The562’s cross country and track & field coverage is sponsored by an anonymous donation, in appreciation of Coach Ron Allice.
As a high school freshman back in February of 2021, Jason Parra won his first ever varsity race. He was running in a dual meet hosted on the Millikan High campus, in Long Beach’s first high school sporting event coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearly three years later, Parra is wrapping up a memorable career with the Rams, and on Saturday morning at Mt. SAC he added another major accomplishment to his already gaudy resume. The Notre Dame-bound senior became the first Millikan Ram ever to win an individual CIF title in cross country, claiming gold in the boys’ Division 1 race.
“I feel great, I’m ready for State,” said the insatiable Parra after his win. “I kind of lost my mojo in the beginning of the season getting whooped by all these guys, but I came out here and got my groove back.”
“I’m very proud of him,” said Millikan head coach Pedro Ramirez. “It hasn’t been the year that he expected, but he finished with a CIF championship so I’m very happy for him. And he moves on, so he has a chance at his ultimate goal, which is to win State.”
This year’s CIF-SS finals were noticeably different than in year’s past at Mt. SAC. Due to heavy rain in the forecast leading up to the meet, the CIF opted to use the “rain course”, which uses paved roads and avoids the notorious hills and switchbacks that make Mt. SAC such a grueling course.
Led by Parra’s first-place finish, the Rams almost made some more program history, but ended up just one spot shy of qualifying for the CIF State meet as a team. Millikan was painfully just three points behind Crescenta Valley for that all-important seventh spot.
“It’s very hard. Eighth is probably harder than ninth and three points is very hard, but still the first feeling I had was happiness,” Ramirez said of his team’s finish. “Happiness because we tried and because we were really close, so I was happy for the guys. Of course, after that is some heartache, but that’s just the way it is. We’ll try again next year.”
Maximiliano Ramirez was the next finisher for Millikan, taking 30th place in a time of 14:47. Next up was Aiden Ransom who also went sub-15, placing 44th in 14:57.
The rest of the lineup for the Rams was Jack Brown (15:13), Lucas Crockett (15:15), Emmett Wechsler (15:39), and Eric Plascencia (15:43).
Parra’s time of 13:57 over the three-mile course made him the fastest individual CIF-SS champion in history, and he was one of only two runners to go under 14 minutes across all five divisions on Saturday, along with Evan Noonan of Dana Hills at 13:56. Certainly the course change had a major impact on everyone’s times this year, but it was nonetheless an impressive showing from Parra who won his race by nearly 11 seconds.
“As soon as I heard it was a flat course, I kind of knew that the race was mine,” said the four-time Moore League individual champion. “Because I’m a flat course type of guy. And as soon as it was a flat course, I knew that no one was gonna beat me. So it just gave me more confidence, if anything.”
Believe it or not, Parra feels he should have put down a faster time if not for some major equipment issues. He said he got a new pair of shoes that started digging into his arches before he reached the first mile, and his foot was bloody by the end of the race.
But to no one’s surprise, Parra persevered and delivered a performance for the history books. He became just the third boys’ runner from Long Beach to win a CIF-SS individual championship since the race expanded to three miles back in 1977. He joins Oswaldo Pina, who won in consecutive years for Lakewood and Poly in 1999 and 2000, and Will Frankenfeld who took gold for Poly in 2018.
“It’s super competitive out here, it’s one of the hardest divisions,” Parra said. “I’m really sad that our team didn’t make it, that was one of the goals we’ve been talking about since the beginning of the season. But I’m glad that I was able to break 14 (minutes), that was definitely on my list. And I think I’m the first person ever to break 14 two years in a row, no one else has ever done it for three miles. So it’s nice knowing that I have that on everyone else.”
Parra will advance to next Saturday’s CIF State Meet at Woodward Park in Fresno.
Girls’ Division 1
On the girls’ side, Millikan sophomore Nadia Mejia was the top finisher from Long Beach in the Division 1 race. The Moore League individual champion placed ninth with a time of 16:52 in her CIF championship debut.
“I’m still like in shock, I’m still processing what happened,” said an excited Mejia shortly after her race. “Running with people that are running in teams kind of pushed me more, because it made me feel like they’re working as a team, so I should just go into that pack and keep moving up. So that’s what I did and I’m really proud of how I ran today.”
Mejia said in the week leading up to the event, she was telling members of the Millikan boys’ team that she would beat most of them and run a time in the 16:40’s. Due to the change to the rain course and the lower times that come with it, she pretty much nailed her prediction to throw down a three-mile PR.
“Once I hit that last turn and I saw the clock at 16 something, I said ‘Holy smokes, I’m gonna get it!’” Mejia recalled. “It was just a joke, but it happened, so I’m really happy.”
Mejia’s finish left her just one spot away from qualifying for the CIF State meet since she was sixth among the individual runners.
Long Beach Poly had its full squad competing on Saturday, and once again sophomore Avery Peck led the way with a time of 17:24 to place 20th.
Poly is known for having an advantage on hilly courses due to their training on Signal Hill, so the course adjustment was not necessarily in their favor. However, head coach Mandy Wainfan said it didn’t impact her team’s mindset going into the competition.
“The girls immediately turned it into positivity,” said Wainfan. “They were like, ‘Great, we have another chance to PR.’ Because we’ve been on hilly courses for the latter half of the season with the exception of Heartwell. So they were stoked pretty immediately, which surprised me but I kind of followed their lead with that.”
Peck’s time was a PR by 19 seconds, and there were plenty more where that came from. Alexa Hernandez Lujan matched her best time with an 18-flat, making up 28 spots after the first mile to place 34th.
Freshman Estefany Garcia Hernandez posted a big PR with a time of 18:29 to finish 54th, a nice showing for the ninth grader in her CIF debut.
Rounding out the rest of the finishers for Poly was Evelyn Hernandez Lujan (18:48), Brynn Jolly (19:16), Emily Chun (20:14) and Isabella Villa-Quintero (20:58).
The Jackrabbits ended up in 11th place, missing out on State qualification, and were just two points back of ninth.
“I’m actually very happy,” said Wainfan. “Obviously, I know they really wanted to make it State, but it’s out of our control how the other teams run. So I’m a little sad for them, but for the way they performed as individuals and a team, I’m super happy. I keep saying it, but that was the best race of our season. Seeing all those PRs and the look on their faces where they’re actually just pouring their heart out onto the course was really, really good.”