Central Coast Section Finals Preview

The first Central Coast Section (CCS) meet was held in 1969 at the Crystal Springs Course in Belmont. Since then, most of the CCS meets have been held at the same course except for the following years: Golden Gate Park (1970), Alum Park (1971), Mt. Madonna Park (1972), Coyote Park (1976) and College of San Mateo (1984). Starting in 2002, the championship meet has alternated between the Crystal Springs course (odd years) and Toro Park in Salinas (even years). Since this is an odd year (we might actually get some rain this year!), Saturday's meet will take place in Belmont. The current course configuration of 2.95 miles has been the same since 1971 and much of the credit for the design and maintenance of the course goes to Bob Rush. He will be in attendance this Saturday so if you get a moment, feel free to thank him for his tireless efforts of one of the most famous courses in California.

The time schedule for this Saturday will be as follows with the award ceremonies for both sexes taking place after the 2nd race in each division.
10:00am Girls Division V
10:35am Boys Division V
11:10am Girls Division I
11:45am Boys Division I
12:20pm Girls Division II
12:55pm Boys Division II
1:30pm Girls Division III
2:05pm Boys Division III
2:40pm Girls Division IV
3:15pm Boys Division IV

Girls Division V (Top 2 teams qualify to CA state XC meet)
The favorite heading into Saturday's final will be Woodside Priory. They won the WBAL meet this past Friday with their best team effort of the season. They will be led by individual favorite, senior Hana Marsheck, who finished in 2nd place at the same league final behind one of the top Division IV runners in the state, Harker's Niki Iyer. Priory will also be bolstered by the return of senior Maria Naclerio, who will run her first race this season. The main challenger for Priory will be Crystal Springs Uplands School. The Gryphons will be led by freshman Ella Rehman who dipped under the 20 minute mark at the WBAL final. Santa Catalina, back in Division V this year, appears to be the 3rd strongest team with three runners (Audrey Bennett, Jessica Gutshall and Kimmy Villegas) that should finish in the top 10. Other runners vying for a top 7 finish (all-CCS) will be Eastside's Zion Gabriel, Pacific Collegiate's Roxana Ortiz and University Preparatory's Arianna Kotlier.

Boys Division V (Top 3 teams qualify to CA state XC meet)
This division has historically been relatively light as far as the number of competitors. It's definitely one of the smaller races in the section with this year's race coming in at less than a 100 competitors. Despite the small field, the quality at the top of the meet is quite high. Leading the way and in search of their first section title is St. Francis Central Coast Catholic. Their first four runners (Paul Colosi, Braxton Rico, EJ Kelly and Luke Colosi)  will be quite prominent at the front end of the race. Challenging St. Francis CCC is another longtime contender in this division, The York School out of the MTAL. They will be led by one of the individual favorites, Ryan Ixtlahuac. Also in the mix is the defending section champion, Crystal Springs Uplands School. Senior Yumeto Shigihara leads the way for the Gryphons. Two more individuals that should be part of the front pack are Robert Screven of Woodside Priory and Quinn Rickard of Oakwood.

Girls Division I (Top 2 teams qualify to CA state XC meet)
With only two state meet berths in this division, the margin of error for the top contending teams is typically very small. At this point, there are two teams that stand above the rest and the favorite is Homestead which will be led by the individual favorite, Elena Kamas. Homestead will also appear quite strong up front as they will have two more runners potentially in the top 6 in Lindsay Allen and Katie Williams. From there, the second state contending team, Monta Vista, will take over with their pack led by Sarah Feng. Filtered in with the Homestead and Monta Vista packs will be individual contenders Caroline Gee of Cuptertino, Lauren Jacob of Los Altos and JJ Escalera of Fremont. The next three teams that should finish in the top 5 in the team competition will be Menlo Atherton, Los Altos and San Benito.

Boys Division I (Top 3 teams qualify to CA state XC meet)
For almost a decade, Bellarmine and Carlmont battled for CCS supremacy in this division with both teams claiming the top two positions year after year. As the Carlmont program lost steam, the Bells have continued to thrive and have now won the last two Division I titles. They will be overwhelming favorites this year and this streak of CCS victories doesn't seem to have an end in sight in the near future. Although their pack has always been interchangeable, Meika Beaudoin-Rousseau has taken over the role as their #1 runner. He won the WCAL meet with a strong finish and will be in contention for the individual title in this division. The role of favorite will be carried by Palo Alto runner, Kent Slaney. He has been the top runner in CCS throughout much of the season and comes into the meet with the fastest time in this division at the Crystal Springs course, 15:14.5. Also in contention for a top 5 spot will be fellow Bell, Matt Richardson, Brent Mogensen of Monta Vista, Homestead teammates Chris Reed and Daniel Graves as well as Andrew Hill's Jorge Estrella.

Girls Division II (Top 3 teams qualify to CA state XC meet)
If you are looking for the best matchup of two contending teams in the entire section finals, look no further than this race and the great battle between Archbishop Mitty and St. Francis. In three league meets, the scores were as follows between these two schools:
WCAL #1: Archbishop Mitty 38 St. Francis 40
WCAL #2: St. Francis 37 Archbishop Mitty 38
WCAL #3: St. Francis 39 Archbishop Mitty 42
Needless to say, it's very competitive and one slip up by any runners on either team could result in a quick 2nd place finish. Archbishop Mitty will be led by Julia Lemak who has had a terrific season after some very tough finishes last season. She is one of two girls in this division who have broken 18 minutes on this course along with Gunn's Gillian Meeks. St. Francis runner Emily Skahill will lead the way for the Lancers and is definitely in contention for a sub 18 finish. More individuals who will be in the hunt include Gunn's Illi Gardner, St. Ignatius runner Emilia Janiczek, Mt. View's Serena Myjer and Lynbrook's Maryam Jawid. The St. Ignatius girls seem to be the favorites to nab that 3rd state meet berth but don't count out Gunn as their top 2 runners could help lead them past the Wildcats

Boys Division II (Top 3 teams qualify to CA state XC meet)
The boys race in this division, just like the girls race, will be dominated by WCAL schools. Looking strong fresh off their 2nd place finish at the WCAL meet, St. Francis will come into this meet as the favorite. Although freshman Colton Colonna led the way for the Lancers at the WCAL meet, look for Xander Olivero to have a rebound effort as they attempt to win a section championship. Keeping them honest will be St. Ignatius although at this point, their pack would need to move up to challenge their league rivals. The battle for the individual title should be between fellow seniors Justin Robison of Lynbrook and Ben Zaeske of Los Altos. Both boys have raced each other quite often dating back to their middle school days. Nolan Dozier of Ann Sobrato has had a terrific season and will not be afraid to run with the already mentioned runners. Willow Glen will be the favorite for the last spot with their hard charging group. Serra and Los Gatos can only hope for one of the above teams to falter ahead of them.

Girls Division III (Top 3 teams qualify to CA state XC meet)
If one team has nothing to worry about this coming Saturday, it's the Aptos girls. They will be OVERWHELMING FAVORITES to win another section title and could potentially sweep the top five spots. Any other team in this division thinking about winning the team title should stop immediately and select a more reasonable goal. Marea Zlatunich will win the individual title followed by teammate Matti Peoples. Hoping to break up the Aptos sweep will be individual contenders Jackie Foti of SHC, San Mateo freshman Jenne Mallorie as well as Mills runner, Sarah Gayer. The Prospect girls seem to be slightly ahead of the rest of the teams and should finish 2nd. The battle for the 3rd and last spot should be an interesting one between WCAL rivals Valley Christian SJ and Sacred Heart Cathedral as well as Aragon which is also in the mix.

Boys Division III (Top 3 teams qualify to CA state XC meet)
Unlike the girls competition, the boys race in this division will have intrigue and mystery about the potential winning team. There will be a lot of nail biting and nervousness leading up to this race as it appears that 3 teams all have a great shot of winning this division. Those teams include WCAL members Valley Christian and Riordan as well as Saratoga. Hillsdale and Sacred Heart Cathedral are within striking distance but will need an off day by one of those three teams to be considered for a state meet run. Aragon's Ryan McAulifie has the fastest Crystal Springs time heading into this competition (15:48.0) and will be slight favorite. Saratoga teammates Stephen Law and Matthew Peterson as well as Riordan teammates Brian Kosewic and Trevor Paulbitski will keep McAulifie honest. Mitchell Rohr will lead the way for the Warriors of VCSJ.

Girls Division IV (Top 3 teams qualify to CA state XC meet)
For those diehards that plan on watching every race this Saturday, there is another great reason to stick around to one of the two final races of the day. Santa Cruz senior Cate Ratliff has been tearing it up this fall with multiple course records. She ran the Crystal Springs course in early October and came away with the 2nd fastest time every run on the course (16:42.5). The fastest time belongs to Ellen Lyons (16:30.6) and that time was established in 1979 at the Kinney Western Regional race. The weather should cooperate and Ratliff definitely has her site set on chasing that record this Saturday. Her teammates will do their part to win the team championship as Santa Cruz will come in as a very strong favorite. They will be chased by the San Lorenzo Valley girls who are certainly not strangers to Fresno in November. Scotts Valley seems to be the 3rd best team in this division although don't count out Greenfield as they have made a habit of surprising teams at this time of year. Along with Santa Cruz runner Mari Friedman, Niki Iyer of Harker, Kaylah Grant of Live Oak, Jessica Cain of Scotts Valley as well as Greenfield teammates Evelin Meza and Jocelyn Sosa will all try to keep Ratliff within visual contact but that may be a tough task.

Boys Division IV (Top 3 teams qualify to CA state XC meet)
The final race of the day should be an intriguing one both for individuals and teams. The defending individual champion in this division is Roman Munoz of King City. He was a surprise winner last year on the Toro Park course and will definitely be back to defend his title. Challenging him this year will be Menlo School sophomore Robert Miranda. He has proven to be a very tough competitor and was very impressive earlier this season on this course at the Serra Invitational. The winner may be determined by a final kick during the last stretch leading up to the finish line. The team favorite at this point will be San Lorenzo Valley, a team that boasts 6 underclassmen in their top 7. They may be just a bit ahead of the rest of the field but the battle for the last two state meet berths will be most exciting. PAL champion Half Moon Bay will battle MTAL champion, Greenfield as well as WBAL champion, Sacred Heart Prep. Keeping everybody honest will be King City, a podium team last year and definitely still in the picture in this division. Aside from Munoz and Miranda, look for John Ross of Scotts Valley, SLV freshman Chris Anderson and HMB's Graham Faust.