El Paso Runners Prepare For XC With Pre Season Race

Runners take off at the start of the 2017 Parra Law Eastwood Community 5k. MileSplit will cover this year's extravaganza!

By MileSplit El Paso Metro Suhail Boureslan

With the Track season in the rear view mirror, we are finally starting to see and feel the buzz of what's ahead.

Cross Country season is drawing closer and you can feel the anticipation with every article that talks about returning runners and projected team rankings! The state of Texas is ready to see some of the nation's best runners go head to head in 3 miles that test each runner's heart and determination. El Paso is among those cities itching to get back into this exciting part of the year.

For the past 4 years El Paso Eastwood HC Mike McLain has been hosting what is becoming "THE" race of the summer. The Parra Law Eastwood Community Road Race is a unique 5k in one of El Paso's hot spots in the city.

McLain has designed a legit 5k course that's chipped timed and ran in one of the city's prized parks, but that's not what makes this race interesting. To beat the heat, this race is run at night! Glow sticks are sold so that you can see the neon colors as they dash through the park. Smoke bombs are set off on both sides of the starting line as the runners take off as well. The course is mapped out with solar lit lights that guide runners throughout the race and when they cross the finish line they are greeted with family and friends who are enjoying great music and lights provided by a local El Paso DJ.

The energy even drew interest of one of the city's best runners, Ricky Romero, aka "Ricky Bobby." Ricky set the course 5k record at 15:50.50 last year taking first place. Ricky is also well known for training under the legendary Leonel Manzano, who silver medaled in the 1500m at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Ricky "Ricky Bobby" Romero finishes first at the 2017 Parra Law Eastwood Community 5k.

As news of this competitively growing race spread throughout the city, we are now treated every year to a showdown between the "Big Three" running teams in the city. San Elizario High School, who have been the state's 4A Cross Country champions for 4 consecutive years will be attendance. Behind them we have the 2nd place 3A state medalists in Tornillo High School who are also planning on joining the race. And of course it's no surprise that we have the 3rd place state medalists in the 6A division Eastwood High School who will also be racing. We're guaranteed fireworks as these three power houses go against one another in what is becoming an annual pre Cross Country race.

We were able to catch up with San Elizario's Coach Morales . This is the second year his team will be participating in the race.

Edwin Gomez leads all runners at the 4A State Championship.

TX MS - You guys have won four consecutive UIL 4A state championships, what draws you to a race like this and why do you think it's important?

Coach Morales - This is our second year racing, the race gives us an idea of where are kids are going into the season and it allows us to adjust our workouts for our interval training.

He mentioned that his team hasn't had any track workouts yet and that this race helps him determine whether his kids will be running mile repeats, 1000s or even 400s on the track. He also said that this race is a perfect opportunity to get his feeder middle schools involved as he encourages them to make it out to this race as well. We can expect good competition from San Elizario as they have two top returning state medalists in Edwin Gomez who was the 4A State Champion last year with a time of 15:36.16 and Rene Arambula who also placed 5th at last year's State meet with a time of 16:10.91.

Rene Arambula pulls ahead at the 4A State Championship.

Coach Mike McLain from Eastwood High School has been a very integral part in setting the standard for what it takes to have a successful program in El Paso. He's proven that in order to beat the best you have to compete against the best. This mentality has trickled down to other programs in the city, and more and more are starting to test their teams in out of town competition. So it's no surprise that the highlight race of the summer is run by Mike. We spoke to McLain on how this race began and what his goals are in the future.

TX MS - This is your 4th year of running this race, what were your goals initially when first you started hosting this race and have those goals changed?

Coach McLain - Vince with El Paso Cross Country Alumni started an alumni race some years back.  I really liked the idea of a late summer race to help keep kids focused on training over the summer and to help set up training paces going into cross country season.  But many of the local coaches didn't buy in and some courses were not measured properly so the race didn't take so we decided to start this race.  The original goal was to have a good race to motivate kids with summer training and to set up paces for training, but yes we have added some goals. Each year more and more teams are participating and it's fulfilling the original goals but it's also building some good camaraderie and mutual respect among the El Paso teams that have been participating.

Elias Perez leads this pack at the 6A State Championship.

TX MS - How does a race like this benefit the city of El Paso?

Coach McLain - ​I think if has many benefits from motivating athletes but also helping us understand that yes, we all want to beat each other, but we also can help each other so that we are all stronger as a city when we leave to go compete against other out of town teams.

Eastwood lost their top 2 runners last year in graduating seniors Anthony Molina and Gabriel Armijo but they have a lot of young talent who are expected to really shock some school this upcoming season.  They have two very talented juniors in Elias Perez who finished 20th at the 6A State meet with a time of 15:41.76 and Juan Olmos who finished 33rd with a time of 15:56.15.

Juan Olmos battles it out to help his team at the 6A State Championship.

Last but certainly not least, we have Tornillo High School, who saw great success last year by clinching 1st place in the Regional 3A meet and a close 2nd place team finish at State.

Eduardo Carrillo fights behind teammate Daniel Amaya at the 3A State Championship.

Although they lost 2 top seniors in Juan Rivera and Daniel Amaya, there's no shortage of talent as they have returning Senior Eduardo Carrillo who finished 10th at the 3A State meet with a time of 16:19.52 and returning Junior Ofir Ortega who finished 16th with a time of 16:45.79

Ofir Ortega shows his toughness at the 3A State Championship.

This race is really shaping up to what looks to be an annual showdown here in the Western part of Texas. Some other schools who are jumping in on the action are Franklin High, Bel Air High, and Del Valle High. So if you're in the area you definitely need to come by and participate in what's going to be THE pre Cross Country race of the season. If not at the very least come check out the action and be sure to be ready as we will bring you lots of coverage from the meet. If you're interested in signing up for the meet click HERE to check out all the info on the race of the summer. It's July 27, at 8:00pm MDT. Stay tuned!