For Stanton, his first trip to the meet at Fresno's Woodward Park is the payoff for four years of a full-time dedicated running schedule.
"I knew this was my last chance to qualify for State, and I had to put all four years of running together to get there," Stanton said. "It took a lot of weight off my shoulders to finally make it."
Patterson's first state-level cross country qualifier, Stanton finished 79th among a field of 198 runners on Saturday, Nov. 30, at the Division III race.
Facing some of the state's stiffest competition for a meet that drew nearly 2,000 total runners — beginning in 45-degree weather and ending at 68 — Stanton finished with a time of 16 minutes, 45 seconds.
"It was a really great experience," Stanton said. "If I wouldn't have made it (to State) it would have been heart-breaking. I did my best and I put it all out there. I wasn't disappointed."
A season to remember
Stanton got off to a strong start this season with a first-place finish in the Sierra Cross Country Invitational at Modesto's Legion-Tuolumne River Regional Park. For the second consecutive year, he took top honors in the event, finishing the 3-mile course with a time of 16:23.
Stanton followed up with another top performance at the Pacific Tiger Invitational at Elkhorn Golf Course in Stockton, traversing the 3.1-mile course with a personal-best time of 15:57, more than 20 seconds ahead of the second-place runner, averaging 5:09 per mile.
"Nathan put in a lot of good work between August and November, but it’s a year-round sport," said Patterson coach Joe Aguilar. "You can work hard for four months, but he is working hard for 10 months, 12 months."
On Oct. 23, Stanton completed the 3.1-mile course at the T.W. Patterson Sports Park first, with a time of 17:20, helping the Patterson boys fend off a tough Livingston High team, and marking the first time since 1994 that the local contingent finished a league season undefeated.
One week later, Stanton won the individual title for a second straight season to spark the Tiger squad to their first league crown in 19 years in the Western Athletic Conference championship at Ceres' River Bluff Regional Park.
"Nathan worked really hard since the end of cross country season last year, a little bit each day to get stronger," Aguilar said. "This year, he took everything to heart. It takes that building month by month by month."
After going undefeated in every WAC competition this year, Stanton took his momentum to the subsection meet in Angels Camp on Nov. 9 and ran a seventh-place time of 16:47 on the 3-mile course. He then ran a 16:43 in the section meet at Willow Hill in Folsom, placing fourth.
By virtue of being one of the top five individuals not on a qualifying team, and finishing in the top eight, his ticket to state was stamped.
"It was a great feeling to represent Patterson High School and the Western Athletic Conference," Stanton said. "I'm going to take everything with me — the four years that I put in."
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or firstname.lastname@example.org.