Viking Opener signals Piner's resurgence

By JIM CROWHURST
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Saturday was the 27th annual Viking Opener cross country meet at Spring Lake, and Piner used the occasion to prove that it is definitely back as a Redwood Empire powerhouse in the sport.

And it’s not with any sort of “hey, look at me” attitude. Instead, it’s grounded in quiet leadership, hard work and a team commitment to restoring Piner’s reputation.

Luis Luna is the current leader of the team, and his example is being passed down to his teammates.

Luna was nearly 20 seconds faster than anyone else on the day over the 2-mile course, running it in 9:46.

The course has been used since 1987, and Luna’s time has  been bettered only by 2009 State Division III champion Erik Olson of Novato when he won with a time of 9:40.

“My goal today was just to run 10 flat because I have not done much speed work,” said Luna.

But then a Tam runner, Andrew Henn, ran the first mile in 4:57. “I thought if I let him go I might not catch him again,” said Luna, “so I stayed with him and then pulled away and used the final downhill to let it all out.”

Newman’s Alexi Taylor was second in 10:07, with Cloverdale’s Joe Carrillo third (10:19).

Luna’s teammates are accustomed to running in his shadow, but at this meet the runners were in different races because of the grade- level format. So Luna spoke with them before the race.

“I tried to prep them mentally on what to do,” said Luna. “I told sophomore Efren Reyes, who I knew could win it, to take it out hard the first mile and after that just go and run with guts.”

The talk paid off because Reyes won the Frosh/Soph race by a huge margin of 26 seconds, running the race in 10:27.

“It felt weird to be in the lead,” said Reyes. Maria Carrillo’s Dante Hay was second, running the course in 10:53.

Piner’s new pride was possibly best demonstrated in the junior boys race as Jaime Silva won over a strong field. “I was nervous before the race because I knew there would be four of us battling,” said Silva.

As soon as he finished just a second ahead of Ukiah’s Paul Holden, Silva turned around and started congratulating all the other finishers.

As his teammates finished, though this wasn’t planned, they lined up right behind him and started doing the same thing.

On the girls side, El Molino’s Nicole Lane continued her winning ways, taking an incredible 30 seconds off her time from last year. She finished in 11:41 to win the Junior/Senior race.

“I trained a lot harder this summer than I ever had before, putting in 70 miles a week,” said Lane.

“I had planned to pace off of Carrillo’s Lauren Kraus today, but she didn’t run. But Ashley Moffet (Casa Grande) went out fast as she usually does and pulled me through the first mile in 5:40, as compared to 6:10 last year.”

Sonoma Academy’s Katy Lee finished second (11:52) with Moffet third (12:04).

Kraus skipped this meet after taking a spill in training, but Carrillo still found the winner’s circle as freshman sensation Andrea Natoli held off Windsor’s Victoria Tomaszewski to win the Frosh/Soph race in 12:25. Tomaszewski finished in 12:29.

At the being of the summer, Natoli had planned on playing soccer, but “after training with the cross country team during the summer to get in shape for soccer,”shel said, “I decided instead to keep running with them.”