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Potter eighth-grade girls win league cross country championship

Mochel individual eighth-grade girls winner, eighth-grade boys second

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The Big Ten Middle School League held the Big 10 Cross Country Championships meet Oct. 25 at Guajome Park, and Potter Junior High School was the eighth-grade girls champion while Potter’s Kora Mochel won the eighth-grade girls race.

Potter’s eighth-grade boys placed second at the championship meet. The seventh-grade Braves boys took fourth place in the race for sixth-grade and seventh-grade boys. Potter did not have enough seventh-grade girls for a team score in the sixth-grade and seventh-grade girls race.

“I’m off to a wonderful start,” said Potter coach Vickie Knox.

The Big Ten Middle School League now consists of 11 schools as Potter was added for 2023. Frank Tabarez, who has experience with the Boys and Girls Club of North County, is now Potter’s athletic director. The team is under the auspices of the Boys and Girls Club of North County. The Fallbrook Union Elementary School District does not provide funding for the Potter cross country program.

The Big Ten Middle School League had four weekly meets prior to the Big 10 Cross Country Championships meet. Those ten schools made the trip to Fallbrook for the Sept. 28 meet at Potter.

The Braves eighth-grade girls once again finished first with Mochel winning that race; the eighth-grade boys were once again second, and the seventh-grade boys were fifth. Vista Magnet eighth-grader Damon Eckle won his race with a time of 9:46.06 on the 1.75-mile course while Potter eighth-grader Jake Canfield had the second-place time of 9:46.11. Potter seventh-grader Shai Cortez, who had placed 17th in each of the first two meets, was 10th among sixth-grade and seventh-grade girls at the Potter meet.

The Oct. 5 meet was at Buena Vista Park in Vista on a 1.77-mile course. Canfield won the eighth-grade boys race in 9:43.80, finishing exactly six seconds ahead of Eckle. The Potter eighth-grade boys repeated their second-place team finish and the eighth-grade girls finished first for the fourth consecutive race.

Mochel won her race in 11:32.47 while second-place Maya Hernandez of Lincoln had a time of 12:11.88. Potter’s seventh-grade boys were third as a team. Cortez finished eighth in the race for sixth-grade and seventh-grade girls.

The Big 10 Cross Country Championships meet course was 2.0 miles. Potter won the eighth-grade girls championship with a total of 24 points. The second-place score of Lincoln was 37 points.

That gave Potter’s eighth-grade girls first place in every race during their initial season. “That was a big surprise,” Knox said.

All six of Potter’s eighth-grade girls placed in the top 20 and received medals. “That was very cool for them,” Knox said.

Mochel’s winning time was 14:00.29. “Kora is an amazing athlete. She’s strong minded, an amazing runner off the get-go,” Knox said.

Hernandez finished in 14:24.01 for second. Lincoln’s Aubrie Johnson had the third-place time of 14:25.17.

Potter took fourth through sixth with Olivia Bonafanti posting a 14:57.80 performance, Belinda Juan completing the course in 15:02.96, and Maria Pablo Manuel needing 15:07.48.

Cross country coaches at the high school level often emphasize pack running. Knox did not emphasize pack running but had her runners work on passing. Pablo Manuel was behind Zoe Fernandez of Martin Luther King as they approached the corner prior to the finish line.

“Maria just kicked it,” Knox said. “She just sprinted past her to the finish. It was so awesome.”

Fernandez had a time of 15:09.52 to edge Potter’s Lilia Suarez, whose eighth-place time was 15:12.27. “Her and Lilia were going back and forth. They were side by side,” Knox said.

Suarez was ninth in her first meet and seventh in her next two meets, but she was injured during the season and placed 12th Oct. 5. “She worked really hard to recover,” Knox said.

Fallbrook’s final eighth-grade girls finisher, Madyson Rodarte, was 18th with a time of 17:29.40.

“The high school is going to have some really good ninth-grade girl runners,” Knox said of the 2024 season.

The Martin Luther King eighth-grade boys had the winning score of 30 points. Potter accumulated 49 points. “I was thrilled,” Knox said of the second-place finish. Lincoln had 74 points for third place.

“Both of my eighth-graders, girls and boys, held their positions for the entire season, which is amazing,” Knox said.

Colin Gray of Martin Luther King won the boys eighth-grade race at both of the first two meets, did not compete Sept. 28 or Oct. 5, but won the Big 10 Cross Country Championships race in 11:37.47. Canfield was second with a time of 11:44.49.

“He worked really hard to get in first,” Knox said of Canfield.

“He closed in a couple of times,” Knox said. “At the end there was too much a gap.”

Eckle completed the course in 11:48.18 for third. A time of 11:52.56 gave Potter’s Kai Iacuaniello fourth place. The fifth-place time of 11:53.03 was posted by Karner Christian of Martin Luther King. “They were all back and forth battling the whole time,” Knox said. “Kai gave it everything he had.”

Iacuaniello finished sixth Sept. 14, fourth Sept. 21, and fifth Sept. 28 and Oct. 5.

Eric Vu had a time of 12:52.01 which was worth 14th place. Olin Ramsay became the 18th finisher 13:15.69 after the race began. Joseph Mills was 33rd and had a time of 14:44.45. Noah Conseco took 34th place with a 15:04.79 performance.

Martin Luther King won the sixth-grade and seventh-grade boys race with 29 points. A score of 40 points gave Guajome Park Academy second. Lincoln had 88 points. Potter accumulated 100 points. Vista Magnet placed fifth with 102 points.

“Very, very happy,” Knox said of the Potter seventh-grade boys placing fourth.

Diego Castaneda was Fallbrook’s first finisher and the 13th overall finisher; his time was 14:25.16. Jayden Delgadillo Mercado had the 28th-place time of 15:36.09. Elmo Francisco Gaspar obtained 34th place with a time of 16:24.83. Nathan Garcia Delgadillo was the 45th finisher and took 17:32.67. Jayden Hernandez finished in 17:38.49 for 47th place.

Potter had two seventh-grade girls. Cortez had a time of 17:03.18 at the Big 10 Cross Country Championships for 18th place. Abigail Espinoza finished 26th and had a time of 17:45.38. “My two did really well,” Knox said.

Knox sought more than course performances. “Character is more important to me than winning,” she said.

The Braves also met Knox’s standard in that aspect. “They all just bonded as a team, boys and girls,” Knox said. “All they did was just encourage each other.”


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