They have put in the work.

Now, Santa Maria's cross country runners are seeing the results.

Led by Cesar Ayuso, Santa Maria's boys team scored a historic win at the Los Padres League Mid-Season Duals at River Park in Lompoc Wednesday. Ayuso finished in third place for the Saints, who placed four runners in the top 10 and all five scoring runners in the top 13.

"We have records at school dating back to the 1960's and we had never won that meet before, not even close," said Santa Maria cross country coach and athletic director Brian Wallace. Wallace coaches all the school's cross country teams. 

Santa Maria's boys went 7-0 at the Duals. Though Santa Maria's varsity girls went 0-7, Wallace said some of those runners have cut their times by several minutes since they first started.

"And our JV girls finished second," said Wallace. "Our JV boys won it. We're going in the right direction." Santa Maria's Jedric Callado won the boys junior varsity race in 16 minutes, 57 seconds.

Wallace said Santa Maria's runners have gradually increased their weekly mileage since last season.

He said his runners would take their training runs last summer after, literally, putting in a full day of work.

"I had to start our workouts at 6 p.m., because they all worked," Wallace said. "Most of them worked in the fields."

Santa Maria varsity runners Ayuso, Dennis Tello and John Barajas, along with Nicol Cruz, Jovita Armenta and Daisy Cristobal spoke on the school's track before a recent workout.

Tello and Barajas were the Saints' second and third runners behind Ayuso at the LPL Duals. Wallace said Cruz, Armenta and Cristobal help form the core of Santa Maria's girls varsity team.

Wallace said the Saints' runners gradually increased their weekly mileage, from 30, to 40 and then to 55.

Tello took the increased workload in stride, "It didn't affect me much," he said.

Since the Duals followed a dual meet scoring format, with each team being scored against the other, "Our strategy was to run together for the first two miles," said Ayuso. 

Register for more free articles
Stay logged in to skip the surveys

That strategy was designed to give the Saints the best chance of getting all five of their scoring runners home before any of the other squads got all of their first five in.

For the last mile, "We were on our own," said Ayuso.

Wallace said after the meet that Ayuso agreed before the race to hold something in reserve the first two miles so his teammates would have a better chance to stay close to him. "He did it for the team," Wallace said then.

The LPL Finals, which will take place at Morro Bay on Nov. 1, will have conventional invitational meet style scoring. Thus, for the Saints, "It'll be every man for himself," from the start, said Wallace.

"We're not anywhere near tapering, so any one of our guys could conceivably win it. All of our first five runners were less than a minute behind the winner," at the Duals.

Wallace said he is heartened by the direction the school's cross country program is taking.

"When Maurice Sipes coached here, he had a (boys) team that made it to the CIF prelims in 2010. Our boys team made it there last year, so I think we're heading back in that direction."

Barajas said, "Since we had almost everyone coming back (David Tyler Jr., the Saints' top runner in 2016, did graduate), we thought we'd have a good chance to win the league championship."

Cruz was the first Santa Maria girl to finish on Wednesday. She is in her first year on the varsity. "The summer training gave us a good start," toward the season, she said.

All of the Santa Maria runners who spoke Wednesday compete for the school's track teams in the spring. Ayuso was the runner-up in the 3,200 at the LPL Finals last year. Tello and Barajas also run in the distance races.  

Cruz runs distance for the girls track team. Wallace said Cristobal has run everything from the 200 on up. "I like the 400 best," Cristobal said.

Santa Maria's athletic director and cross country coach said Armenta was the best sprinter on the girls track team last year.

She has liked running long distances so much in cross country that, "I want to do distance," during the track season, Armenta said.

Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.