PREVIEW CIF-Central Coast Section Cross Country Championship

The start of the SCVAL (DAL) varsity boys race last Tuesday as the runners headed downhill.  (Malcolm Slaney photo)

* * *

This year's Central Coast Section championship will once again be held at the world-famous Crystal Springs course. I always like to share a bit of history about the section final since its inception in 1965 and it has been hosted for many years by the unique Crystal Springs course.

The first Central Coast Section (CCS) meet was held in 1965 at Vasona Park in Los Gatos. The next competitions were held at the locations listed below until 1977 when the Crystal Springs course became the yearly host of the meet except for the rain-delayed section meet in 1984 which took place at the College of San Mateo.

1965- (1st CCS finals) Vasona Park
1966- Crystal Springs (2.0 course)
1967- York School
1968- Hellyer Park
1969- Crystal Springs (2.25 course)
1970- Golden Gate Park
1971- Alum Rock
1972- Mt Madonna Park
1973- Crystal Springs (2.95 course, current course)
1974- Hellyer Park
1975- Crystal Springs
1976- Hellyer Park
1977-2001- Crystal Springs

Starting in 2002, the championship meet has alternated between the Crystal Springs course (odd years) and Toro Park in Salinas (even years). Being that this is an even-numbered year, the 2022 Central Coast Section meet will of course be held at the Crystal Springs course. As many of you know, the last few years have been anything but orderly. The meet was held at the Crystal Springs course two years in a row in 2015 and 2016 and then at Toro Park for two consecutive seasons in 2017 and 2018. In fact, that 2018 meet was delayed more than a week and took place on a Sunday which may have been the first time a CCS cross country competition was held on the 7th day. The 2019 meet was held at the Crystal Springs course while the 2020 meet was not held due to COVID. Last year's meet was once again held at the Crystal Springs course. For those of you that are curious, next year's meet will be held at the Palo Corona Regional Park.

Time Schedule

(Award ceremonies for both genders are scheduled after the second race in each division.)
10:00am Girls Division IV
10:35am Boys Division IV
11:10am Girls Division V
11:45am Boys Division V
12:20pm Girls Division I
12:55pm Boys Division I
1:30pm Girls Division II
2:05pm Boys Division II
2:40pm Girls Division III
3:15pm Boys Division III

Live Results

Course Records
Boys - Mitch Kingery (San Carlos) 14:28 1973
Girls - Ellen Lyons (Bishop Kelly, Boise ID) 16:30.6 1979
Boys Team - Bellarmine 76:10 2019
Girls Team - Carlmont 91:20 2007


* * *

RACE PREVIEWS: In order that they will take place on Saturday

Girls Division IV (Top 3 teams qualify to CA state XC meet)
Scotts Valley won the section title last year and appears to be the favorite to win again this year. They will once again be led by Ashlyn Boothby (DeAnna Turner photo above)Amber Boothby, and freshman Ava Decleve. Provided their 4th and 5th runners are solid, Scotts Valley should win considering their strength up front. Carmel has two strong runners up front in sophomore Ava Ghio and freshman Lila Glazier. Their supporting cast should put them in a position to qualify for the state meet as a team. Another team that will contend for the state meet as well is Scott Valley's league rival, San Lorenzo Valley. Other teams that are in the mix are Sacred Heart Prep and Half Moon Bay. Ashlyn Boothby will be a strong favorite to win the individual title and could be followed by sister Amber. Sacred Heart Prep senior Julia Soderbery qualified for the state meet in the 1600m and will be in contention to qualify as an individual if her team doesn't secure that 3rd auto-qualifying spot.

Boys Division IV (Top 3 teams qualify for CA state XC meet)
In 2021, it was very clear that the section title would be won by either of the top two teams, Scotts Valley and Menlo. They battled it out to the finish line before Scotts Valley edged the Knights for the section title by a single point. This year, I have less of an idea of who will win and will just mention who are the contending teams. So in no order, I believe the teams that could contend for the section title and state meet berths are going to be Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz, Carmel, North Monterey County, and Archbishop Riordan. The favorite to win the individual title will be Santa Cruz sophomore Eli Fitchen-Young (John Lee photo above). He broke the sophomore record on the Crystal Springs course at the Serra Invitational and will be very motivated following his last loss at the SCCAL final. Aiden Boothby should keep him honest and other runners that will be in the mix up front include Jack Brownfield of Scotts Valley, Mason McKee of Riordan, and Aiden Tarantino of Carmel.

Girls Division V (Top 4 teams qualify for CA state XC meet)
Over the last five CCS championships, the Nueva and Castilleja girls have claimed all the section titles possible in this division with Nueva claiming the last title in 2021. This season, both schools won their respective league titles but the edge for the section title will go to the Castilleja Cubs (photo above courtesy of coach Ken Wilner). They field the most potent trio of runners in the division and they will be tough to beat in such a small race. Castilleja will be led by junior Perry McElhinney, defending section champion and senior Samira Kennedy, and fellow senior Daniella Henderson. Menlo will be in this division for the first time in many years and have a young lineup that will challenge for the win. They won the first two WBAL meets and should be back to full strength on Saturday. Crystal Springs Uplands School last won a section title in 2015 and will be led by individual favorite and 2019 section champion, senior Kaiya Brooks. With four teams, Nueva will also be in the mix and don't count them out for the win. They will be led by PSAL individual champion, junior Anna Feland. Oceana sophomore Lara Scanziani-Grijalvo was one of the top runners at the PAL meet and will be one of the leading contenders to qualify to the state meet as an individual.

Boys Division V (Top 3 teams qualify for CA state XC meet)
The Crystal Springs Uplands School boys have won the last seven section titles in this division. They have had lots of close calls including a 6th man tie-breaker in 2015. This year will be no different with their toughest challenge to date, with Menlo (photo above courtesy of Menlo coach, Jorge Chen) moving down to Division V. Menlo will be led by WBAL MVP Justin Pretre and brother Landon Pretre. They have a formidable lineup behind the Pretres that includes William Hauser and Aiden Deffner and will be the favorites heading into Saturday. Crystal edged Menlo for the league title with Menlo missing one of their runners due to illness. Crystal will be led by senior Furious Clay and sophomores Benjamin Bouie, Tarik Baker, and Oliver Boesch. Nueva should be the team that captures the last automatic state meet spot. They will be led by senior Joshua Byun. The individual favorites will be the Pretre brothers (Justin and Landon). They have been super impressive this fall and will be aiming to add two medals to their family's collection of section hardware. A couple of runners that will contend individually will be James Ponzio of Monte Vista Christian, Levente Palvolgyi of Priory and Spencer Koontz of Pacific Collegiate.

Girls Division I (Top 3 teams qualify for CA state XC meet)
The Menlo Atherton (photo above courtesy of coach Eric Wilmert) girls were one of the top teams in the section last year. They finished tied for 2nd at the CCS final but unfortunately lost the tie-breaker which prevented them from qualifying for the California state meet. Los Altos, the team that tied with them and defeated them went on to finish in 6th place in the rugged Division I final at state which was an indication of the strength of the Menlo Atherton girls. This season, MA returns the majority of their team and will be eyeing a team title here. They will be led by junior Tatum Olesen, a state meet qualifier in the 800 as a sophomore. Menlo Atherton is the strongest team in this division and will win. The second team appears to be the Mountain View girls who finished in 3rd at the SCVAL behind the Los Altos and Palo Alto dual meet. The Carlmont girls might make things interesting provided they return to full health following their league final. Katelynn Ruiz of Watsonville won the PCAL championship race and has been impressive all season.

Boys Division I (Top 2 teams qualify for CA state XC meet)
In 2021, the Palo Alto boys ended Bellarmine's streak of CCS titles at 7 by the smallest of margins, the 6th man tie-breaker rule. This fall, Bellarmine (photo above courtesy of Bellarmine coach Patrick McCrystle) will once again contend for another section title but this time, they will be battling with Milpitas for the win. For you Trivia buffs out there, Bellarmine has won 22 section titles in cross country which is the most by any school in CCS. You can check out the complete list of section title victories by all schools at this LINK. At this point, the one sure thing is that Mountain View senior Evan Markelz (Daniel Hernandez photo above) will win the individual title. He's been very impressive this fall and just ran 14:51.1 at the SCVAL championship race in less-than-ideal conditions. Milpitas should have a couple of runners ahead of the Bellarmine pack but the Bells' depth will become evident very quickly and the rest of their varsity team should lock up another section title. 

Girls Division II (Top 3 teams qualify for CA state XC meet)
Last year, the Division I race was the most competitive girl's race and must see event. This year, the Division II race will be the one not to miss as the nationally ranked Los Altos girls will be led by their super senior, Lauren Soobrian. Last spring, Soobrian ran the 6th fastest 3200m in CCS history as she rolled to victory at the CCS final with a time of 10:17.17. She has been pacing herself this fall and seems ready to really show what she can do in the next couple of weeks. The race for the team title should be a repeat of last week's SCVAL final as Los Altos won the team title but the Palo Alto girls made it more than interesting. The St. Francis girls dominated the WCAL final once again and will be right in the mix if one of the top two teams falters. Los Gatos and Archbishop Mitty appear to be the next two best teams. Evie Marheineke of Mitty has been impressive this fall and will be among the leaders individually.

Boys Division II (Top 3 teams qualify for CA state XC meet)
With the subtle change in the divisions that took place before this season, the result should be more competitiveness in each race. That will definitely be the case here as multiple teams will be eyeing the section crown. The slight favorite will be the Los Gatos boys who will be led by sophomore Aydon Stefanopoulos, the SCVAL (DAL) individual champion. Their main challenge should come from the St. Francis boys who finished in 3rd place at the WCAL championship meet. The Los Altos boys finished fairly close to Los Gatos if you merged all of the SCVAL teams together. Branham has a strong duo up front with Spencer Zeljak and Alijah Murillo, and will definitely be within striking distance of the top teams. Two more teams that will be wild cards are Palo Alto and Wilcox. Palo Alto will be led by individual favorite, junior Grant Morgenfeld while Wilcox will be led be another of the top individuals, senior John Cooper.

Girls Division III (Top 2 teams qualify for CA state XC meet)
From 1991 through 2021, the Aptos girls captured a section record 16 titles. They did indeed capture another section title last year but appear to be in rebuilding mode this season. You can check out the complete list of section champions by school at this LINK. The favorite appears to be Willow Glen (photo above courtesy of Willow Glen's Athletic Twitter page). Last season, Willow Glen finished in 2nd place in Division II behind a very strong St. Francis team. This year, Willow Glen moves down to Division III and should roll here for the win. They will be led by sophomore Lola Herning. The last qualifying spot to the state should go to either St. IgnatiusSacred Heart Cathedral or Hillsdale. SI did edge out SHC at the WCAL final but by only 10 points and with a less competitive field here, the score could be much closer between the two rivals. Hillsdale finished in 2nd place in the PAL meet behind Division I favorite Menlo Atherton. The favorite to win the individual title will be Prospect sophomore Kylie Hoornaert who ran one of the fastest times on the Crystal Springs course during the league championship week with a time of 17:52.9.

Boys Division III (Top 2 teams qualify to CA state XC meet)
The favorite to win this division should be the Westmont (photo above courtesy of Westmont coach, Ron Ernst) boys. They were impressive in winning the BVAL (MH) title as they posted the fastest team time of all teams that competed on the Crystal Springs course last week. They will be led by Shane Dalziel, one of the top individuals in this division. Their main competition should come from the St. Ignatius boys who finished a close 2nd to Bellarmine at the WCAL championship race and have been among the best teams in that tough league. The Sacred Heart Cathedral boys have been impressive this season including fine efforts at the Serra and Mt. SAC Invitationals. They appeared to be less than full strength at the WCAL final meet but don't count them out this coming Saturday. The favorite to win the individual title should be Aptos senior Trent Nosky. He defeated Eli Fitchen-Young at his league final and will be dangerous if he is close to the lead near the finish line. Other runners that will be near the front are Casey Nuti of Willow Glen, Cam Gregg of Sacred Heart Cathedral, and Carson Hedlund of Pioneer.

Albert Caruana is the coach at Crystal Springs Uplands School and a regular contributor to MileSplitCA
Banner photo by Dan McSweeney