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Nia Lamas, second from right, finished just behind Meagan Lowe of Buchanan, far right. Her performance ranks her amongst the top Valley runners, most of them pictured here.

Running coach Sean Marzolf had predicted the Sanger High girls record in the 1,600 meters might fall at the Buchanan Distance Classic on Feb. 22.

He said freshman Nia Lamas was running really well and had a shot at breaking the time of 5:12.5 that Lupe Rodriguez had owned for the past 37 years. 

And Lamas did.

She ran the race in 5:02.67 minutes for second place, behind Buchanan’s Meagan Lowe, a senior who clocked 5:00.25 and just ahead of third place Miliana Perez of Clovis North with 5:06.54 and fourth place Corie Smith of Buchanan with 5:07.71. 

“I’m happy,” Lamas said moments after crossing the finish line. “I’ve been wanting this ever since middle school.”

And she credited her friends, family and coaches for getting her there. “They’re the real inspiration in my running career,” she said.

“Awesome job,” said Julie Correa, Lamas’ mom. “She loves it. We’re always pushing her to do her best.”

Aunt Elizabeth Espinoza said, “We know how much this means to her. We’re out here supporting her and her team. They’re always looking out for each other.”

That proved obvious when fellow runner and sophomore Leslie Zarate crossed the finish line with a personal record time of 5:58.35 in another heat. Lamas and fellow teammates Jessica and Jennifer Recinos, both sophomores and recipients of personal best times, and others ran over to Zarate and embraced her for a group hug. Zarate had beaten the 6 minute mark, no easy feat for a distance runner.

“This was a big race,” Jessica said.

“I just tried, I just prayed — and thank you,” Zarate said, designating that last comment Heavenward. 

A little perspective is warranted in the case of Lamas’ time. With it she becomes No. 7 all time in the Calfornia Interscholastic Federation Central Section for ninth-graders, said Ron Blackwood, Sanger master statistician. In first is Jordan Hasay of Mission Prep in 2006 with 4:40.61, second is Buchanan’s Smith in 2017 with 4:56.58, third is Buchanan’s Lowe in 2016 with 4:57.13. 

Blackwood said Lamas’ 2:21.48 minutes in the 800 meters that same day beats the Sanger High freshman record set by Sonia Medina in 1990 and is No. 5 “on the overall Apache list.”

Lamas, of course, wasn’t the only story that day. But her performance set her apart. Freshman soccer standout Diana Garcia ran a personal best 5:43.04 as did sophomore Alondra Huerta, who finished third for Sanger with 5:41.47. Jessica finished second for Sanger with 5:37.57.

And the boys also made a mark. Freshman Juan Zamora finished the top ninth-grader at 12th place with a personal record 4:33.67 minutes.

Marzolf said the race marked the first competition of the year for the track season. “Those are the fastest girls in the Valley,” he said. 

The reporter can be contacted by email at nemethfeatures@gmail.com or by phone at the Herald at (559) 875-2511.

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