BY LANDON NEGRIHEMET—The thought of San Jacinto High’s girls cross country team winning the Mountain Pass League title wasn’t a total shock, but it was a bit of a surprise. A surprise, that was, to everyone except Tigers coach Fidel Salcedo. “Yes, I did,” when asked Thursday if he truly believed his team could scoot past Hemet and Beaumont. “I had told the girls that if they worked hard enough, they could get top three and go to CIF. But I told them I wanted first place. “And they wanted it more.” San Jacinto placed four runners in the top eight in Thursday’s Mountain Pass League Finals at Diamond Valley Lake and earned a 10-point victory over Beaumont despite not having one of the league’s three frontrunners. Combined with the leaguemeet standings, the performance gave the Tigers their second consecutive league championship. Hemet wound up as the runner-up and Beaumont placed third, though the Cougars did win the title on the boys’ side with a thrilling 16-point victory over the Bulldogs. Beaumont sophomore Kailie Grimes won the girls race easily in a time of 17 minutes, 35.1 seconds. Teammate Aliso Soto placed second in 18:17 and Hemet junior Taylore Cantu — the league champ a year ago — was third in 18:19. Here, though, is where the Tigers won their championship, as they placed Aracely Ortega (fourth, 18:35) and seniors Stephany Lopez (sixth, 18:58), Esther Shader (seventh, 19:01) and Tricia Roach (eighth, 19:34) in four of the next five spots, proving that pack running can still be successful. “We were falling behind during league meets as our girls struggled with some injuries, but at the end, they knew they wanted it,” Salcedo said. While the 1-2 combination couldn’t carry Beaumont’s girls to a victory, it did the trick for the boys. Junior Andres Vizcarra and senior Zack Gross placed first and second in the boys race, with Vizcarra winning in 15:16.2 and Gross finishing in 15:21.8. That was just enough of a push to edge Hemet, which had juniors Tanner Torrez and Jayden Emerson placing third and fourth in 15:41.5 and 15:44.1, respectively. Beaumont won its fourth consecutive league title with 25 points, while the Bulldogs tallied 41. “We knew there was pressure in this race, and that going 1-2 would solidfy things,” Vizcarra said. “I knew that the faster I ran my race, that Zack would go with me.” The Cougars and Bulldogs, in fact, took nine of the top 10 individual spots, with only San Jacinto senior Justin Vega slipping in to the No. 6 spot.
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