Luna finishes sixth in state cross country

Piner’s Luis Luna. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / PD).

By STEVE BRAND
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

FRESNO — Piner’s Luis Luna was zeroing in on a second place finish at the State Cross Country Championships on Saturday when suddenly everything went wrong.

“I started feeling sick,” said the junior Prospector who staggered with just a half-mile remaining in the 3.1-mile race over the undulating Woodward Park course that later would be drenched in rain.

“I was done. I couldn’t sprint. I gave it all I had just to finish.”

In fact, he collapsed at the finish line in an extraordinary effort to place sixth in the Div. III race at 15:32, earning a spot on the victory stand. But first he had to be helped off the course. Luna got physically ill and then huddled under the Piner canopy as coach Luis Rosales got him to drink liquids.

“He was dehydrated, that’s all,” said Rosales. “You don’t think you need water when it’s this cold (43 degrees and overcast at race time). It’s easy to know you have to hydrate when it’s hot. He was really looking good.”

Luna, like all the other runners in the race which included Petaluma’s Forrest Shaffer who finished 10th, joining the Piner runner on the victory stand, quickly discovered they were running for second when South Pasadena’s Sam Pons scorched the first mile in 4:35 and never looked back, winning in 15-minutes flat.

At the two-mile mark, Luna was in third but he was certain he could catch runner-up Domenic D’Acquisto of San Jose Enterprise and had him in his sights when his body started failing him.

“I was thinking pick up, pick up, pick up but I was barely going,” said Luna, who was speaking slightly above a whisper. “I had to finish but I couldn’t have run a step farther. It wasn’t the weather, it was me. This has never happened to me before. The pace was very fast, but I still felt good. Then I felt weak all over.

“Once I hit the finish line I just collapsed. I couldn’t get up and I was kind of worried if it wasn’t something else that had happened.”

It took Luna almost an hour to start to feel better and although he was still shaky, he was able to enjoy the awards ceremony and was already looking ahead to next week when he plans to run in the Foot Locker Western Regionals at Mt. San Antonio College in Southern California.

“This will help motivate me for next year,” said Luna.

As for Shaffer, he was none-too-pleased with his 10th place even though he medaled.

“I let a few guys go past me the last 800 meters,” said the senior. “I started feeling stomach cramps like I have much of the season. I just pushed through it but I let them get away. I had too much left at the finish.”

Elsewhere, Sonoma Academy sophomore Katy Lee had the top finish on the girls side as she sped to a seventh place finish in the Div. V championship. Her time of 18:57 was only five seconds out of fifth.