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Hughson High alumna makes UC Merced cross country history in season debut
Elizette Ysais
Hughson High grad Elizette Ysais made UC Merced history on Saturday as she became the first woman in Bobcat cross country history to earn a first-place finish in her collegiate debut (Photo courtesy of UC Merced).

The University of California, Merced men’s and women’s cross country teams competed on Saturday, becoming the first teams to compete since the COVID-19 pandemic halted all UC Merced athletic activities on March 12, 2020.

UC Merced’s first event and the head coaching debut of Vicente Velarde was in San Rafael at the Dominican Tri-Meet. The Dominican Tri-Meet featured an 8K course for the men and 6K for the women.

Hughson native and Hughson High product Elizette Ysais made UC Merced history as she became the first woman in program history to earn a first-place finish in her collegiate debut. Ysais (25:36) is also just the third runner on the women’s side to ever win a race. Ysais joins Madera natives and UC Merced greats Sofia Rios and Karina Martinez.

The women's race featured nine runners overall, five of which represented UC Merced. All five Bobcats finished in the top seven.

After Ysais, freshmen Emily Gonzales (26:38) and Alexandra Lopez (27:13) finished 4th and 5th, respectively in the race. Gonzales and Lopez are the tenth and eleventh runners in women's program history to earn a top five finish. 

Carissa Estrada ran her second collegiate 6K, third race overall, in 27:55, which was good for 6th earlier today. Atwater native Kate Larios made her collegiate debut and came in behind Estrada with a time of 30:09.

The men's race also featured nine runners overall, four of which represented UC Merced. 

Corbin Farias led the Bobcats with a fourth-place finish (30:27), the best finish in his career and he became the 16th runner in men's program history to earn a top five finish. Jonathan Chavez followed Farias in his collegiate debut and became the 17th runner with a top five finish, crossing the finish line fifth overall with a time of 30:42.

Farias' fellow sophomore Nick Montijo ran his first race since Sept. 28, 2020 and was the Bobcats third finisher and placed sixth overall with a time of 31:05. The sixth-place finish was Montijo's top outing in his young career.

Freshman Fabian Varelas clocked a time of 32:58 in his collegiate debut, good for eighth overall.

Although the Bobcats are used to running in the Bay Area, Saturday afternoon marked UC Merced's first ever race at Dominican University. Student athletes from Dominican and Holy Names University also competed in the meet.

Velarde lead UC Merced back to San Rafael for a second Dominican Tri-Meet on Feb. 21.