Fallbrook High School senior Noelle Garcia finished 30th among the 190 Division I runners at the CIF state cross-country meet November 29 at Fresno’s Woodward Park.
Garcia had a time of 18:35 on the 5,000-meter (3.1-mile) course.
“To my knowledge this is the second-best performance ever at the state meet by a Fallbrook High School girl,” said Fallbrook head coach Troy Hamlin.
While Garcia didn’t match the performance of Milena Glusac, whose four state meet appearances included state championships in 1991 and 1992, Garcia’s time was better than Tricia Mattson’s 18:48 which produced 16th place in 1996.
“Noelle’s race was absolutely astonishing,” Hamlin said. “It was an astoundingly great performance.”
While the girls in the state meet run a 3.1-mile race, the CIF San Diego Section course is 2.75 miles. Thus, Garcia’s time at the state meet actually compares favorably to the 16:41 which gave her sixth place at the section meet November 22.
“The extra distance is not an issue,” Hamlin said. “She’s extremely, extremely fit.”
Twelve San Diego Section girls placed among the top 50 in the state’s Division I race.
“We run the shorter courses, but we run them at a greater intensity,” Hamlin said. “We run them just as hard as if we would if we were running 5,000 meters.”
The fact that Garcia was sixth at the section meet and eighth among San Diego Section girls at the state meet wasn’t a matter of concern.
“That kind of thing happens. The Torrey Pines girls were running as a team, trying to win the state championship, and they just stepped up,” Hamlin said.
Torrey Pines finished second as a team at the state meet, behind Dana Hills, and both Division I runners who trailed Garcia at the section meet but beat her in Fresno wore Falcon uniforms.
The Falcons’ Alli Billmeyer finished ahead of Garcia at the league meet while Garcia had the faster time at the San Diego Section race.
Billmeyer finished third in the state meet with a time of 17:46 to lead all San Diego Section girls.
Torrey Pines’ Megan Morgan was fourth at 17:47.
Ashlyn Dadkhah, who finished tenth in the section meet, was 14th in the state meet, and Erin Gillingham was 19th at Fresno.
Rancho Bernardo sophomore Molly Grabill, who won the section meet, was sixth at Fresno while Rancho Bernardo’s Caroline Draper, who edged Garcia for firth place a week earlier, was 16th at the state meet.
Rancho Buena Vista’s Shanna St. Laurent was 20th at Fresno.
The other San Diego Section runners in the top 50 were Rancho Buena Vista’s Heather Zytkewicz, Escondido’s Emily Birch, Vista’s Kelly Thompson, and Escondido’s Tiffany Duffy.
“She beat some people that she had no business beating,” Hamlin said of Garcia.
Garcia had not previously participated in a state meet, and Hamlin noted that many runners require an adjustment to that level of competition.
“She just went out there and put in a top-notch performance,” Hamlin said.
Alex Dunne of San Clemente High School won the state meet at 17:27.
Garcia, who ran the first mile in 5:57 at the section meet, crossed the one-mile point at Woodward Park 5:43 after the starting gun.
That time still put her between 35th and 40th. “She just dug down deep and got tough,” Hamlin said.
Garcia was in 31st place after two miles.
“You’re talking about the state of California, one of the best running states in the country. To finish 30th in the state of California, for little Noelle, that is just amazing,” Hamlin said.
“Noelle has been a mainstay of this team for the last four years,” he added. “She’s got a work ethic you wouldn’t believe, and that’s what’s made her great.”
Hamlin is also Fallbrook High School’s girls track and field head coach, so he will have Garcia during the spring.
“She would really like to run a good mile and two-mile this year,” Hamlin said. “We’re going to give her a little bit of time off and get her ready for track.”
That time off means that Garcia won’t run in the Foot Locker regionals, so the state meet likely closes out her high school cross-country career.
“Noelle has achieved her potential in cross-country this year. She’s done everything that she possibly could. And I’m just so proud of her,” Hamlin said.
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