Two Ramona High School’ runners who qualified for the state meet earned Most Valuable Player awards at the post-season banquet held at Olive Peirce Middle School: sophomore Dylan Blankenbaker was the boys’ MVP while junior Lindsey Spieker earned the girls MVP honor.
“It was a great banquet,” said head coach Steve Albanese.
The banquet saw the presentation of awards as well as a dinner.
Blankenbaker and Spieker were the most deserving of the MVP awards, said Albanese.
“In cross country we always train to do our best at the end of the season,” said Albanese.
The 110 Percent Award for the girls went to sophomore Lauren Cortez. Junior Chance Varnardo-Richardson and sophomore Alec Richardson shared the award on the boys’ side.
“It represents somebody that goes above and beyond looking to improve as much as they could,” Albanese said of the award.
Junior Nathan Morgan earned the Most Improved award for the boys while sophomore Caitlin Choi was the girls’ Most Improved recipient.
This was Choi’s first season on the cross-country team. She was a sprinter on Ramona’s track and field team in 2009.
“She could barely even complete a three-mile run,” Albanese said of Choi at the beginning of the season. “By the end of the season she was up on varsity.”
Morgan’s 20th-place finish at the Valley League meet earned him second-team all-league honors, and he finished 31st among Division II boys at the CIF San Diego Section meet.
“He had a really strong last two races, and that’s when we needed him the most,” Albanese said.
Ramona’s boys took fifth among Division II teams at the CIF section meet. The girls placed 11th. Blankenbaker was the seventh finisher in the boys race while Spieker qualified for the state meet with a ninth-place finish.
The boys team spent much of the season without senior Conner Jenson, who sprained an ankle at a Sept. 26 invitational, but Jenson was given the Bulldog of the Year Award. Senior Chelsey Cortez was the girls’ Bulldog of the Year Award recipient.
“It represents a runner who exhibits everything that a coach wants to have in a runner,” said Albanese, who mentioned traits such as team support, leadership, hard work and dedication.
In Jenson’s absence, senior Paul Reynolds took over as the boys captain. Chelsey Cortez, Jenson, and Reynolds were honored with captain’s awards at the banquet.
The Rookie of the Year awards went to Forrest Riley and Brianna Wallace. Riley won the junior varsity boys race at the Southern California Invitational, earning him a promotion to the varsity for the final meets of the season. Wallace won the girls junior varsity race in the dual meet against Valley Center.
The banquet also saw four-year runner awards presented to Reynolds, Max Hughes, Chelsey Cortez, Tessa Balcom, Sarah Callan and Erika Stinchcomb.