NBL cross country championships: Luna, Piner shatter records

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Luis Luna and his Piner teammates broke every record there was to be broken while capturing the North Bay League cross country meet Friday at Spring Lake Park.

Next stop: the North Coast Section championships on Nov. 19 and then the state meet a week later.

Luna, who finished sixth in last year’s state meet, signaled Friday that 2011 might be the year he shows he’s the best high school long-distance runner in the state.

The senior covered the 3.05-mile Spring Lake Course in 14:43. That’s seven seconds faster than previous record-holder Ryan Mack (Ukiah) ran while winning the NBL meet in 1998. The Spring Lake course has been in existence since 1988.

The total time for Piner's five runners was 1:16:59. That is an NBL meet and course record.

The Prospectors'  team total was 23 (combined placings of the first five runners to finish).How much has Luna improved from his junior to senior year? In 2010, he also won the NBL meet but in a time that was 16 seconds slower than he ran Friday.

“I wanted the course record,” Luna said. “It was all I thought about for the last week.”

Luna won the race by 30 seconds with teammate Jaime Silva coming in second. Ukiah’s Paul Holden was third (15:15), followed by Cardinal Newman’s Alexi Taylor (15:19) and Piner’s Efren Reyes (15:27).

Luna went to the front right away with Taylor just over his shoulder. A little over a mile into the race, the Newman runner passed the reigning champ.

“I let him have the lead for probably 30 seconds,” Luna said. “I could’ve stayed behind him a little longer, but I wanted the record.”

Luna shifted into another gear to take the lead again and after a few minutes, he could no longer hear Taylor’s footsteps.

“I was going over the concrete portion of the course and it got real quiet,” Luna said. “With about a mile to go, I glanced back and didn’t see any of the other runners.”

Having run the opening mile in 4:58 and the second mile in 5:00, Luna still had plenty in the tank for a sprint finish.

As he came down the last hill and heard the crowd yelling encouragement, the 5-foot-7 runner got an adrenalin rush.

“I saw the big timer at the finish line,” he said. “When I first spotted the clock, it showed 14:30. I knew I was in position to set the course record and I ran as hard as I could through the finish line.”

Luna will be favored to defend his NCS Division III title and thinks he has a good chance to win gold at the state meet.

“I am definitely a better, stronger runner than I was a year ago,” he said. “Also, I didn’t run my race at state. I got dehydrated and struggled.”

Three of the runners that finished in front of him last year at the state championships in Fresno will be in the line-up again.

“If I’m on that day, I can beat those guys,” Luna said.

Going into the postseason, Luna is ranked No. 3 in the state and No. 1 in Northern California.

Coach Luis Rosales said every Piner runner recorded an individual best time on Friday.

Trailing the Prospectors in the team scores were: Maria Carrillo, Santa Rosa, Cardinal Newman, Montgomery, Ukiah and Elsie Allen.

The girls trophy, as expected, went to the Pumas although Piner’s Kyra Johnson took individual honors.

Johnson, who finished seventh in the 300 hurdles at last year’s track and field state meet, completed the Spring Lake course in 18:11. That was five seconds faster than Carrillo’s Lauren Kraus.

Rounding out the top five were Puma teammates Andrea Natoli and Brynna Thigpen and Piner’s Dezirae Johnson.
The Carrillo girls have won or shared the NBL crown for eight straight years.

“I was a little disappointed in the final times,” coach Ruben DeRado said.

“However, the goal is to be at our best for NCS and then, hopefully, we’ll continue on to state. With the depth we have, I think winning NCS is a realistic goal.”

NCS will be contested in Hayward and the top three teams in each division will advance to state as will the top 15 runners in each race not on a qualifying team.

The first five Puma runners across the finish line Friday gave the team a score of 26. Santa Rosa and Piner tied for second with 60 each. Then came Montgomery, Rancho Cotate and Cardinal Newman.