Athlete of the week: Lodi runner Melendrez has a new personal best after TCAL victory

Lodi's Yasmin Melendrez (front) races toward the finish line ahead of teammate Pamela Decko at the Tri-City Athletic League No. 2 cross-country meet at Oak Grove Regional Park in Stockton on Sept. 25.

Accomplishments: Yasmin Melendrez was looking to improve her performance on better grounds last week.

The three-year starter on the Lodi High girls cross-country team did just that and then some. Melendrez, a senior, won the girls’ division of the Tri-City Athletic League No. 2 meet at the Oak Grove Regional Park in Stockton on Sept. 25. She finished the 3.1 miles race with a time of 19 minutes, 43 seconds.

“I was so proud of myself,” Melendrez said. “When they (league meet officials) put my time up, I was like ‘wow’ that’s pretty good.”

In addition, Melendrez recorded a new personal record in running 3.1 miles of a high school cross-country meet. Her previous time was 20:19.

The last 150 meters of the race, Lodi coach Chris Galindo and his assistant coaches shouted words of encouragement toward Melendrez to finish strong.

“‘You gotta go now, you’re going to PR,” Melendrez remembered of one of the coaches shouting during the last stretch of the race. “I thought they were just saying that to push me. But then I looked at them and I could tell that they were serious.”

When the race started, Melendrez found her way to take the lead after the first mile.

“In the beginning, there were a bunch of girls ahead of me,” Melendrez said. “I was trying to go around them, but they going around. So we kept going back and forth. (But) I let them go ahead because I didn’t want to waste my energy doing that for awhile. I just waited for the right time to pass them and the St. Mary’s girl (Britney Goriye, who took 10th place at 21:23).

Melendrez ran Tokay’s twin runners of Kari and Kali Anema, both of whom are juniors. But Melendrez broke free from Kali Anema and stayed ahead of Kari, who took third place at 19:54. Kali was fifth at 20:35.

“I was right behind them for a little bit,” Melendrez said of the Anema twins. “After the first mile mark, I passed (the Anema twins). After that, I just tried to stay ahead of them. If I heard footsteps, I just kept going.”

Melendrez shaved off nearly three minutes from her previous time at the league’s No. 1 meet at Eagal Lakes in Tracy on Sept. 11. She took second place at that race at 22:23.

Melendrez was one of five Lodi runners who placed in the top 10. Teammate Pamela Decko took second place at 19:43 and Frida Rodriguez, Carlee McCabe and Paris Heiser took sixth, seventh and eighth places respectively.

“Me and Pamela have gotten real close,” said Melendrez of building her relationship with Decko. “In cross-country, we usually run together.

Oak Grove Regional Park, which is mostly flat surface, is far different than Eagal Lakes that has a lot of sand and hills.

“It was much faster,” said Melendrez of Oak Grove.

The key to the race is the first mile, Melendrez explained.

“Sometimes girls start off too fast, and then they die out after the first mile,” Melendrez said. “If you push yourself properly, then you can speed up afterwards.”

Melendrez and the Flames are pushing to win their 17th consecutive league title and a deeper run in the Sac-Joaquin Section divisional and championship races. They feel the Flames, as in the team, can earn a trip to the California Interscholastic Federation Cross-Country Championships, which will be held at Fresno’s Woodward Park on Nov. 30.

Lodi has won the first two TCAL meets; the final one takes place Wednesday, Oct. 30 at Lodi Lake.

“I really like the team and how we push each other, and how I’ve progressed and worked my way up,” Melendrez said. “I definitely want us to keep our TCAL streak. We’re also trying to make it to state. We always try to push ourselves. Eat right, run right. We have our slow days and we actually take them slow. We have our tempo and speed days. It’s one of our goals.”

Running is a part of Melendrez’s life. She’s been a part of the cross-country program since she was a freshman. She’s also been in the Lodi High girls track and field squads the last three seasons, competing in the long distance races.

Sacramento State, along with Delta College and Sacramento City College, were at the No. 2 and a recent meets, and talked to Melendrez about running in their cross-country programs after she graduates from Lodi High in the spring of 2020.

“If I can get a scholarship, I will definitely go for it,” said Melendrez, who has a 3.0 grade point average. “I want to see what other ones are out there.”

Contact Mike Bush at Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.

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