By ROY HESS, Staff Writer
PORT ISABEL — Valley View’s Giovanna Ventura and Laredo Cigarroa’s Leroy Raya, both juniors, finished as individual champions for the first time this season at Saturday’s Sylvia H. Torres Memorial Cross Country Meet at the Port Isabel High School campus.
Porter captured the boys team title with 28 points while Cigarroa was the girls team champion with 30 points.
The annual meet was renamed this year to honor the memory of Torres, a former teacher/coach for 27 years in the Point Isabel school system who lost her life to cancer one year ago at age 51.
The meet is usually run at South Padre Island on the beach at Andy Bowie Park, but it was moved to the high school for the second straight year due to health risks posed by the red tide.
Ventura said there were many to thank after her victory. She finished the course of approximately 5,000 meters in 20 minutes, 56 seconds and won by a comfortable margin over second-place finisher Rose Armendariz of Cigarroa.
“I thank God, all my coaches, my parents and all my teammates,” Ventura said. “They keep pushing me and it makes me a better runner. I could never do this without God. I know He’s with me. I’m always talking to Him while I’m running. Sometimes I end the race and I don’t know just how I finished because I’ve been so busy talking to Him. He gives me strength and pushes me (to do well).
“I’m so excited because I got a ‘PR’ (personal record) today,” Ventura added. “I’ve been working so hard for this. I don’t get out too fast in my races, but I really want it and by the two-mile mark, that’s when I really start going. A win like this keeps pushing me forward. I want to get a (college) scholarship, so doing this gives me confidence that I can do it.”
After Ventura and Armendariz, the next three finishers to round out the top five in the girls varsity race were Cigarroa’s Alexa Reyes (22:17), Athos Leadership’s Gio Pena (22:35) and Valley View’s Arely Ramirez (22:38).
Raya was a decisive winner as well in the boys varsity race. It was run over the same course of approximately 5,000 meters. Raya won in 17:19 and Port Isabel’s Shawn Shrewsbury was second in 18:25. The next three finishers were all from Porter — Alejandro Vasquez (18:26), Jesus Delgadillo (18:26) and Jonathan Gracia (18:27).
Raya said the Cigarroa team bus left school at 3:30 a.m. to reach the meet in time to warm up and race. Coming in first made such a long trip all worthwhile, he said.
“I felt real confident and I knew I was going to get first (by the way the race was going with me gaining an early lead),” Raya said. “With all the training I’ve been doing since the summer, I’ve been progressing. This is just like (following) my game plan. Next week, I’m going to run the race the same way and try to get first again. I’ll try to start fast and stay in front. I knew the other guys (in today’s race) were going to come out and compete hard, so I wanted to start fast and and get into the lead. That’s what I was able to do.”
In the junior varsity division, St. Joseph Academy was the boys team champion while Port Isabel captured the girls team crown.