RECAP Overcoming Injury, Title Defense among NCS Storylines

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HAYWARD -- Of all the runners that competed at the CIF-North Coast Section Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Hayward High School, few faced the kind of adversity Branson's Adeline Johnson did this season.

Johnson broke her hip in two places in a wakeboarding accident at Lake Tahoe a little over two months ago.

She has only been back in training for three weeks. In her first race back on November 9, she won the Marin County Athletic League championship.

On Saturday at Hayward, she added the NCS Division 5 crown, out-kicking Convent & Stuart Hall's Sienna Faidi.Johnson finished in 17 minutes, 58.5 seconds on the three-mile course with Faidi coming home in 17:58.7.

"It was actually pretty tough," Johnson said. "I didn't expect it to hurt that much in the third mile. I waited until the last 800 meters to make a move.

"At that point, it was just me and two other girls in front. I just picked up the pace and the girl from Convent went with me. I was like, 'OK, I'm really going to have to go if I want to win.' The whole time, I was like, I really want to win this."

As one might expect, Johnson hasn't had a chance to battle someone to the finish line this season.

"That was interesting," she said. "When I crossed the finish line, I was relieved. I really wanted this to happen.

The accident didn't appear to be much at the time.

"I wiped out but it wasn't anything bad, I didn't notice anything," Johnson said. "And then I was running that whole week after, and each run, my hip started getting more painful and more tight, so we were like, 'We should check this out.' MRI showed it was fractured.

"It was definitely a shock. It came out of nowhere."

Two months is a quick turnaround time for a runner with a fractured hip. The pounding of mile after mile can't be rushed.

"It usually takes a lot longer," Johnson said. "It healed itself in six weeks. It's supposed to take minimum two months, sometimes three months. I healed pretty fast. I had to start out really slow, a lot of cross-training, run-walking.

"It hurt for sure. I'm fully healed and it's great."

Now, Johnson returns to the CIF-State Championships on November 26 at Woodward Park in Fresno. Now a senior, she competed in the Division V race there last year, but did not finish.

It was a sunny day in Hayward, not as cold as it could have been -- the East Bay has had several recent nights with frost warnings. The wind wasn't too big a factor and conditions were good for the athletes. The meet had six teams and four individuals defend titles from 2021, including last year's State Meet champion Hanne Thomsen of Montgomery, in D-3, where Campolindo again swept both the boys and girls titles.

Redwood's Daegan Cutter had the best boys time of the day, winning the Division 2 race in 14:45.4. Cutter, a senior, said he didn't expect to take the lead at the start, but it ended up working out for him.

"That was motivating," he said. "I felt I was able to keep up my pace pretty well and I'm really happy with the result. I thought the race was going to go out faster because it was a really field. I guess I chose a pace that was faster than most people wanted to go."

Monte Vista senior Ethan Miller was second in 15:50.2.

The fastest girl at the meet was no surprise -- Montgomery sophomore Hanne Thomsen, the defending CIF-State champion in D-III. Thomsen, who also won the 3,200 meters at the CIF-State Track and Field Championships in May, ran a strong 16:30.6 to win by 34 seconds in defending her NCS Division 3 title.

"I felt pretty good today," she said. "Going into it, I just wanted to have a good effort going into State and do the job for my team, because we want to go to State as a team. I think I accomplished that today. I went a little bit faster than I thought, but I felt really good. It makes me feel more confident especially going into state."

Thomsen said she wanted to run about a 16:45.

"I wanted to make sure I didn't super-exert myself today," she said. "But I felt pretty good doing what I did."

Alhambra junior Renae Searls completed a family triple when she won the Division 4 race in 17:53.9. Her father Kevin Searls was the 1975 Division 2 boys champion running for College Park. Her mother Noreen Searls (deBettencourt) won the 1983 2A South and Meet of Champions races for Carondelet. Renae Searls, third here a year ago, dropped nearly six seconds from her time year-over-year.

Senior Shane Badcock of Dougherty Valley won the boys Division 1 race, edging Berkeley junior Olaf Dietz (14:58.4-14:59.9).

"I wanted to stay in the top three the whole time and then just see what I could do at the end," Badcock said.

Badcock made a change in his running gear for the race.

"I wore a hat today," he said, pointing the a black adidas ball cap atop his head. "I usually don't wear hats when I race. But I've been wearing it in recent workouts and it's been going pretty well so that's where I'm at right now."

He said it's mostly to keep his hair out of his face.

"I should probably get a haircut," he said.

Badcock's Dougherty Valley teammates Sabrina Noriega and Liana Lee went 1-2 in the girls Division 1 race. Noriega, a sophomore and the defending division champion, finished in 17:56.7, with Lee in 18:05.6. Noriega was nearly 13 seconds better YOY.

"I got a PR and it felt amazing," Noriega said. "I felt very strong, very energetic and very jumpy. I wanted to stay behind first place and see how comfortable I could get."

Noriega and Lee helped the Wildcats to defense of their division team championship.

Redwood's Audrey Maclean, runner-up in '21, won the girls Division 2 race in 17:47.4, ahead of Liberty's Rylee Guinn (17:53.6). Both are seniors.

"I try not to think about it too much before," Maclean said. "I try to stay calm, I just get super-nervous. But I was feeling pretty good today, which is nice. The temperature was really good for today. I didn't think about placement. I was just trying to run so that I was completely out of energy when I finished. So that's what I did."

Campolindo dominated the boys Division 3 race, sweeping the top three places en route to the team title. Seniors Alexander Lodewick (14:59.7), Connor Mcghee (15:15.2) and Blake Webster (15:21.3) ran away from the pack. Montgomery senior Jude Devries was fourth in 15:34.6.

"It was an awesome race," Lodewick said. "Not just for me, but for the entire team. I'm really proud of them. We haven't really tapered yet, so that was an amazing performance."

The Cougars, who scored 28 points, are the defending CIF Division 3 champions.

Albany senior Sean Morello defended his NCS title in Division 4, running 14:58.2, ahead of Moreau Catholic senior Jacob Hupke (15:05.1). Morello's performance, more than an 18-second improvement from 2021, helped lead the Cougars to a second consecutive team.

"We came into it hoping to get a repeat win," Morello said. "I wasn't looking to run any PRs, I was doing what I had to to win the race and get those points for the team. Almost all of our guys had a great race, almost all PRs all around. We couldn't really ask for more than that."

Sonoma Academy senior Tiernan Colby won the Division 5 boys race in 15:00.6 with juniors Malcolm Oakes (Convent & Stuart Hall) and Sean Green (Lick-Wilmerding) behind him in 15:09.0 and 15:10.5, respectively.

"I knew there were going to be a lot of strong juniors, Malcolm and Sean from Convent and Lick, and I wasn't really expecting them to push as much as they did, but I'm glad they did," Colby said. "I think they made it fast. Just past the two-mile mark, I decided I needed to be strong because they're faster than me and just give out everything I had, and I think I did that."

Berkeley won the boys Division 1 team title over Dougherty Valley, 51-56. 

Granada defended its boys Division 2 crown with 48 points ahead of Redwood (71). Lick-Wilmerding defended its Division 5 championship with 57 points, ahead of San Francisco University and College Prep, each with 81 points. University placed second on the sixth runner tiebreaker.

Monte Vista won the girls Division 2 race with 60 points. Redwood was second with 82. Campolindo also won the girls Division 3 title with 34 points, well in front of Montgomery (71). St. Mary's took Division 4 with 43 points, with Archie Williams in second with 56. 

University was the winner in Division 5 with 59 points, ahead of Convent & Stuart Hall (83).

Photo by Daniel Hernandez and Eric Morford

Damin Esper is a Bay Area-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to MileSplit

California MileSplit State Editor Jeffrey Parenti contributed to this article