The Dalles High School athletes, from left to right, Samuel Alvarez and Emma Mullins competed in the Foot Locker West Regional Cross Country Meet in Walnut, Calif.
Since he hadn’t raced competitively in a couple of weeks, The Dalles junior Samuel Alvarez admitted that he did feel a little rusty, but he walks away from his latest performance feeling good about his marks.
Alvarez turned in a final time of 17 minutes and 52.5 seconds for 81st place out of 412 in the junior boy’s category and Emma Mullins received a medal for finishing in the top-48 after ending up 24th in the 239-person senior girl’s division with her mark of 20:29.5 at the Foot Locker West Regional Cross Country Meet held Saturday at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif.
“For me, I definitely know I can run faster on that course now, especially after having the experience of what the course is like,” Alvarez said. “It motivates me a lot more for the future knowing there are so many kids in the region and nation that are the same speed or faster than you. It just makes me want to train and train and get better at running, so I could become one of the best, which I believe that with the coaching and support of my friends, family and community, I can accomplish.”
Facing tough harriers from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii and all athletes of military personnel, both Alvarez and Mullins contended with a difficult course that features three large winding hills on mud and dirt.
“This is probably the most challenging course they have run on all year,” coach Mandi Williams said. “To train by yourself for a month after the state meet really shows how dedicated both of these athletes are. This is great exposure and experience for Sam and Emma. To say I’m proud would be an understatement.”
Last month, on Nov. 3, Alvarez turned in a time of 16:53 for 19th place at the 5A OSAA State Championships in Eugene.
In his first three races of the fall campaign, Alvarez, a junior, had an average time of 17:18 and as the season wore on, he posted a pair of runner-up efforts along with a fourth with an average time of 16:19, including a personal-record 15:55 on Oct. 18 in Pendleton.
At the Intermountain Conference Championships on Oct. 24, Alvarez scored second place after a mark of 16:24.
In her district race, Mullins posted a final time of 19:30.28 seconds for fifth place to lead the Lady Riverhawks to second place and a team state berth.
At state on Nov. 3 in Eugene, Mullins capped her solid career with a 20th place time of 19:51.
Mullins had seven top-5 finishes, four victories, and she set a new personal record of 19:13.9 at the Kyle Burnside Invitational on Oct. 18 in Pendleton.
Along with Mullins, Alvarez secured third-team all-state honors and first-team all-league awards.
“This season’s success came from a handful of things, including the confidence carried over from track and the effect of prayers from the community.”
At this time last year, Alvarez participated in the USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Fla.
To get another chance to show his stuff on the big stage is an experience he will never forget.
“The overall trip was amazing,” Alvarez said. “Emma and I had a blast coming here. It, for sure, was one of the best trips I have ever had for any sport. I would like to thank my coaches and family for giving me and Emma the opportunity to go this far for a race and I also would like to thank the Fitz-Gustafson family for supporting us with a home to stay in and being such a wonderful family to us.”
Alvarez is not done running by any stretch.
He is slated to join Friedrich Stelzer, Nick Caracciolo, Gavin Cates, David Wring, Spencer Coburn, Liz Tapia, Emily Johnson, Caitie Wring, Juan Diego Contreras and Taylor Fox for the Junior Olympic Nationals event this Saturday in Reno, NV.