In the second of three Desert Valley League cross country races, the top two individual performances remained the same, but the trek toward a team title is still up for grabs following Wednesday’s seven-team event at Lake Cahuilla.
The Indio High School boys’ team is primed for an eighth consectutive title following its second top finish at the DVL cluster meet. Junior David Luna led the way as the Rajahs edged Xavier Prep, 47-54 and La Quinta was close with 60 points.
According to Indio coach Santi Briones, the team has not yet locked up the title because teams are ranked according to finish and the Rajahs need another top-three performance in the final race to secure that string of titles.
In the girls’ race, it was a switch from first to second between Xavier Prep and Indio. The Rajahs took top honors, outdistancing the Saints, 45-54, despite having top runner Rebecca Morales drop out after feeling ill.
The young Rajahs stepped up for their sidelined teammate.
“Everyone stayed right with me,” said junior Daisy Simental, who led the Indio effort with a fifth-place overall finish. “There was a challenge after we heard that Rebecca dropped out and we knew we had to push it. It wasn’t a good feeling when I heard that, but everyone tried to finish strong.”
La Quinta standout Megan Huebner rolled to victory in 18:50, while Coachella Valley junior Kat-ya Avendano was second at 19:58. Palm Desert’s Cacia Cannon was third at 20:54 and Meg Lizza led Xavier with her 20:12.
The Rajahs stayed as a pack and with Simental’s lead, teammate Sofia Lenos placed sixth at 20:37 and Diana Espinoza was next at 20:45. Indio also got a top 15-finish out of freshman Aracely Simental and Marisol Flemate to secure the standing.
“This is really exciting for these girls because they’ve really worked hard and came along together,” said Indio coach Becky Baker. “This bodes well for us — even for next year.”
While Huebner ran away from the pack, she noted that her team stepped up as well to finish a solid third.
“I felt good during the race and I am really proud how my team ran today,” she said. “Everyone really gave it their all and were really supportive of one another.”
And while La Quinta was able to take advantage of better personal finishes, it was Xavier that held on to grab second place despite missing its top performer Valeria Ruiz, who is injured.
“It was a very good race and I’m surprised to see we did as well as we did,” said Saints’ coach Aron Lyons, who brought up a couple of JV runners to test the varsity waters. “They did really well and this definitely sets up a good showdown for the DVL finals.
“The times are a bit slower here and the course is more difficult, but we’ll be heading to a new course for the final — a new course for everyone so that will make it all good.”
The final cluster meet of the season is Oct. 31 at the Empire Polo Grounds, a fast and flat course with some grass but mostly dirt that will give the runners a push leading into the postseason. Indio hosts the race, but due to ongoing construction around campus, the Empire Polo Grounds is being used.
It should bode well for Luna, now the two-time cluster meet winner who clocked a 15:32. Like Huebner, he ran away with the race as La Quinta’s Alex Orozco was second at 16:20. Emery Caster of Xavier was third at 16:22, teammate Chris Spinney ran a 16:24.4 and Indio’s Raul Hernandez rounded out the top five at 16:24.8.
Luna says no matter what course, he’s ready for another challenge.
“I really like every course I run,” said Luna, Indio’s record holder. “Each one is unique and a challenge. That’s the reason I like cross country. I’m looking forward to running at the Polo Grounds.”
The boys’ race was also a tight one with Indio holding a 9-point edge over the Saints while La Quinta took third.