The 2017 XC season for the Boys of Whittier High School was one for the record books! 1st year coach Oscar Montano and the Whittier boys made school history by making it to State for the first time! It was a season that these boys will remember for a lifetime! Whittier finished 3rd at the Southern Section Division 3 Finals to qualify for the State meet and went on to finished 7th at the State Championship a week later in Clovis! This much we knew but I wanted to find out through their voices what made the journey special for them and hear their story through their eyes. So to that end I had an opportunity to sit down with Coach Montano and the boys for an amazing conversation.
Starting in the summer leading up to the 2017 XC season Coach Montano was clear to us that State was not "yet" in the plans. The goals were to stay healthy, run well and make it to the post season. The boys spoke about a number of past coaching changes that had destabilized the team the previous year before Coach Montano and were just happy to be back on track. State was in the back of their minds but not yet a reality for them. Nicolas Mijarez, one of the teams top runners said that this was their senior year and they were going to go all out every race!
As the season got underway the team had some amazing performances at the Woodbridge Invitational. Lead by Nicolas Mijarez running a 14:39 and Sebastian Bautista running 14:50 they looked sharp upfront but did they have the depth to get them there as a team? The very same night David Martinez had break through performance of 15:23 giving them at solid 1,2,3 punch. And not to be overlooked Luis Garcia only a Sophomore and Giovanni Mejia (11th) running 16:03 and 16:12 respectively to give the depth they need and the confidence that came with it! Mid October rolled around both Coach Montano and the team realized that State was a real possibility. As Whittier had now been ranked both at the SS level as well as State they knew they now had a change to make this become a reality but as Coach Montano stated in the end rankings don't mean too much unless you get there. By the time CIF Prelims came around and Whittier finished 2nd just 2 points away from winning their heat they knew State was coming and it was their spot to lose if they didn't make it.
The morning of CIF Finals came and the boys were ready. They knew exactly what was on the line and not one of them was going to let this opportunity slip through their fingers or toes if you will. They now had a chance to not only make school history but admittedly to step out form the shadow of the girls team at Whittier High. For those of you that don't know in the recent past the Whittier Girls team had enjoy much success in this area with several League championship a few years back as well as making CIF finals for the first time in school history so the boys were motivated by making a name for themselves as well. And boy did they ever! The gun went off and Whittier boys ran all out and guts to spare to finished 3rd and easily advance for the first time to the CIF State Championships. The boys describe their excitement once they saw the results and knew they were going. The joy and especially for the seniors knowing that this was their moment and legacy they would leave behind. Coach Montano stated to us that he was excited but numb at the same time. He was still trying to process what had just happen not just that day at the meet but the rest of the day at home. After all the hard work over the long hot summer and relentless season they were going to STATE!
State itself was an amazing journey and learning experience for this team. They admit it wasn't their best race of the season. A number of items our of their control such as illness and one of their top runners twisting an ankle at mile 1 impacting their overall performance but in no way diminished what they had accomplished this year. The boys spoke about the pride they felt representing Whittier High at that level. Toeing the line with some of the top runners in the state. They were knew much of Div 3 has smaller schools from more affluent areas than Whittier and they wanted to prove that money doesn't win XC races. That hard work ethic and commitment does in the end. They ran at state for more than just Whittier High School but for many runners from lower income area proving that when the gun goes off money means nothing!
Sebastian Bautista another leader of the team spoke about how they hope to pass on the torch to the underclassmen so they took can have this success in the future. The younger members of the team credited the seniors for helping them learn to love the sport of XC and are already hoping and planning to return to state next year. Coach Montano is excited for the future while they are rebuilding losing their top 3 to graduation they will return 4-12 next year and a number of them sophomores only. Coach states that repeating to State is now definitely in the plan for next year. They will focus on building their numbers overall and building more depth which will only aid them in their goals for next year. As for track they are looking to smash the school 4x1600 record and I for one will be watching them closely this track season!
In 2017 the boys of Whittier High XC made history but it was a journey for some of them that took 4 years. It was their work ethic, the pride in their community and the love of our sport that allowed them to come together as they did this season. The future looks bright for this program and Coach Montano now has the difficult task to follow his 1st year success with even more success but one that I'm sure he is ready for. Whittier Boys congratulations on an amazing season and thank you for letting us at WAR Elite Racing tell your story! Because every team has a story and every story deserves to be told!
Coaches if you want to tell your teams story let us know.