New Ramona High School cross country Coach Steve Albanese began his head coaching career with two individual wins and two team wins at the Vaquero Stampede Sept. 5 at Lindo Lake Park in Lakeside.
Ramona sophomore Dylan Blankenbaker won the individual freshman-sophomore boys race while the Bulldogs won the boys freshman-sophomore team competition.
Ramona’s boys also won the junior-senior team competition.
Senior Chelsey Cortez took first place in the girls junior-senior race, and as a team Ramona’s girls placed second in the junior-senior event.
“It went well,” Albanese said. “It was definitely a good day for everyone.”
Blankenbaker and Cortez were among 21 Bulldog runners who received medals for finishes among the top 25 in their races.
“Everybody was happy,” Albanese said.
The junior-senior boys course was 2.15 miles. The other races took place on a 1.65-mile course. Blankenbaker had a time of 8:24 for his 1.65-mile race.
“I just told him to sit with the leaders and after the mile marker he could go,” Albanese said. “That’s exactly what he did.”
Albanese had a lead of approximately 60 meters on the second-place runner before pacing himself.
Cortez was given similar instructions and took a likewise lead after the mile marker before saving herself for a possible competitor’s late burst.
“I told her to just cruise it in and she did,” Albanese said.
Cortez posted a time of 9:39 for the 1.65-mile race.
Senior Paul Reynolds was Ramona’s top finisher in the boys junior-senior race, placing third with a time of 11:14. Chance Varnardo-Richardson was fifth at 11:25, Conner Jenson had the 14th-place time of 11:43, Tanner Perfect finished 16th with a time of 11:48, Nathan Morgan earned 17th place at 11:52, and Max Hughes placed 25th with a time of 12:13.
Ramona’s first five runners all crossed the one-mile point at 5:20.
“After that they kind of turned it on,” Albanese said.
Reynolds actually ended up with a negative split, running faster in the later portion of the race. Albanese was pleased with the 38-second difference between Ramona’s first and fifth runners.
“That’s a really good spread for our first race of the season,” he said. “It was a really smart race for them.”
Albanese isn’t worried about the lack of such a close spread in the freshman-sophomore race, since Blankenbaker was 36 seconds faster than Ramona’s second finisher. Alec Richardson placed sixth with a time of 9:00, William Wenberg was 11th at 9:20, Jose Pilar took 9:30 and placed 14th, Donny McKay’s high school cross-country debut saw a 17th-place time of 9:40, Josh Sears was 21st at 9:48, and Ian Pedlow placed 23rd by crossing the finish line 9:51 after the starting gun.
“No complaints at all,” Albanese said.
In the girls junior-senior race, Lindsey Spieker was Ramona’s second finisher, placing sixth overall at 10:37. Tessa Balcom’s time of 11:11 gave her 11th place, Ashley Duck was 12th at 11:18, and Anna Phillips ran the course in 12:02 to earn 24th place.
Because Ramona only fielded three runners in the girls freshman-sophomore race, the Bulldogs did not receive a team position. Lauren Cortez had a time of 10:24 to place fifth, Caitlyn Choi was 18th at 12:10, and Kelly Helman’s time of 12:30 gave her 25th place.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs will have a fun run fundraiser from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Dos Picos Park; the Bulldog harriers will run one-mile laps and will be seeking donations per lap. Ramona’s next meet will be the Mount Carmel Invitational Sept. 19.