Bulldog boys place 8th as a team
By Joe Naiman
Ramona High School senior Forrest Riley will have one more cross country race in his high school career.
Riley finished third among the 184 Division II runners at the CIF state meet Nov. 24 at Woodward Park in Fresno with a time of 15:12 on the 5,000-meter (3.1-mile) course. That placed him sixth among the 961 runners from all divisions and qualified him for this Saturday’s Nike Nationals in Portland, Ore.
“I’m just so happy with how it all went,” Riley said. “I couldn’t have asked for better conditions, a better race.”
Riley’s time was the fastest of any San Diego Section runner from any division.
“He ran an incredible race,” said coach Steve Albanese.
“Going into it there’s a lot of pressure just being ranked up in the top pack,” Riley said.
He finished second among Division II runners at the CIF San Diego Section meet Nov. 17 and would have qualified for the state meet as an individual even if Ramona had not qualified as a team. The fact that Riley was running for his team rather than necessarily for himself took some of that pressure off and made him realize he was not alone.
“I knew they were all working just as hard,” Riley said.
The Bulldogs as a team finished eighth among the 22 Division II schools competing at the state meet.
“It was a really close battle. We were 29 points away from third place, so it was very, very close,” Albanese said.
Team scores are derived by adding the positions of a school’s top five finishers.
“Some of the guys ran really great races, but you need all five,” Albanese said. “If any one of those guys is off, then it adds a lot to your score.”
Redondo Union High School finished third with 183 points while Ramona accumulated 212 points. Ramona finished second behind Mt. Carmel at the section meet; the Sundevils had 194 points at the state meet to finish fifth.
The individual results of the race came down to who happened to be leading or drafting at the critical time.
“The first two miles I just let them do all the work,” Riley said.
The lead changed repeatedly in the final mile. “We were just kind of surging off of each other back and forth,” said Riley.
He had the lead with about 200 meters remaining. Riley was passed in the final 30 meters.
Bryan Fernandez of Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta won the race in 15:09. A.J. Yarnall of Saugus High School finished second with a time of 15:10.
“I’m ecstatic with my time,” Riley said.
Last year, Dylan Blankenbaker, who was a Ramona High senior, finished second in the state race with a time of 15:10 while Riley placed 31st at 15:54. In 2011, Tristan Stidham had a 65th-place time of 16:25; this year his time of 15:59 placed 27th.
“Our goal was for him to break 16 and get in the top 30,” Albanese said. “He ran a pretty strong race. Didn’t have quite the kick he wanted to at the end, but I was pretty happy with how he finished.”