Ramona High School sophomore Dylan Blankenbaker finished second in the Valley League boys cross country meet Nov. 14 at Kit Carson Park.
Blankenbaker was also the first sophomore across the finish line in the race.
In addition, Ramona had the first freshman finisher when Forrest Riley reached the end of the 5,000-meter (3.1-mile) course.
The Bulldog boys as a team finished third in the league meet. Because the final league standings are based on both dual-meet/tri-meet competition and the league finals, Ramona and Westview tied for third place in the final league results after the Bulldogs placed ahead of the Wolverines in the league meet.
Mount Carmel won the league meet and the league title while Valley Center finished second in both results.
Valley Center senior Ismael Rodriguez won the boys race with a time of 16:25. Blankenbaker had a time of 16:33.
“Second place overall for a sophomore is a really solid performance,” said Ramona Coach Steve Albanese.
Blankenbaker paced himself during the race and overtook the third-place runner about 2-1/2 miles into the race.
The top 10 finishers earned first-team Valley League honors, and those who finished 11th through 20th received second-team recognition. Blankenbaker was Ramona’s only first-team runner, although the Bulldog boys had three second-team finishers.
Chance Varnardo-Richardson finished 11th overall at 17:10, Paul Reynolds was 15th with a time of 17:26, and Nathan Morgan posted a time of 17:35 to take 20th place.
Max Hughes was 26th with a time of 17:45, Alec Richardson overcame illness earlier in the week to finish at 17:58 and earn 29th place, and Tanner Perfect had a time of 18:06. Riley’s time of 18:12 made him the 34th overall finisher as well as the first freshman across the finish line.
A team can enter up to 12 runners in the league finals, and Donny McKay and Griffin Gamble competed in their first-ever varsity race. McKay’s time of 18:25 placed 40th overall while Gamble was 44th with a time of 18:40.
Conner Jenson completed his first race since spraining an ankle at a Sept. 26 invitational. His ankle was still ailing, and he finished 52nd overall with a time of 18:52.
“He just finished ‘cause he wasn’t sure if it was going to be his last race or not,” Albanese said.
Jenson, Reynolds and Hughes were Ramona’s only seniors in the league race. The Bulldogs will enter seven runners in the CIF section meet Saturday at Morley Field.
Matt Maple was Ramona’s final finisher, placing 54th with a time of 19:12.
Ramona had 11 runners in the 2.75-mile girls race and finished fifth at the meet, giving the Bulldogs fifth place overall for the season.
Two of the girls earned second-team Valley League status: Lindsey Spieker placed 12th at 18:17 and Chelsey Cortez had a time of 18:35 to take 17th place. Spieker was the second junior across the finish line, taking three seconds more than junior Nicole Martin-Boit of Westview.
Ramona sophomore Lauren Cortez finished 25th with a time of 19:09.
“I think all three of them are capable of a top ten performance on a good day,” Albanese said of Spieker and the Cortez sisters.
Ashley Duck’s time of 20:13 was worth 43rd place, Anna Phillips finished 49th at 20:48, Tessa Balcom’s time of 21:27 gave her 55th place, Caitlin Choi placed 61st at 22:02, Kelly Helman’s initial varsity experience resulted in a 64th-place time of 22:16, Daniela Cunningham’s first varsity race produced a 67th-place time of 22:33, Lindsey Millen’s varsity debut took 22:46 and gave her 69th place, and Samantha Jackson’s initial varsity competition saw her finish 70th at 22:47.
Chelsey Cortez and Balcom were Ramona’s only seniors.
“Our goal is to make it to the state meet and the more runners the better,” Albanese said. “It would be great to get a lot of people to come out to Morley Field and support the team.”