The Buchanan Girls Cross Country team took home the program’s first Division I state championship at Woodward Park on Saturday. This is the second state championship for the Bears and their first since 1994 when Buchanan was in Division II.
“It’s pretty impressive what they did, it just goes to show what the athletes can do and with the coaching staff and the support that we get all around, it’s a family affair,” head coach Brian Weaver said.
Buchanan had three runners finish in the top 15, with Corie Smith leading the Bears’ charge with a second-place finish. Sydney Sundgren finished sixth and Grace Hutchinson finished fourteenth.
The Bears’ main competition was from Great Oak High School, which was looking for its fifth straight girls cross country title. The Bears, though, defeated Great Oak by four points, becoming the first team from the Central Section to win the state cross country championship.
“Since Great Oak has come on the scene, they have raised the standard of competitiveness, they are a team that is going to battle day in and day out,” Weaver said.
Smith, one of two seniors in Buchanan’s lineup, was not fazed by falling short of the individual title.
“I just tried to run my own race and do what felt best for me, but that for me was a second-place but I’m not complaining. I still came away with second place. I know a lot of people would kill to have that,” Smith said.
Smith spoke highly of the team’s accomplishment. “We came out here, we just wanted to try our best and our best today was winning so we’re super excited to have all these girls,” she said. “I always want to win individually but coming away with the win team-wise means more to me than the individual,” Smith added.
Smith’s time of 17:00 was one of the best times she had run according to Weaver, and her presence at the fore of the pack played a large part in encouraging her teammates behind her.
“That is the second-fastest time she’s ever run, so it’s pretty impressive and I think that her setting the tone and everybody else following just really bumped everybody up,” Weaver said.
Buchanan was supported by a strong contingency of fans including students and administrative staff. Buchanan area superintendent, Dr. Robyn Castillo, as well as Buchanan principal Joe Aiello, were both present at the finish line with members of their family.
This accomplishment gives the Bears back-to-back state titles following Buchanan’s track and field state championship earlier in the year. A testament to the strength of both the track and field and cross country programs that have long-dominated the Central Valley.
Like many seasons for many teams, there were moments that left the team feeling hopeful for success and moments that left the team wondering where they were going wrong.
Weaver explained that “throughout the year you have your highs and your lows, there were times when we thought ‘ok it’s a possibility’ and times where we thought we would have to change some things.”
In the Division I Boys race, Clovis North finished sixth, Buchanan finished fourteenth, and Clovis West finished seventeenth. Isaiah Galindo from Clovis North was the best-placed Clovis-area runner in the Boy’s race – he finished second, 17 seconds behind the winner, Matt Strangio of Jesuit.