Xie headed to State Championships
FOLSOM – After two years of frustration, Oak Ridge High cross country runner Benji Xie will run in the CIF State Cross Country meet Nov. 27 in Fresno.
The star-crossed Xie, who was the No. 2 runner on the Trojan team behind Amjed Aboukhadijeh, collapsed on the Willow Hills course in the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet the past two years but he was ready Saturday as he and the Oak Ridge team captured the second qualifying spot with 71 points, coming in behind Davis, which won an unprecedented eighth Division I masters title.
“I just ran my race today,” Xie said. “I was so relaxed and just kept moving up during the race. We had a couple of calamaties today but everyone sucked it up. I’m very proud of everyone on the team. Running hurts and some of us hurt today.”
Xie went out with the leaders and gradually picked off runners in the second half of the race. He crossed the finish line in 16 minutes, 12 seconds, the fourth runner to file into the chute and tying Aboukhadijeh’s best all-time performance at Willow Hills. One of the team’s “calamaties” involved Brandon Williams, who stepped in a hole during warmups and sprained his ankle. After a visit to the first aid booth and a pep talk from coach Rob Fairley, Williams turned in a gutsy performance and was the second Trojan to come in, taking ninth. He was followed by Jeroen Kuekenkamp, Clay McNamee, Dusty Armstong, Marcos Conde and Zach Speno.
In the first varsity girls race of the day, the Oak Ridge girls team qualified second with 52 points, running behind Granite Bay. Just two Division I teams advance to the state meet; this is the second year in a row that both the boys and girls teams qualified.
The Trojan girls were led by Samantha Ralstin. She passed three runners in the last 1,000 meters to finish third in a fast time of 18:42, second fastest all-time for an Oak Ridge athlete and a 20-second personal best. Freshman Reaghan Emerick, in her first year of serious competitive running, took seventh with the third fastest time for a Trojan runner. She was followed by Brittany Putman, Jackie Mansoor, Maxine Goyette, Kaileen Palmero and Holli Arrieta, who ran despite suffering from illness.
“The varsity girls race was a classic ‘battle of the titans” among Oak Ridge, Granite Bay and St. Francis — all very good teams,” Fairley said. It was a very tight race among the three throughout the entire race and the Oak Ridge girls finished strong over the last 1,000 meters. It was a great team effort and Oak Ridge nipped St. Francis for second place by one point.”
The Oak Ridge athletes, who train all summer, bypassed many of their usual lineup of elite meets to concentrate more on training and long Saturday runs, which paid off.
“It helped not to go to so many meets all season,” Ralstin said. “We were more pumped up to race today and not burned out. Now we’re really happy and pumped up for state. We want to make the podium and win with class.”
The Trojan sophomore boys, led by Evan Baxter who took fourth, tied Davis for first with 40 points. The sixth-place time broke the tie and Nick Campanello beat the Blue Devils sixth runner to put the Trojans on top. They were awarded first on the results.
The frosh/soph girls team started the day for the Trojan teams, taking first with a very low score of 26 points. Rachel Peterson led the girls with a 25-second personal best time of 13:22. The team — Peterson, Mikayla Mefford, Mia Brower, Sami Kilcollins and Mindy Ong — won all eight of its races this year.
LeeAnn Hold won the junior varsity girls race in 20:38, 50 seconds faster than her nearest competitor.
“All in all, it was a very memorable day for the Oak Ridge cross country teams with many personal bests and now the varsity teams have two weeks to prepare for the state meet,” Fairley said.
Varsity boys: Team: 1-davis, 41; 2-Oak Ridge, 71.
Individual; 4-Benji Xie, 16:12; 10-Brandon Williams, 16:34; 14-Jeroen Keukenkamp, 16:40; 19-Clay McNamee, 17:01; 39-Dusty Armstrong, 17:24; 40-Marcos Conde, 17:25; 68-Zach Speno, 18:42.
Varsity girls: Team: 1-Granite Bay, 45; 2-Oak Ridge, 52.
Individual; 3-Samantha Ralstin, 18:42; 7-Reaghan Emerick, 19:01; 12-Brittany Putman, 19:21; 17-Jackie Mansoor, 19:36; 20-Maxine Goyette, 19:47; 27-Kaileen Palmero, 20:20; 30-Holli Arrieta, 20:29.
Soph boys: 1-Oak Ridge, 40; 2-Davis, 40.
Individual: 4-Evan Baxter, 11:37; 5-Zach Thornton, 11:41; 8-Jake Zeltner, 11:48; 10-Ryan Prestegard, 11:55; 16-JT Janecek, 12:03; 3-Nick Campanello, 12:28; 34-Colin Pilcher, 12:39
Frosh/Soph girls: 1-Oak Ridge, 26; 2-St. Francis, 52.
Individual: 2-Rachel Peterson, 13:22; 6-Mikayla Mefford, 13:50; 7-Mia Brower, 13:57; 10-Sami Kilcollins, 14:08; 13-Mindy Ong, 14:12; 24-Alison Bamford, 14:40; 31-Taylor Ashby, 14:51; 49-Ashlyn Duran, 15:42
JV girls: 1-LeeAnn Hold, 20:38.