HAYWARD - On a nearly perfect day of weather in the East Bay, the 2019 North Coast Section Cross Country Championships were headlined by some of the state's top talent as the highly-touted Maria Carrillo and Campolindo boys battled for a title and Dublin senior Christopher Middleton-Pearson (video above) ran the fastest time of the day.
In between that was San Francisco University High getting back to their winning ways by taking home the Division V team title, as well as De La Salle and Sir Francis Drake getting the sweep in the sectional meet that crowned team and individual champions across five divisions while also serving as a qualifying process for the CIF-State Meet scheduled for next Saturday.
The first boys race of the day on the 3-mile course at Hayward High School was Division II, which featured De La Salle winning both the team title (46 points) and the individual title (junior Patrick Curulla, 14:55.2).
It's De La Salle's 18th NCS championship in cross country, which extends their own section record. Curulla's 14:55.2 was the second fastest mark of the day.
"It's great pride," Curulla said about the history of winning at De La Salle. "We got great coaching staff, the entire school atmosphere is conducive for things like athletics. It's an amazing feeling to be part of such a long-standing tradition."
De La Salle just slightly edged out Granada (49) for the team title, who were led by senior Anthony Guerra's second place finish in 15:01.3.
The next race of the day, Division III, was perhaps the most entertaining. Maria Carrillo and Campolindo entered as the clear top two teams in the section, and the race did not disappoint. The teams were neck-and-neck after one mile, but Maria Carrillo was able to pull away and won rather convincingly with 28 points as Campolindo finished in second at 53 points. It's revenge enacted for Maria Carrillo, who lost to Campolindo in 2018.
Maria Carrillo was led by their senior duo of Colton Swinth (2nd place, 15:10.7) and Rory Smail (4th place, 15:19.8) en route to the Pumas' fifth NCS championship of this decade. They'll be one of the teams duking it out for a podium spot in Division III at next week's State Meet.
"It feels great," Swinth said. "We've been talking about it. One step here, and the next step being winning the state title for Division III next week. It was just something we needed to get done and boost our confidence."
In the Division IV race, Drake returned to glory once again after an uneven season as they won the team title (44 points) and the individual title (senior Amir Barkan, 15:16). It's Drake third team NCS crown in the past five years, an indicator of coach Robyn Berry's overwhelmingly impact on the program.
"To win it with almost a brand-new team is so deeply satisfying for everybody right now," Berry said. "Especially because there have been some rough points in the season. I mean we're excited about State, but I want to make sure that they really enjoy today because that was a major accomplishment."
Also returning to the top spot was San Francisco University High, who won the Division V team title following an injury-plagued 2018 season. University was paced by seniors Charlie Kennedy (6th place, 15:45.1) and Clay Mills (12th place, 16:05.4) and freshman Jack Gaitley (7th place, 15:52.4). The title is University's 17th overall, which is second most in NCS history. University will certainly be in the mix at the state meet.
The best was saved for last as Dublin senior Christopher Middleton-Pearson ran the quickest time of the day in the final race, winning in 14:36.6. That time beat the second-place finisher, Amador Valley senior Aidan McCarthy, by 34 seconds. Dublin (47 points) narrowly beat Amador Valley (49 points) for the team title.
Middleton-Pearson, who owns PRs of 4:06 and 9:09, is one of the state's top runners. And he's gearing up for a big performance next week.
"Fitness-wise, I feel amazing," Middleton-Pearson said. "I feel the best I've ever felt throughout the season. I feel great."
The 2019 CIF State Cross Country Championships take place on Nov. 30 at Woodward Park in Fresno.
The NCS is allowed two team qualifiers in Division I, four team qualifiers for Division II and III, three team qualifiers for Division IV and five team qualifiers for Division V. Up to five individuals not on qualifying teams also advance, provided they are in the top 12 when two teams qualify, top 14 when three teams qualify, top 16 when four teams qualify, and top 18 when five teams qualify.
Individual Champion: Christopher Middleton-Pearson (Dublin) 14:36 Team Champion: Dublin (37 points)
Other Individual State Qualifiers: Luke Fewx (So., James Logan) 15:21.2, Ashraf Abdelmagid (Jr., Dougherty Valley) 15:41.1, Yadvinder Grewal (Sr., James Logan) and Matthew Alm (So., California - San Ramon) 15:50.1.
Other team State Qualifiers: Amador Valley (41)
Individual Champion: Patrick Curulla (De La Salle) 14:55 Team Champion: De La Salle (46 points)
Other Individual State Qualifiers: Hudson Grace (Jr., Redwood) 15:12.0, Sebastian Vaisset-Fauvel (Jr., College Park) 15:25.2, Arjun Subramanian (Jr., Foothill - Pleasanton) 15:31.2, David Acuna (Jr., Napa) 15:33.9.
Other team State Qualifiers: Granada (49), Monte Vista (100), Liberty (148)
Individual Champion: Dylan Gunn (Campolindo) 15:08 Team Champion: Maria Carrillo (28 points)
Other Individual State Qualifiers: Logan Harlow (Sr., Northgate) 15:31.4, Logan Jacobs (Jr., Concord) 15:44.0, Diego Huerta (Sr., Concord) 15:46, Hunter Larson (Sr., Windsor) 15:51.0, Emilio Cazares (Jr., Alameda) 15:52.5.
Other team State Qualifiers: Campolindo (53), Casa Grande (145), Tamalpais (146)
Individual Champion: Amir Barkan (Drake) 15:16 Team Champion: Drake (44 points)
Other Individual State Qualifiers: Lyle Rumon (Sr., Marin Catholic) 15:43.3, Acer Cristea (Jr, San Rafael) 15:56.1, Ian Bennett (Jr., Eureka) 16:04.6, Sean Morello (Fr., Albany), Collin Stockwell (Jr., Fortuna) 16:11.5
Other team State Qualifiers: Acalanes (67), Bishop O'Dowd (149)
Individual Champion: Jacob Lehmann Duke (College Preparatory) 15:24 Team Champion: San Francisco University (61 points)
Other Individual State Qualifiers: Jude DeVries (Fr., Victory Christian Academy) 15:39.6, Kabir Bhansali (Sr. College Preparatory) 15:42.9, Jordan Reilly (Sr., St. Helena) 15:55.7, Thomas Rombach (Jr. Bentley Upper) 15:56.8.
Other team State Qualifiers: Head-Royce (120), St. Joseph Notre Dame (149), Lick Wilmerding (152), Convent and Stuart Hall (156)