
“On this journey I’ve met people along the way that have helped me and hurt me,” he said. “As I was running through the course today, in that last mile, I felt horrible. I didn’t want to push anymore. But I saw everyone cheering for me, all the friends and family that came out and supported me, and that’s what got me through it. I was able to fight through to the end.”
Parra went out fast as he typically does, and had opened up a ten second lead by the time the runners made their first trip down the bike lane at Heartwell. That lead only grew as he stretched out the front of the long line of golden Rams jerseys.
After finishing and learning that he’d set the record, a gassed Parra immediately turned around to count his teammates coming in, cheering when he realized they had seven of the top eight runners.
“It was very important for us to win the team title,” he said. “That was honestly the bigger goal in mind today. I thought we were gonna get it my first year, and I thought we were going to get it my junior year too. But destiny kind of slipped away from us–it feels so good to come out here and do it today.”
Aiden Ransom was the second finisher for the Rams, at 15:23, followed by Max Ramirez, Wilson’s Kyle Holland, and then Rams Jack Brown, Emmett Wechsler, Eric Plascencia, and Michael Brief.
Wilson took second in the team standings as Tommy Pincherli and Cash Obando took ninth and 10th. Poly’s top finisher was Luke Deeble at 16:27; Lakewood’s was Jamari Gibson at 16:42; and Jordan’s was J’Moses Vasquez at 16:46.
It certainly wasn’t a surprise that Millikan won the title, they were heavily favored to all year. But that didn’t mean that longtime Rams coach Pedro Ramirez assumed anything–not when Poly had a 16-year streak, and not when the Rams had come up just narrowly short of breaking it before.
“I was still nervous all day,” he said. “I just needed it to happen. You never know–weirder things have happened.”
Ramirez said that as happy as he was for Parra and the rest of his group, he was just as happy for the other Rams over the last few years.
“I’m happy for our guys, and I’m happy for our recent alumni,” he said. “The guys that got it started, I see them as our foundation, the guys from last year’s team which was really good. This proves that hard work has been paying off, because we’ve been working hard.”
Ramirez also paid tribute to how significant it was for his program when the Notre Dame-committed Parra enrolled at Millikan.
“He’s part of that foundation, he’s what got us started,” he said. “He was like a pivot point for us, with him running so well. That kind of fit into the other guys and got them to work a little more. I don’t know that we could have done this without him. He’s a special athlete.”
On the girls’ side, Millikan sophomore Nadia Mejia won with a time of 17:37, almost a full minute faster than second-place Avery Peck of Poly, who came in at 18:33.
Asked for her race strategy, Mejia didn’t dress it up.
“Honestly it was just like, it’s only gonna hurt for like 20 or something minutes so just let all the pain rip in and go for you want, just be happy at the end of the race, that was my goal,” she said.
Mejia quickly opened up an 11 second lead and stretched that out over the course of the race. She said she was expecting to be chasing Peck, as the two have had an exciting back-and-forth this year with Mejia winning at El Dorado and Peck winning at Signal Hill.
“I was in my head about she was going to be in front of me the first mile and then I would try to get back at her like I did at El Dorado,” she said. “But I’m happy with my performance and how I got out today.”
Like Parra, Mejia said that having a lot of supporters there gave her a big boost.
“I had a teacher here today, I had my cousins, so it really motivated me to do my best for them and let them see me at my best,” she said.
The Jackrabbit girls won the team title, led by Peck’s second-place finish followed closely by Alexa Hernandez-Lujan and Evelyn Hernandez-Lujan. Estefany Garcia Hernandez took fifth to round out a group of four straight Poly finishers. Brynn Jolly finished 10th to five Poly five scorers in the top 10.
Wilson’s top finisher was Natalie Maahs in 19:45, and Lakewood’s was Caleeya Jackson in 19:54.
For first-year coach Mandy Wainfan, it was great to see success for her Jackrabbits.
“This is one of our best performances, the whole team looked strong,” she said. “They’re running as a pack, which was great to see.”