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IRVINE: The Woodbridge Cross Country Invitational is held, appropriately, at the “Great Park” in Irvine. “Great” of course, has several meanings, one could be “big,” another could be “exciting” and then again it could also mean “outstanding.” In the case of Woodbridge, all of the above apply.
The meet draws hundreds of schools from several states and with 51 races on the docket, thousands of runners compete. It’s quite the spectacle and lasts for two days.
No one goes to Woodbridge to run slowly as the flat course, atmosphere, lights and deeply competitive fields draw out the very best of the harriers that toe the line.
King was among them and for the last time this season under the lights, they created their own version of electricity with outstanding performances.
John Sosa posted another impressive performance to lead off the freshman team with another personal record (PR) at 16:36, which would place him as number 8 on the squad overall on the day! Two other standout freshman runners in the race were Carter Thompson and Pacey Schippell who bested their marks by 1 and 2 minutes respectively. In the girls 9th grade race, Jordyn Ramirez “is really coming into form,” said King assistant coach Mario Machuca, as she ran with a new PR of 20:22. Taylor Starling and Caitlyn Brody also both dropped almost a minute off their personal bests finishing in the mid-20s to inch them closer to their season goals
In the sophomore race, Brennen Beasley was the front man for the squad and posted a new PR of 17:11 and was shadowed by Marc Gonzalez and Samuel Webster. These three along with their sophomore brethren who are racing on the varsity squad make for an impressive group and bodes well for the future. In the senior race, Timothy Gill broke through one of his long-standing barriers of 17 minutes and posted a 16:53.
The Varsity girls kicked off the evening “Showdown Races” and competed in the “rated” division contest. Freshmen Nathalie Drewitz and Jude Abu-Ghazaleh led the squad in a tough field which left the girls with some more motivation for the training ahead. Their times of 18:12 and 18:14 respectively were the 1st and 2nd fastest 3-mile marks for 9th graders in school history.
“It was really important for our varsity teams to get a taste of what it feels like to be in a high-caliber race and really push them to the next level moving forward,” said Machuca.
The boys varsity rode their recent CIF-SS D1 top 10 ranking into the marquee race of the night and shined, finishing 16th of 34 teams in the very stellar field. Maximo Zavaleta led the team with a 14:18 time, the second-fastest all time 3 mile mark in school history. Behind him were equally impressive marks by Bradley Quezada at 15:05 (#2 soph time all time), Brayden Lunetta 15:12 (#3 junior time all time), Logan Carlson 15:28 (#5 soph time all time). Alex Wesoloski rounded out the top 5 and their collective times came to 75:43, which rests now the second-fastest team time in school history behind the 2015 squad that set the record also on the lightening fast Woodbridge Invitational as well.
“Woodbridge is always a fun experience and our last opportunity of the season to run under the lights,” said head coach Alfonso Ibarra. “I’m very proud of how the team competed against many of the top teams in the state. It’s a great learning experience that will help the team improve as we now focus our attention on league competition.”
September 10, 2023
ROSEMEAD: For the second of three weekends in a row, the cross country teams competed under the lights. An idea that was started by the famous Woodbridge Invitational in Irvine some 20 years ago – (King will be there next Saturday night) has become trendy and is replacing many of the standard early Saturday morning wakeup calls most harriers – and their coaches – assumed was part of the sport.
On Saturday night the Wolves were at the Rosemead High School invitational and as they had seven nights earlier at the Cool Breeze meet , King’s runners excelled once again.
Head Coach Alfonso Ibarra was pleased with the outcomes as his runners took the line against grade-level opponents, making for 8 races (boys and girls) in all.
“I was very impressed with the adjustments everyone made from last week’s race into this Saturday, we had strong performances at every level,” he said. Five of King’s girls ran under 19:00 minutes for the course that measured out to just shy of 3 miles. Reported officially at 2.85 miles, King’s times were nonetheless outstanding and spotlight a growing momentum the coaching staff is excited about.
“After last weeks performances [at Cool Breeze] my biggest thing for the girls was to really be in the conversation at Rosemead,” said assistant coach Mario Machuca who was himself once running for King before graduating in 2015. It was super satisfying to watch them all really attack the course and come back with two more team wins leading into Woodbridge."
The conversation started with the freshmen girls race that saw King bring home the victory. Nathalie Drewitz and Jude Abu-Ghazaleh lead the attack with impressive times in the mid-18:00’s which if extended out to a full three miles would place them in the top-7 freshman marks in school history.
Ruth DeLoye lead the senior girls race to a second King victory and the crew ran some great races highlighted by Izzy Graham’s 19:28.
Brayden Lunetta (JR) had the fastest time for King on the day with an impressive 14:48 which placed him third in the Junior Boys race.
Bradley Quezada won the sophomore race which was a nice single point to start the scoring. Logan Carlson, Frank Stewart, Marc Gonzalez and Samuel Webster combined for the team win.
Another King Alum, Dalton Seckinger (class of ’13) is coaching as well and noted that many of the team were finishing their individual races with a flourish. “I was really impressed with their finishes,” he said, “the last 200 meters I saw every athlete speed up and kick it in.”
Racing at night – once unheard of in the sport – is now a staple of the season and one that King is getting comfortable with. Next Saturday night will be the biggest lights of them all, the Woodbridge Invitational which will draw hundreds of teams – many from across the nation – and thousands of runners and spectators. It is quite a spectacle and after two successive weekends under the lights, King should be ready for it.
Markos, a senior team captain, stands out not only as a top varsity runner but also as an exceptional student academically. His consistent support and commitment to the sport have proven rewarding as he continues to flourish both in his academic pursuits and out at practice. Serving as a remarkable model of a student athlete, Markos effectively leads his team through his unwavering dedication and serves as an inspiration to his peers.
15 years ago a tall lanky sophomore in a King uniform got a lot of attention at the flat and fast Ventura Seaside Invitational. Lane Werley was his name and his time of 15:17 over three miles had just set a new school record and was the 4th fastest of the meet. Afterward, an informed reporter said of Werley that, “King has quite a gem.” The man was right: the breakout race was a forecast of things to come as Werley would go on to the most decorated cross country career in school history with multiple podium berths at State and Nationals.
On Saturday on a similarly flat and fast three mile course at the Cool Breeze Invitational, another tall lanky sophomore in a King uniform got a lot of attention. Maximo Zavaleta is his name and his time of 14:53 over three miles bested Werley’s sophomore record from 2008 (the year Maximo was born) by 25 seconds. It got him across the line in second place in the fastest heat of the day and helped pull the squad to a 4th place finish in the talented field which was better than a number of squads in the race who had already been accorded a pre-season CIF ranking. No one knows the future, but Zavaleta’s early career success looks like it could end up being quite a gem too. (link to records)
He knows he’s not alone, however. “Watch out for the Wolves this season,” Zavaleta said in a post race interview, a statement laden with the knowledge that their race was no fluke and that he doesn’t race alone. The King program under Coach Alfonso Ibarra’s second year at the helm is off to a great start and boasts far more than one star runner.
The girls varsity team was in the second-fastest heat of the meet and took home the victory. “It was an amazing pack performance,” said King assistant coach Mario Machuca. They were led by Senior Ruth DeLoye in 9th place overall but she had a pack of Wolves on her heels which sealed the victory. Gracie Guzzetta, 9th grader Jude Abu-Ghazalah and Emely Ruiz were 10th, 13th and 14th respectively and Leah Pendleton rounded out the scoring in 38th place.
“This was a great start for the varsity girls,” Machuca said, noting that the 2022 season ended uncharacteristically early for King as they were out before the CIF rounds even began. With this performance, consider the rebuilding project in full run.
In the freshman race, Natalie Drewitz won it outright, and in 19:50, a time that would have put her 5th for King in the varsity race. It was her debut race and a good one at that: It’s the fastest 9th grade time in a frosh race in school history. John Sosa lead the freshman boys with a solid opening effort of 17:52.
That varsity boys race which closed out the evening could be a herald of things to come. Not one of the guys in the top 7 are seniors. Junior Brayden Lunetta’s 15:33 was just seconds off the top 7 all time list for the class and Logan Carlson, who finished 4th for the team, dropped a minute off of his previous best 3 mile time, finishing at 16:05.
“Great performances all around coming off a great couple of months of summer training,” Machuca said. “We have room to improve moving forward to be ready for the big stages [invitationals and CIF],” he added. But all of that will come in good time … just like the times the athletes posted on Saturday.
And like Maximo said, folks just might want to watch out for the Wolves if they weren’t already.
August 27, 2023
Written by Coach Alfonso Ibarra
Isabelle Graham, one of our senior team captains, shines as a positive role model in both practice and the classroom. Her high standards and positive leadership style inspire the team to thrive, fostering inclusivity and motivation among all her teammates. She exemplifies the essence of a student athlete by balancing academic excellence with her role as a dedicated team leader, contributing significantly to the team’s success and the personal growth of her peers.