Calaveras runners sweep MLL championships

The Mother Lode League cross country finals belonged to Calaveras High School. Calaveras’ boys’ and girls’ varsity squads ran well enough to capture the MLL title Tuesday afternoon at Frogtown in Angels Camp.

Both Calaveras’ boys’ and girls’ varsity teams finished the Mother Lode League season with an undefeated record.

“It’s encouraging,” Calaveras head coach Doug Avrit said. “We’ve got a very good group of kids. Our varsity boys, as a group, took ownership of wanting to run well as a team. With our varsity girls, we’ve been a little scattered because of injuries and sickness, but Katarina ran really well today and it was nice to see what the team did.”

Calaveras runners sweep MLL championships

The Mother Lode League champion Calaveras boys' team is, from left, Nicholas Saliski, Trenton Ward, Jamie Espiritu, Bennie Hesser, Jacob Christopher, Jeremy Milligan, Nicholas Moore and Garrett Hesser.

Calaveras’ boys’ team dominated the field with six runners finishing in the top-10, which includes senior Jacob Christopher placing first overall with his time of 16:17. Christopher was pleased with his race, but admitted that it was friendly ribbing from Avrit that helped push him Tuesday afternoon.

“I was a little nervous coming in, because I didn’t know how well I would do,” Christopher said. “What really helped was Avrit’s trash talking at me. I missed 10 days of running because I was sick, so Avrit’s motivation really helped me a lot. He’ll just give looks and glances and he doesn’t even have to say things to me, it’s all mental. So, I just want to prove him wrong and he knows that I want to prove him wrong, so he likes to do that to me.”

Calaveras runners sweep MLL championships

With Christopher leading the way, fellow senior Jeremy Milligan placed third with his time of 16:51. Calaveras had four runners cross the finish line in fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth place, and that was Jamie Espiritu (17:12), Bennie Hesser (17:17), Nicolas Moore (17:27) and Garrett Hesser (17:35). While Christopher is accustomed to placing first, he knows that a team championship could not have been won without the strong contributions from the other runners.

“I could not be at the point that I am without them,” Christopher said. “They really push me and they really help a lot. They are the best teammates I could ask for.”

When it comes to final times and individual success, there is no jealousy surrounding the Calaveras runners. Bennie Hesser feels he is just as excited for his teammates’ success as they are of his.

“This year has been really unique because we have a lot of guys who are all really capable,” Hesser said. “In terms of working out and going on long 12-mile runs together, we have a group of guys who has built a lot of camaraderie. We are all there pushing each other every day to become better runners and knowing that we have each other’s backs makes you feel like you care about how your teammates do, more than you care about yourself. It really helps push you through these races.”

Calaveras runners sweep MLL championships

Other Calaveras times were: Rafael Roldan (18:43); Nicholas Saliski (19:20); Cristobal Flores (22:58); and Trenton Ward (26:14).

The league finals were originally scheduled for Oct. 30, but because of the power outages that affected all the MLL schools, the race was changed to Tuesday. Bennie Hesser didn’t feel the having the race postponed was that big of an issue and just gave his squad more time to prepare.

“We’ve been training really hard all season and Avrit coordinates our workouts around meets,” Hesser said. “But no matter what, we are still going to get a good workout in. So, it was almost a little bit of a blessing, because we were able to get in a little more hard work last week. We are not just focusing on league and sections, but we are focusing on state and the long run, so it’s good to get that extra work in.”

Hesser, who is also one of Calaveras’ main soccer players, knows that soccer practice began Monday. But even though he’s missing time on the soccer field, Hesser knows that he’s part of something special with his cross country unit.

“It’s a sacrifice and I love being on the soccer field, but being with these guys is something special,” Hesser said. “We have a chance to make some noise at the section and state meet. I know I’m going to miss some soccer, but I’m having a great time here. In the end, it’ll make me better for soccer season because I’ll be in great shape.”

Now that the Mother Lode League title belongs to Calaveras, Christopher is ready to set his sights on bringing home a section championship. And even though Calaveras is performing as well as it has all year, Christopher isn’t about to think that winning a blue banner will be easy.

“We are feeling confident, but we are not underestimating anyone,” he said. “Everyone is fair game. Every school is looking to give us a challenge and we are going to give them a challenge right back.”

Calaveras runners sweep MLL championships

While the Bret Harte boys’ team only had one runner to place in the top-10, they were still able to put up some strong times. Bruchs Davey was the first Bullfrog to cross the finish line (No. 10, 17:55) and he was followed by: Hunter Sturm (18:15); Jonah Cardoza (18:19); Winter Whittle (18:25); Brendan Dishion (18:51); Blake Berry (22:03); Soren Jensvold (22:57); and Tyler Crawford (22:58).

“We had some good numbers,” Bret Harte head coach Vicky Johnson said. “We’ve been moving guys back and forth, but we had a strong five runners today and they did the best that they could and I hope they can repeat that for subsections.”

In the varsity girls’ race, Calaveras had the numbers to clinch the league title. Sonora’s Brie Personius placed first overall with her time of 19:15. The second runner to cross the finish line was Calaveras junior Katarina Borchin, who finished with a time of 20:09. She finished 10 seconds ahead of Summerville’s Sophia Vasquez.

Calaveras runners sweep MLL championships

“I am really pleased with how she ran,” Avrit said of Borchin. “She had a little dip there and now she’s coming back. She executed a really good race and she ran tough and smart. Katarina ran just about as fast as she did at the subsections here a year ago and that was leading into a really good section meet and then a good performance at the state meet.”

Other Calaveras times were: Bridgette Boriolo (No. 10, 23:15); Emma Alliende (23:28); Sage Miller (24:24); Grace Damin (24:36); Peyton Curran (27:36); and Destiny Harper (33:44).

Calaveras runners sweep MLL championships

For Bret Harte, freshman Kadyn Rolleri continued to run well in only her second varsity league meet. Rolleri placed fifth overall with a time of 21:22.

“She did extremely well,” Johnson said. “I know that she has a bit of a cold and she was a little unsure of what to do. Coach Becca (Hancock) gave her some advice and she used that advice and ran a very nice time for this course.”

Other Bret Harte finishers were: McKenzie Blair (No. 9, 22:49); Katie Saul (24:29); Chloe Crawford (26:19); Alex Jarman (26:54); Ariana Kirkendall (30:44); and Kalah Casey (34:24).

Calaveras runners sweep MLL championships

“At this point, with one week to go, we know exactly where they are at,” Johnson said. “If they put their heads into the game, they can perform just as well or even a little better next week. It’s all about how much they want it.”

Bret Harte and Calaveras will next compete at the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Subsection Meet, which will be at 9:30 a.m., Saturday at Frogtown. The CIF Sac-Joaquin Section championship meet will be Saturday, Nov. 16 at Willow Hill in Folsom.

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