Riverbank's Florez is Bee's Athlete of the Year for girls cross country

January 4, 2013 

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(DARRYL BUSH/dbush@modbee.com) - Mikayla Florez of Riverbank High School wins the Girls 1600 Meter run over Lauren Stanislaw of Beyer, in 2nd place, back left, during the 2011 Stanislaus County Track Meet at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., on Friday, April 15, 2011.

DARRYL BUSH — Modesto Bee

ON THE TRAIL:Third time was not only a charm for Riverbank’s fleet-footed Mikayla Florez, but it also produced a charm.

A state medal, that is. Florez finished on the podium at the CIF State Cross Country Championship, crossing the tape in seventh at 18 minutes, 44 seconds.

A three-time state qualifier, Florez, the Bee’s Girls Cross Country Athlete of the Year, raced into medal contention in the final 1,000 meters, moving up from 12th to seventh with her final kick.

“I knew I was within reach. I was having some doubts, but I remembered what my coach (Monte Wood) always says, ‘Kick it.’ ”

State provided the perfect cherry to her season. Florez is the two-time defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 champion and Willow Hills/Folsom course record holder; she also won her first Trans-Valley League title.

OFF THE TRAIL:Friends and fellow athletes, beware. This mostly shy, introverted, honor roll student enjoys delivering a good prank.

While the Bruins cross country team was in Hawaii last year, Florez had her bunkmates convinced their room was haunted. She moved furniture around and screamed in the night, rattling her teammates.

“She had the girls on edge because they never knew what she might do to them,” said coach Monte Wood. “She can be ornery.”

LOOKING AHEAD: It’s state championship or bust for Florez in her senior season.

“We’re going to try to win state,” Florez said.

The campaign is under way, too. Florez has begun an Olympic weight-lifting program (think power cleans, clean-and-jerks) to improve her strength and explosiveness.

Even her track season, where she’s a Masters qualifier in the metric mile, will be dedicated to running a faster, more efficient 5-kilometer in the fall.

“I think you’ll see an all-out effort to win state,” Wood said.

QUOTABLE:“In cross country, especially with the girls, where you’re at with two miles to go rarely ever changes. She was sitting in 12th at 2-mile mark and was still 12th with about 1,000 meters to go. Then she made her push. … While it wasn’t her best race, it was her gutsiest race she’s ever ran. It was a mental thing. She had not been a good mental racer, but I was proud of her for that. I was more proud of her than I’ve ever been because she’s grown and matured as a racer.” — Monte Wood, Riverbank coach

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