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Montoya wins third cross country title
2012 – 1st place, 15:14
2011 – 1st place, 15:46
2010 – 1st place, 15:38
PHOENIX — Halfway through the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division I Cross Country State Meet, Rincon’s Ryan Silva was right on the hip of Cibola’s Bernie Montoya.
By the home stretch, though, there was only Bernie.
Montoya became only the second boys runner to win three state championships after he cruised to a first-place finish in 15 minutes, 14 seconds in the second race of the day at Cave Creek Golf Course on Saturday morning.
Several runners in the state have won two state titles — including Kofa’s David Mansfield in 1962-63 – but Montoya joined the exclusive club with Chris Schurz, who won three from 1986-88 for Mesa Westwood.
“Three as a collection (is satisfying) I can finally say it,” said Montoya, who never got the chance to attempt four straight state titles because he played football his freshman year. “I was always very conservative about saying anything about it but now that I have it, it’s a blessing.”
Silva, who finished in second place last year with a time of 15:57, seemed to give himself a chance halfway through the meet on Saturday, but Montoya distanced himself on the back half.
“I had to respect Silva because he’s a great runner,” Montoya said. “Around the second mile I knew I had to push the pace and that’s what I did. But it came down to the last 100 meters sprint, it’s going to be a tough race to win but at the beginning of the two mile is when I was pushing.”
Silva once again finished in second place with a time of 15:50.
Even though Montoya’s string of dominating performances in the past year and the last two state finals created a sense of invincibility around him, he doubted whether or not he could win his third straight state championship.
“I was worried about that the whole week because these guys that stepped on the line are really good runners. Ryan Silva is right behind me, anything could happen in that. So I thought what happens if I don’t win this race, what are people going to say about me?” Montoya said.
Not only did he have to worry about the pressures of being the two-time state champion, but with the Nike Southwest race coming on Nov. 17, Cibola coach Kris Norton said that training has been difficult — making sure Montoya’s pushing himself for that race while keeping enough left in the tank for the state meet.
“It’s a tough situation for him because we have to focus on the national race so we had to work him out this week,” Norton said. “But he was where I was hoping he was going to be.”
“It’s definitely a position we’re not really used to but for some reason I’ve never felt too much pressure from that,” Norton said about Montoya being the obvious favorite to win on Saturday. “I think Bernie’s approach is similar to mine, that we’re just enjoying it and staying focused on what we’re doing and put it aside and focus on the little things it keeps you from stressing on the bigger things,”
Much has changed for Montoya since he won his second championship in 2011. The senior was thrust into national spotlight for winning the prestigious adidas Dream Mile in New York, became the No. 1 ranked runner according to milesplit.com for a time and has dealt with the distractions that come with talking to and visiting universities – he missed the final meet of the regular season because he was at the University of Texas.
“It’s different. You have a little bit of distraction as far as recruiting goes, but I look at it as a blessing,” Montoya said. “As long as we have our eyes on the prize and know what goal we want, we’re striving and having great workouts, we’re going to do fine.”
The prize of winning three straight titles was fulfilled with yet another dominating performance by the best cross country runner in the state.
Jesse Severson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson