The knock on Jorge Borajas, a junior cross-country runner at Fillmore High, was that he couldn't make the grades. And we don't mean the ones earned in a classroom, but the kind encountered on a cross-country course.
Borajas, 16, may have rid himself of an uphill nemesis last Friday when he won his heat in the Southern Section 1-A Division cross-country preliminaries held at Mt. San Antonio College. On a dry, hot day he finished the hilly course in 16 minutes, 41 seconds, the third-best time in three 1-A heats.
Borajas outdistanced Pater Noster's Oscar Perez (16:44) and Western Christian's Tony Bergnan (16:58) as the Fillmore team qualified for the section finals Saturday on the same course. It will mark the 10th consecutive appearance in the division finals for the Flashes.
Both Perez and Bergnan had defeated Borajas at the Bell-Jeff invitational on Sept. 30.
"They both beat me by a long shot at the Bell-Jeff. So beating them, that was my goal," Borajas said. "I've been working to that goal since then."
In the weeks following the Bell-Jeff meet, Borajas trained on the steady 1 1/2-mile climb of what folks in Fillmore call the "hump." More formally, it's known as Foothill Drive, a tree- and brush-lined mountain road that works its way northeast, out of Fillmore.
"The course at Fillmore is very flat, so he knew he had to get in some hills," Fillmore Coach Epi Torres said.
The team runs the hump on Mondays, but Torres said Borajas usually runs it on his own on the weekends.
And the work paid dividends in the prelims at Mt. SAC, as Borajas pulled away from the lead pack in the first mile and never relinquished the advantage.
"They beat me before because of the hills," Borajas said. "I hadn't worked on it then. I was surprised to beat them on the hills."
Torres believes Borajas' problems early in the season stemmed from the fact that he couldn't train as hard as he needed to in the months leading up to the season.
"He had to work this summer out of necessity, so he didn't get in as much mileage and hills," Torres said. "He probably got in four days of running a week, and they weren't tremendous workouts."
So the last month Borajas concentrated on getting over "the hump."
"I'm sure the hill works were the difference (in the prelims)," Torres said.