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Ochoa rallies to take fourth at Gila Valley Championship
Gila Ridge sophomore cross country runner Camille Ochoa ran down the fairway of the first hole of Foothills Golf Course with the finish line — and Yuma High's Gabby Ruiz — in sight.
With one last surge, Ochoa overtook Ruiz with 15 feet left in the Gila Valley Championship Meet, crossed the finish line and collapsed after her fourth-place finish. The Hawks finished in second place with 51 points while Cibola, paced by champion Monica Huston, placed first with 35 points, Lake Havasu (57) took third and Kofa (89) finished fourth.
“It was pretty bad. I didn't hydrate enough,” Ochoa said of her race. “The second mile I was tired and everything was hurting. It wasn't a good feeling. The whole race was terrible for me.”
Ochoa finished her gutsy race in 21 minutes, 15 seconds — which was more than 20 seconds better than her previous best of 21:37. Ruiz finished in fifth place at 21:38.
“I kept hearing people calling my name so I felt like I couldn't let them down,” Ochoa said about the final push. “I had friends from school watching me, so I had to pass her.”
Ochoa fell to her knees after crossing the finish line, needed help to get back on her feet and was carried away.
“She stumbled after the finish line so I knew she gave 100 percent of everything she had,” Gila Ridge coach Laurel Jordan said.
Huston once again distanced herself from the rest of the field, finishing in first place in 19:32.
“I just wanted to relax in these and I don't want to waste energy and practice getting your schedule and warm-ups ready for state,” Huston said.
With Huston finishing more than a minute before the second runner, the race within the race became between Cibola's Ally Jeffers and Gila Ridge Madison Haynes. For nearly the entire race, Jeffers had a comfortable — but not insurmountable — lead over Haynes.
“The most dangerous place to be is no man's land,” Cibola coach Kris Norton said. “Because if you're in the position to where you're the person being hunted, it usually never ends well.”
“She kept getting closer and closer and my coach said we can't let her catch up,” Jeffers said of Haynes. “I was in front of her the whole race but she was closing in.”
Jeffers managed to escape Haynes' hunt and finished in second place in 20:33 and Haynes took third with a 20:40.
“When it comes to our sectionals and our state, (Cibola isn't) even in our league,” Jordan said. “So they had the top two (Huston and Jeffers), but those top two aren't going to race against us.”
Lake Havasu's Katie Baker (sixth) and Bailey Bagby (10th), Cibola's Alexandria Aceves (seventh), Kofa's Ruth Hansen (eighth) and Gila Ridge's Melia Harman (ninth) rounded out the top 10 finishers.
Cibola and Kofa head to the Division I Section I meet on Friday, while Gila Ridge and Yuma High both head to the Division II Section I meet on Saturday.
“We played it a little conservative today but you got to run to win,” Norton said. “And you're always glad to get the victory.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.