Delayed NCS Finals Halted Halfway By Unhealthful Air Quality

Redwood's Liam Anderson won his third consecutive NCS divisional title. (DeAnna Turner file photo)


HAYWARD -- Among the secondary effects of the Camp Fire which devastated Northern California was the disruption of the sectional high school cross country championships. The North Coast Section was able to get half a meet off on Tuesday (Nov. 20), before poor air quality sank the rest of the competition.

Five of the 10 scheduled races were run in the morning before the Air Quality Index surpassed 150 at Hayward High School. At that point, per NCS bylaws, the competition had to stop. With just four days before the California Interscholastic Federation Championships, section officials used a committee of coaches to select the State Meet berths that couldn't be awarded through competition.

The meet was originally scheduled for November 18. However, the smoke from the fire traveled nearly 200 miles to the Bay Area, fouling the air to the point that high school playoff competition in multiple sports grounded to a halt.

All of the area sections had to postpone or cancel their cross country championships. NCS officials moved the meet to Tuesday, then had to sweat out the AQI readings. When the boys Division 1 race began at 8:30 that morning, the readings were well below the 150 cutoff. But they rose quickly and by 10:35, when the girls Division 3 race was scheduled to start, it was at 154, ending competition for the day.

De La Salle High School's Connor Livingston had the best time in the three boys races, finishing the three-mile course in 14 minutes, 45.8 seconds to win the Division 2 race. Dublin's Loic Scomparin won the Division 1 race in 14:53.7. Liam Anderson of Redwood, the defending State champion and one of the top runners in the country, won Division 3 in 15:02.7.

Granada's Colleen McCandless won the girls Division 2 race in 17:22.8. Amador Valley's Hope Bergmark won Division 1 in 17:45.0.

"We just wanted to go out and get a good effort in because I haven't raced since Mt. SAC (Oct. 20)," Livingston said. "So just stick to the game plan and trust the training and see what we can do this Saturday.

"I felt strong, felt good. Like I said, I hadn't raced in a while so I was just really excited to get out there."

Bergmark said she was happy, "the weather turned out good and the air was great," when she ran her race at 9:20.

"It was a good race," she said. "I definitely made sure I was listening to my body. I didn't want to push it harder than I needed to. I just wanted to get a super-solid run in before state."

Bergmark, a sophomore, helped lead the Dons to the Division 1 team title. With Derica Su and Ashley Baudin finishing 2-3 and Becky Laurence in seventh, Amador Valley was able to defeat Dougherty Valley, 35-43.

Also helping her team to a title was McCandless, who beat a deep field including the Tavella sisters of San Ramon Valley and Mary Deeik of Vintage. Granada ended up with five in the top 10 to score 31 points and easily finish ahead of SRV (70). Kate Tavella finished second and Emma was fourth to lead the Wolves.

"It was a little hard because of the air," McCandless said. The race began at 9:45 and the AQI was climbing by that point.

"We had a good race and we're happy with that. We handled it as business as usual, get out here, do what we can do, be tough and work everyone else out."

Scomparin (DeAnna Turner file photo at right) led an onslaught of Gaels in the day's first race as Dublin went 1-2-4-5-6 to score 18 points and handily win the team championship. Dougherty Valley edged Amador Valley 60-61 for second place and the section's other automatic berth.

Anderson won his third NCS title, and when you throw his second place finish as a freshman, he ends his NCS cross country career as one of the most decorated runners in section history. He said he is ready to defend his CIF Division 3 title on Saturday (Nov. 24) at Woodward Park in Fresno.

"Obviously, it's Tuesday, it's not a week away from State like it normally is, so we're just trying to stay rested and get ready for State," Anderson said. "We weren't going for any fast times, we were just trying to keep it as easy as possible."

Anderson said he had been working out on a treadmill but traveled to Lake Tahoe over the weekend so he could get a chance to run in the outdoors to prepare for the state meet.

Additional photos by Patrick Corsinita and Jeffrey Parenti.