Covina boys cross country having best season in decades, hopes to make CIF final for first time since 1993

By Keith Lair, SGVN
Erik Starkey can remember the last time the Covina High School boys cross country team was ranked in a CIF-Southern Section poll. He was running for the Colts more than two decades ago.

In his fourth year as Covina coach, the Colts are back in the polls.

“We’ve been building toward this,” Starkey said.

Covina is ranked eighth in Division 3 heading into Saturday’s invitational in Huntington Beach.

Covina has slowly been making gains. The Colts won the Valle Vista League title in Starkey’s first season back and they won it last year, too. The Colts scored 19 points in the first league meet this season at Bonelli Park, missing a perfect score when Pomona’s Abraham Alderaca took second place behind the Colts’ Kevin Mejia. Kevin Herrera, Roman Esparza, Richard Reyes and Manny Cruz took the next four spots.

The goal now is, come November, to be competing for a CIF-SS title at Mt. SAC. The Colts came close last year, but failed to advance.

“Last year we were very confident we would make it,” Starkey said. “We had a great year and a terrific performance in the prelims. The guys were standing, stunned they did not make it.”

Covina has not been to the CIF-SS finals since 1993.

“Last year was a big deal that we get there,” Starkey said. “Not this year. Maybe we’ll win our prelim heat.

“You win league and after awhile, it’s not enough. For two years, we would go to CIF and get pummeled. We’d run great and get intimidated. But all that started to change last year. We definitely can make it.”

Starkey said he has had to change Covina’s mindset.

“The approach to get there is a little different,” he said.

Mejia has been the No. 1 runner for three seasons. He finished fifth in his Woodbridge race this year and the Colts had their second-fastest team time on the course.

“He’s gotten to the point where in the race he expects to be up front,” Starkey said. “He felt the pain of not getting (to the finals) last year. He’s leading the team and getting the guys to do workouts.”

The girls are not ranked, but they’re on their way, Starkey said. They won their league opener and also took their division title at the Bosco Tech Invitational.

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    Right now “we’re” working hard to prepare for the end of the season. We’re really excited about what we can do at the end of the year.