Fallbrook High School’s boys cross country team participated in three invitational meets prior to the start of Valley League competition, and sophomore Josh Hernandez took home medals from all three meets.
Hernandez placed 11th in the sophomore races of both the Sept. 9 Laguna Hills Invitational and the Sept. 16 Mount Carmel/ASICS Cross Country Invitational. He finished 18th in the Sept. 23 Dana Hills invitational sophomore race.
Hernandez was the only Fallbrook boy to medal at the Mount Carmel/ASICS Cross Country Invitational or the Dana Hills Invitational, but three other Fallbrook boys received medals at the Laguna Hills Invitational. Danny Contreras placed 18th in the freshman race, and the sophomore race also included a 27th-place performance from Michael Lopez and a 28th-place result for Osvaldo Urbina. The top 30 finishers in each race were given medals.
“We don’t really focus on the medals, but we had some very good performances,” said Fallbrook head coach Marco Arias.
The focus of the pre-league races, according to Arias, is to prepare his runners for league and CIF competition. “We pick meets that work on different fundamentals,” he said.
Laguna Hills High School hosts the Laguna Hills Invitational whose 5,000-meter (3.1-mile) course includes both terrain and paved surfaces.
“It really shows them what cross country is really about,” Arias said. “That one offers pretty much everything there is to offer in cross country, and it’s a tough course.”
The Mount Carmel/ASICS Cross Country Invitational was at Morley Field in San Diego, which will be the site of the CIF San Diego Section meet Nov. 18. The Sept. 16 meet also allowed Arias to assess how the Warriors were competing relative to CIF San Diego Section schools.
“That’s where CIF is held and we really want to see how these kids are stacking up,” Arias said.
Each school will only be allowed seven runners at the CIF meet, which will be on a 5,000-meter course. The Mount Carmel/ASICS Cross Country Invitational course was 2.95 miles and schools were not limited in the number of runners who could participate in each grade-level race.
The Dana Hills Invitational course is 3.0 miles and has fewer hills than the other two courses the Warriors utilized.
“Dana Hills is more of a road race,” Arias said. “That one’s more for speed.”
Hernandez had times of 17:20 at the Laguna Hills Invitational, 15:11 for the Mount Carmel/ASICS race, and 16:26 in the Dana Hills Invitational. Lopez completed the Laguna Hills Invitational in 17:59, Urbina had a time of 18:06, and Contreras began his high school cross-country career with a time of 18:42.
The two league cluster meets have varsity and junior varsity races, so the pre-league meets allow Arias to determine who is most suitable for the varsity competition. “Overall it gets me a really good idea of where we’re at as a team,” he said.
Fallbrook’s sophomore boys placed fifth as a team at the Laguna Hills Invitational, ninth in the Mount Carmel/ASICS Cross Country Invitational, and 18th at the Dana Hills Invitational. A minimum of five runners in a race is necessary for a team score. This year’s team has 28 boys, including 19 sophomores.
“It’s really the core of our team right now,” said Arias. “They’re improving. They’re still developing as runners.”
The Warriors have only one senior this year. Fallbrook’s squad also includes four freshmen and four juniors.
“I think we’re really going to put something together in the next couple of years,” Arias said.