NCS cross country: State berth on the line

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A handful of Sonoma County prep cross country teams are among the top squads competing at the North Coast Section meet today in Hayward, where several individual runners also aim to qualify for the state meet.
The boys’ Division III race could send three local teams to the CIF finals in Fresno next week — rarely done — if Petaluma and Piner run as well as expected and Maria Carrillo pulls off an upset.
On the girls’ side, Maria Carrillo is a strong squad behind two state powers in Campolindo and Acalanes, from the East Bay.

Santa Rosa’s boys and girls will contend in Division II, where Casa Grande’s teams also are pegged among the top five in the region. Sonoma Academy is ranked fifth in Division V.
“Getting some top spots would be a real complement to our running programs,” Maria Carrillo coach Greg Fogg said.
The top runner out of the Empire is Luis Luna, who could help carry the Piner boys, including Jason Saler and Jaime Silva, to a high-enough finish to make the state meet. The North Bay League champion, running the second fastest time ever at the finals around Spring Lake, is ranked second in California in Division III. Right off Luna’s pace is Sonoma County League titlist Forrest Shaffer, of Petaluma, ranked eighth in the state.

“Luna is pretty much running head and shoulders above everyone else in that division,” Petaluma coach Jim Lynch said. “He’s running kind of in a different stratosphere right now.”
Shaffer heads a quartet of Trojans runners — Kevin Poteracke, Ryan Douglas and Clark Bernard — who have been logging very fast times. The Petaluma boys are ranked ninth in the state and second on the north coast with Piner right behind in third.
“We have a little horsepower up front,” Lynch said. “Our goals coming into this season were not only to win our league but to defend our section title and hopefully be strong enough to get to the podium again at the state meet.”

Leading the Maria Carrillo boys is Daniel Hauptman, fourth-place finisher in the NBL finals. The Pumas are ranked fifth in Division III on the north coast, and four qualify for the state meet.
“He pulls those guys along really well. They’re very focused on making it to state,” Fogg said.
Among the other boys running well are Paul Holden, Ukiah; Alexi Taylor and Charlie King, Cardinal Newman; Colin Gibson, Maria Carrillo; Jonathan Peck, Santa Rosa; Austin Minnick and Ben Tarango, Casa Grande; and Gustavo Vasquez, Analy.
Sonoma County League champion Ashley Moffett is the top girls runner out of the Empire, setting the fourth-fastest time ever in the SCL meet. She hopes to lead Casa Grande to state in Division II, where the Gauchos are ranked fifth on the north coast.

Other girls who could advance to state as individuals are Nicole Lane, El Molino; Lauren Kraus and Brynna Thigpen, Maria Carrillo; Kelly Brooks, Santa Rosa (NBL champion); Kirby Franklin, Petaluma; Chloe Hall, Casa Grande; Victoria Tomaszewski and Amber Piersol, Windsor.
Santa Rosa is the highest-ranked girls team at second in Division II. Petaluma, the SCL champion, is fourth in Division III on the north coast.
Maria Carrillo tied Santa Rosa for the NBL title and is aiming for a return to state. Kraus leads the Pumas and appears back in form after an ankle injury sidelined her for the league final.
“She’s had some bad luck. I think everything is lining up well for her, though,” Fogg said. “She’ll be right up there.”
You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.