The Penguins Boys' Midget Division runners warm up for their race.
Courier Sports Editor
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Out of 34 young runners who are part of the Penguin Club from the San Luis Valley, who took to the field at deKoevend Park XC Course in Littleton, Colorado for the Colorado USATF Junior Olympic Championships on November 3, 24 runners have advanced to the 2012 USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships in Albuquerque New Mexico on Saturday December 8.
Close to 3,000 youth athletes will journey to Albuquerque, NM for the 2012 USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships at the International Balloon Fiesta Park where the scenic Sandia Mountains will also provide a beautiful backdrop for the Championships.
Competition takes place in six two-year age divisions, ranging between the ages of seven and 18.The age divisions are Sub-Bantam (born 2003+, they run 2 kilometers or 1.24 miles), Bantam (born 2001–2002 they run 3 kilometers or 1.86 miles) , Midget (born 1999–2000 they run 3 kilometers or 1.86 miles), Youth (born 1997–1998 they run 4 kilometers or 2.48 miles) Intermediate (born 1995–1996 they run 5 kilometers or 3.1 miles) and Young (born 1993–1994 they run 5 kilometers or 3.1 miles).
According to Peter DeLaCerda, Head Coach of the Penguins, “We have had the biggest numbers join our Penguin Club this year. 34 runners were at state from the Valley and a couple joined the club from other parts of the state.”
Of the 34 runners who represented the Penguin Club, 28 qualified for the USATF Region 10 Meet which took place on November 17. The Regional Meet also took place at the International Balloon Fiesta Park.
“We had 28 qualify including three teams, Boys’ Midget Division, Boys’ Youth Division and for the first time we had a girls’ team in the Intermediate Division,” explained DeLaCerda. “Of those 28 runners at regionals we had 24 qualify for nationals including all three teams. They ran awesome and represented the Valley at the highest level possible. We also had two regional individual champions, something that our club has never done before.”
Sarah DeLaCerda and Annahi Molina led the Penguins in the Girls’ Sub-Bantam Division as the two crossed the finish line in fourth and fifth places with identical times of 9:16.58 and 9:16.93. Kacey Hillis finished in 40th place in the 51-runner field with a time of 11:50.06.
Brennan Vega was one of the regional champions because he won the 41-runner field in the Boys’ Sub-Bantam Division with a time of 8:25.28.
In the Girls’ Bantam Division, Alliyah Molina led the Penguins with her 12th place finish in 13:33.66. Selena Villalva captured 25th place with a time of 14:42.87.
Emilee Haefeli finished 33rd with a time of 12:54.69 in the Girls’ Midget Division and was the Penguin’s only representative in the race.
The Penguins finished second in the Boys’ Midget Division with 50 points, behind the Landsharks Running Club out of Colorado Springs, who had 33 points. The Landsharks are a running club that is associated with The Classical Academy.
Elijah DeLaCerda was the top Penguin through with his seventh place finish in 11:21.02. Derek Van Berkum finished in tenth place with a time of 11:29.49 while Christopher Blinzinger finished in 13th place with a time of 11:33.39. Kason Smith finished in 21st place by crossing the line in 11:47.49. Izec Vega finished in 27th place with a time of 12:10.62. Kaden Hardesty (12:23.06) and Kolten Hillis (12:25.90) rounded out the Penguins in 31st and 32nd places, respectively.
In the Boys’ Youth Division, the Penguins finished in third place with a team score of 79 points. Once again the Landsharks won the division with 48 points.
Isaiah DeLaCerda finished fourth in the division with a time of 13:56.80 while Miguel Baltazar finished in seventh place with a time of 14:06.74. Caleb Palmer finished in 24th place with a time of 15:00.54. Oscar Martinez was ten places back in 34th place with a time of 15:22.49. Brayan Flores and Ramon Juarez finished in 48 th place and 49th place with times of 16:12.37 and 16:18.24, respectively.
Olivia Hayden won the Girls’ Intermediate Division with a time of 19:19.17 while Del Norte’s Jordyn Neeley finished in 14th place with a time of 22:45.23. Centauri’s Caitlin Babcock finished in 17th place just ahead of Alamosa’s Paige DeGolyer, who finished 19th. The two clocked times of 23:10.94 and 24:21.09. Alamosa’s Brianna Molina rounded out the Penguin runners by finishing in 25th place with a time of 26:48.51. The Penguins won the team race by scoring 22 points.
Antonito had a runner in the race who was not affiliated with the Penguins and that was Sara Taketatsu, who finished in 23rd place with a place of time of 25:51.87.
Jericho Ullibari was the leader from the Valley in the Boys’ Intermediate Division as he represented the Antonito Running Club with a time of 17:53.70 to take ninth place.
Del Norte’s Luke Haefeli, representing the Penguins, finished in 20th place with a time of 19:09.89.
Alamosa’s Karlee Smith finished in fifth place in the Young Women Division with a time of 22:46.09. In the Young Mens’ Division, Alamosa’s Gavin Palmer finished in 22nd place with a time of 19:02.25. Matt Samora of Antonito finished in 26th place with a time of 21:40.90.
The Penguin Track Club, which was organized years ago by Center High School coach Dennis Schoenfelder and Alamosa High School coach Larry Zaragoza, went on a small hiatus before DeLaCerda resuscitated it back in 2008. Since then it has grown they have set high goals for the National Meet on December 8th.