Morro Bay High School junior Audrey McClish has been dominating the Los Padres League cross country scene for a while now. As a 14-year-old freshman, she won her first league title. This season, racing on the winding course at Morro Bay High, she won her third straight individual title while leading the Pirates to their first team win in six years.
“We were excited to have the home course. We got really pumped up for that race,” McClish said.
Morro Bay cross country coach Chuck Ogle said while McClish wants to do well individually, she is more concerned about team success.
“She helps all of them enjoy the moment. That’s what its all about for Audrey,” Ogle said.
McClish’s success continued into the postseason. At the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 Prelims and Finals, she would finish in fifth and eighth place, respectively.
McClish capped her junior season with the best 5,000-meter time of her decorated career, running the the course at the CIF State Cross Country Championships in 18 minues 50 seconds. That 16th-place finish was the best finish of any SLO County runner at the state meet and the third best time in school history. For her accomplishments, McClish has been named The Tribune’s County Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.
McClish, 16, who started running competitively in sixth grade, is still young for a junior. She plans to slowly increase her mileage from now until next season with the hopes of lowering her times to catch the eyes of Division I schools.
Cortes named boys County POY
Paso Robles High School junior Pablo Cortes found a worthy cross-county rival this fall in Arroyo Grande senior Luis Jazo.
The two went back and forth all season long, trading wins along the way. Jazo beat out Cortes the first three times they raced against each other — at the Golden Eagle Cross Country Invitational, Clovis Invitational and PAC 8 Midseason Meet — but Cortes came on strong at the end of the year. He defeated Jazo for the first time all season with a win at the SLO County Championship and led the Paso Robles boys team to its fifth consecutive win at the event.
“It was probably his best competitive race of the season,” Paso Robles coach Ivan Huff said of the meet.
Jazo would again beat out Cortes at the regular-season-ending PAC 8 League Finals, but it was Cortes and the Bearcats that came away with a dramatic win, beating out the Eagles by one point to take the league team title.
“This was supposed to be a rebuilding year,” Cortes said, referring to the departure of last year’s top county runners, Trad Berti and Luiz Armendariz, who are now competing at Chico State and Cal Poly, respectively. “We weren’t supposed to be good, but we did our business this season, and it felt really nice.”
Huff said Cortes stepped in as one of the team leaders, heading up workouts and encouraging the team’s younger runners. Cortes was also the front runner for a Bearcats team that made school history, advancing to the CIF Championship for the first time after moving up to the competitive Division 2. At the state meet in Fresno, Cortes would beat Jazo by 18 seconds in their final race of the season to finish in 43rd place. Paso Robles finished in 14th place out of 23 Division 2 teams.
For his accomplishments, Cortes has been named The Tribune’s Boys Cross County County Runner of the Year.
“It was one of my personal toughest races,” Cortes said. “The way everyone started, it was a crazy fast race. We were all so exhausted. But we were going up against the best, and it was an honor.”
Cortes said it was the good-natured rivalry with Jazo that helped him to such a strong junior season.
“I respect him as a runner,” Cortes said of Jazo. “I always thought he is just the better runner. You want to be him, but when we cool down, there is a lot of respect. We pace each other.”
And the rivalry will continue. The two will continue to battle each other in distance events when the track and field season kicks off in the spring.