Modesto cross country squeaks by Beyer

Modesto High cross country coach Brian Heese spent some time going over the numbers for his Panthers girls team's Modesto Metro Conference dual meet with Beyer on Wednesday.

"I had so many scenarios, and every one of them came out to one or two points either way," Heese said. "We knew it was going to be close."

Not even Heese thought it would end up this close.

Beyer had the top two finishers in Crystal Esparza and Samantha Reardon, but Modesto showed superior depth in placing its first seven before Beyer's fifth. When the top five placers for each team were added up, it was tied 29-29. The tiebreaker was the sixth-best finisher for each team, and Modesto's Maira Cortez, who placed ninth, made the difference.

Modesto's boys cruised to a 19-30 victory behind a first-place finish by Panthers junior Nick Heese (16:44), the coach's son.

"This was a great challenge for both girls' teams," Heese said. "We knew it would go down to the wire. Our No. 6 and 7 girls made the difference."

Cortez, a freshman running in her first 3-mile race, was a big surprise.

"She was a late call-up," Heese said. "She ran very well."

So did Esparza, who won by just over a minute.

"I'm happy with my time," Esparza said. "But it would have been great to pull out the team win, too. We thought we had a really good shot at it.

"Now we have to watch out for Davis, who is pretty good, and then we'll all meet at MMCs."

The close win preserved a stretch of varsity victories for Modesto. The Panthers have yet to lose an MMC dual meet. Their lower divisions were perfect until Wednesday, when Beyer edged Modesto's junior varsity boys 26-29.

With 110 Panthers on the roster, it's easy to see one reason for Modesto's success.

That depth paid off in the varsity boys meet, where Modesto's top two (Matt Maldonado and Marty Pyeatt) were held out, yet the juniors carried the load.

Both were scheduled to be out because they competed in the weekend's Mt. Carmel Invitational in San Diego. But Maldonado guaranteed he would miss it when he suffered a cut during a training session that required 12 stitches. He may be out for two weeks.

"We've got 35 junior boys on the roster," Heese said. "It was nice to see them respond."

Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at or 578-2300.