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Yagers, Highland close out abbreviated cross country season with dominant victory

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Mar. 24—It was over almost before it got started, but the Highland cross country team closed out its abbreviated season with its third straight impressive performance — with a tune-up of sorts — Tuesday afternoon.

The Scots girls team swept the top-nine spots, and the boys placed six in the top seven to cruise past visiting East High in a season that consisted of three duals in eight days.

Jacob Yagers, who captured the Central Section Division II title and was named last year’s BVarsity All-Area runner of the Year in 2019-20, closed out his senior year with his third dual victory in as many meets, finishing a makeshift 5K course at Highland in 15 minutes, 40.12 seconds.

“It is definitely still fun and being able to race, even though they’re just dual meets,” Yagers said. “But it’s nice to get out and run, see how our work is benefiting us and see the rest of the team, younger freshmen run their first cross country races … just give everybody an opportunity to kind of get their legs going and get ready for this track season coming up.”

Practice for the track and field season has already started, and most if not all his teammates figure to fortify a strong Scots distance team.

“It’s been a fun four years,” Yagers said. “I mean I was hoping that we’d have a normal year this year and be able to get to some more competitive races, and have our Valley and state, but it is what it is and we just have to roll with it. I’m just looking forward to running some good times in track and finish off this senior year with some good races.”

Highland’s dominance continued despite the fact No. 2 runner Jacob McNitt, a second team All-Area selection last year, was forced out midway through the race because of a foot injury.

Despite his absence, the Scots have plenty of depth. Matthew Berry — another 2019 second-team All-Area runner, locked down second on Tuesday, finishing in 15:53.00, 26.23 seconds ahead of East’s Nathanael Rodriguez. Rodriguez finished third at the Central Section D-4 championships last season, earning second-team All-Area honors.

Highland’s Matthew Medrano (17:25.57) and Trent Mikita-Wade (18:13.99) rounded out the top five.

“The nice thing is, all these kids, girls and boys, they have great attitudes to start with,” first-year Highland coach Rick Hitchcock said. “And they wanted it bad, and they wanted to work out. So I just provided them an avenue to do that. I gave them the path, they followed the road. I’m really proud of them. They’ve done a lot of good work.”

Scots freshman Mia Torrecillas (18:39.36) continued her dominance in the girls race, cruising to her third victory in three races this season despite running with a stomach ache.

“I wasn’t that happy with my times,” Torrecillias said. “I’m usually in the 17s, but today … But just being able to run and be with my team is really great, and it’s good that I have teammates that are able to push me.”

Sophomore Lianna Guerra was her closest competitor, finishing in second in 19:20.94. Neyda Martinez (19:40.72), Haley Ulloa (20:05.02) and Jasmine Vasquez (21:02.65) rounded out the top five.

“It’s been a great experience,” Hitchcock said. “I think what kept me going is them, actually. I enjoy it and I was an athlete myself obviously. And I enjoy their attitudes and hopefully I had good influence on them, keeping them going in the right direction.”

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