NBL cross country: Prospectors running toward first title

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Looking to make history, the Piner boys’ cross country team seeks its first North Bay League title at the league finals around Spring Lake in Santa Rosa today.

A convincing win over Maria Carrillo in the league’s first meet makes the Prospectors favorites to end the Pumas’ reign of six titles over seven years.

The girls’ run for the title could be tighter with Santa Rosa posing a challenge to Maria Carrillo, winners of the past seven NBL championships.

Racing starts at 2 p.m. at Spring Lake County Park.

Leading the Piner boys is Luis Luna, recently ranked as California’s top Division III prep runner. Luna finished third a year ago and has continued improving, recording the eighth fastest time ever for the 3.05 mile Spring Lake course. Facing one of the fastest NBL fields in last year’s finals, Luna now counts on teammates to push him. Jaime Silva and Jason Saler give Piner a tough trio.

“It’s going pretty good. We’re having some good races,” Luna said. “It’s pretty nice to actually have a good team.”

Piner has been rebuilding under coach Luis Rosales over the past several years. Piner hasn’t won an NBL cross country title since joining the league in 1987. The Prospectors won 10 consecutive Sonoma County League championships ending in 1986.

With nearly 40 boys and girls in the program, the Prospectors have a huge squad compared with past years.

“It helps a lot. Someone’s going to be good. They definitely push each other,” Rosales said.

Maria Carrillo still turns out the greatest numbers, though, with dozens of athletes continuing to make the Pumas perennial North Coast Section contenders. Daniel Hauptman and Harrison Luft have led the boys’ team this year.

In third heading into today’s finals is Santa Rosa, led by Jonathan Peck, Michael Tomasi and Michael Kennedy.

Other top runners to watch for include Alexi Taylor and Charlie King from Cardinal Newman, Paul Holden, of Ukiah, and Jose Mendoza and Jamie Goldfield, for Montgomery.

Defending girls’ champion Julie Nacouzi, with the ninth-fastest time at Spring Lake, might not be in this year’s field. She has been injured and had not practiced a lot with the Montgomery team. Earlier this season Nacouzi was the state’s top ranked Division II runner.

With depth to repeat as team champion, Maria Carrillo is led by Lauren Kraus, Brynna Thigpen, Taylor Graham and Gretel Petrie.

Second place Santa Rosa’s top athletes are Kelly Brooks, Sadia Ibrahim and Eva Herbst.

Piner runner Mayra Villa has been a big surprise, leading a field of other top harriers, including Emily Goldfield and Anjali Mathews of Montgomery and Melissa Hansen of Rancho Cotate.