By Joe Naiman
All Ramona High School’s boys cross country team runners received certificates, the first-year varsity runners received a winged shoe for their letter jacket, and bars for additional years of varsity service went to others at the post-season awards banquet in the performing arts center at Olive Peirce Middle School.
The banquet included dinner as well as the presentation of awards.
“It was good,” said Coach Steve Albanese.
Senior Dylan Blankenbaker was named the team’s most valuable runner.
“It was a pretty obvious pick,” Albanese said. “He was our No. 1 runner all of our races and our most consistent runner all year long.”
Ramona’s final competitive event as a team was the CIF state meet Nov. 26 at Fresno’s Woodward Park. The Bulldogs finished third among Division II teams while Blankenbaker finished second among Division II runners.
Blankenbaker also placed second at the CIF San Diego Section meet Nov. 19 at Morley Field and won the Palomar League meet Nov. 12 at Kit Carson Park. He was also invited to run at the Nike Nationals, held Dec. 3 in Portland, Ore., where he placed 14th overall and second among California runners.
Senior Alec Richardson, who placed seventh at the section meet and 56th at the state meet, received the 110% Effort award.
“One of the hardest workers on the team day in and day out,” Albanese said. “It showed in his performances.”
Albanese also took summer training into account for Richardson’s award.
“His off-season is always really good,” Albanese said.
Junior Tristan Stidham received the Most Improved Runner award.
“Tristan last year was not even on varsity and he stepped up huge this year,” Albanese said. “He just had such huge improvements this year.”
Stidham had been Ramona’s seventh, eighth or ninth runner for most of the season before finishing as Ramona’s sixth runner in both the Palomar League and section races. He was the fifth Bulldog and 65th overall finisher at the state meet while setting a 5,000-meter (3.1-mile) personal record by 55 seconds.
Isaiah Spieker took home the Rookie of the Year award, which forced a decision between Spieker and fellow freshman Collin Uekert.
“Isaiah and Collin were very close,” Albanese said.
Both ran at the league meet, where Spieker finished five positions and 10 seconds ahead of Uekert.
The banquet also saw Four-Year Cross Country Runner awards given to Blankenbaker and Richardson. Team captain recognition went to Blankenbaker and senior Donny McKay.