Santa Ynez Valley Union High School was founded in 1896. And in the first 118 or so years of its existence, the students and athletes there certainly achieved some monumental feats.

But the school had never claimed a state athletic championship.

That all changed in 2015, thanks to the Santa Ynez boys cross country team. 

The Pirates won the CIF State Cross Country Championship not too long ago, claiming the title at the historic Woodward Park in Fresno on Nov. 28, winning the State Division IV race.

"Not only is this the first time a Santa Ynez boys cross country team has won a state championship, it is the first state championship of any kind in the 115-year history of the school," Santa Ynez coach David Jackson said after the Pirates ran to their title.

The Lee Central Coast Newspapers' sports staff has voted the Pirates' championship run the No. 4 story of 2015.

Santa Ynez outscored second-place La Puente Bishop Amat 130-150 during the race on the 5K course.

Jackson said his team always felt it was going to claim the state championship. The Pirates never wavered, never had an ounce of doubt.

"As a coach, hearing the guys talk so boldly is fantastic," Jackson said the day the Pirates won the championship. "They weren't saying they might be able to do it, or they hoped they would do it. They knew they could win a state championship, and they went out and did it." 

Senior Johnny Jimenez led the Pirates to the title as he finished 10th overall, in 15 minutes, 41.9 seconds. His placing was good enough for six points toward the team scoring.

"It's total bliss," Santa Ynez junior Tommy Hill said shortly after the official results were finalized. 

"Right after the race, we knew we had finished first or second but we weren't sure which, so there was some tension there," Hill said.

Hill was the third runner to finish for Santa Ynez at the state race.

Junior Brian Illes was the second Santa Ynez runner to complete the race, coming in just behind Jiminez. Tommy Hill, Grehson Smith, Cody Hill (Tommy's twin brother), Eric Moniot and Dennis Rojas completed the rest of the running order for the Pirates.  

Coach Jackson and the Pirates had an elaborate and detailed plan to claim this first title.

Santa Ynez won the Santa Barbara County race and the Los Padres League title shortly before the postseason races began.

The Pirates then paced themselves in preparation for the state meet as the postseason races started.

The plan worked out.

The Pirates defeated both teams that finished ahead of them at the sectional finals, Southern Section champ North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake and Ventura Foothill Technology.

Foothill Technology finished fifth with 170 points and Harvard-Westlake was sixth with 180 at the state meet.

Although Jiminez was the first Pirate to cross the finish line at the state race, Santa Ynez couldn't have won the title without Illes, Tommy Hill and Smith, Santa Ynez's two-through-four runners.

That trio outscored Bishop Amat's second, third and fourth runners by a combined score of 60-92. Illes was 10th for team scoring, Tommy Hill 19th and Smith 31st. The three finished 14th, 29th and 49th overall, respectively.

Cody Hill was 49th for team scoring. Moniot and Rojas finished 109th and 116th overall, respectively.

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Sports Editor

Alumni Fresno State