MODESTO — For years, the Patterson High cross country girls team fought an uphill battle against the likes of league rivals Riverbank and Livingston, only to fall short of its elusive goal to finish as league champions.
Following a 24-year wait, those days are finally over, and the Western Athletic Conference title has found a new home.
The Patterson High girls cross country cemented its place in the annals of school history when it took the top three spots at Tuesday’s WAC meet, completing an undefeated league season to capture its first league title since 1983.
“I’m glad I got to be a part of it,” said four-year varsity runner Amanda Moreno, who won the girls 3.1-mile race in 21 minutes, 38 seconds. “It’s a good way to end my last year. This is really exciting and a lot of fun.”
Her teammate, Melissa Vega, led the race at the 2-mile mark with a time of 13:45, before finishing second in 21:49. A junior, Vega was overwhelmed by Patterson’s team accomplishment.
“It means everything to win this title,” Vega said. “I’m so happy, I feel like crying. All the hard work paid off. Being with your team, it means everything that we did it.”
Soccer player Adriana Araisa passed up Jim Elliot Christian runner Heidi Hathorne in the final mile to grab third place in 22:22.
“I felt confident that I could beat the Jim Elliot runner,” Araisa said. “I felt united with my team.”
Samantha Kramer, a taller runner well suited for the basketball team with her height, finished strong in 23:17, which gave her sixth place among 26 runners. She experimented with golf and volleyball before trying out for the team her junior season.
Patterson had a strong showing from the rest of its talented contingent. Linsey Moeller was ninth in 24:44, followed by Kaelee Kramer’s 13th place mark of 25:08. Patterson’s top five runners were scored.
Rounding out the Patterson girls team, Vanessa Lozcano finished in 27:52, and Joyce Chavez crossed the finish line in 36:46.
For coach Dave Klein, the league title was fitting for the best team he’s had in his five years of coaching cross country.
“I was really proud of the girls,” Klein said. “We got stronger and stronger as the season went on and the races got longer. When we got to the 2-mile mark, that’s when we beat opponents. The final mile was one of the strongest miles we would run.”
While Patterson had its share of ups and downs with times that fell short of expectations, the girls steadily improved during the two-month regular season.
“Everybody improved themselves a lot,” Klein said. “This is by far the best team I’ve had. It’s not even close.”
Boys cross country
The boys squad had been shooting for its first league title since 1994, but finished second behind frontrunner Livingston. The Wolves had the top two runners in Nuno Espadinha (17:04) and Juan Segundo (17:31).
“It’s not like second place is bad,” Klein said. “I thought the boys did pretty well. I just think we short-stepped our goal. I think the boys did their best. We just didn’t run our best. It wasn’t for a lack of effort.”
Livingston had a team score of 27 points, while Patterson was second with 37 points.
Patterson was led by Jose Cortez’s third-place time of 18:09, edging out Hilmar’s Jeff Sousa at the finish line.
Eduardo Chin took fifth in 18:24, but Patterson’s next runner was James Dimter in 12th place among 36 varsity boys runners, forcing the Tigers to settle for second place.
Rafa Martinez won the junior varsity 2-mile race in 13:47, and teammate Briana Cuen was fourth in 16:20.