NCS cross country: Maria Carrillo wins team title

By JIM CROWHURST
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Redwood Empire returned from the North Coast Section Cross Country Championships at Hayward High School with three champions Saturday.
Pre-meet talk was whether Piner’s Luis Luna and his team could claim wins. Both fell one spot short of the winners circle but other Empire runners were more successful and now lay claim to being NCS champs.

First race of the day was the girls Division IV race with El Molino’s Nicole Lane. Lane has been tearing up courses and the competition all year but it took everything she had on Saturday to defeat Spencer Moore of St. Mary’s College by two seconds over the three-mile course. At 17:43 and 17:45, they were more than a minute ahead of the rest of the field with Fort Bragg’s state qualifier Alexandra Sciocchetti, third in 19:04.

“This year’s race was similar to last year’s except Moore won that one,” said Lane. “I tried to stay in front of her this year but with 400 meters to go she passed me. But I wanted to go out with a bang for my senior year so I was able to pass her back after a few strides and pull away from there.”

The Empire claimed its only team championship in the girls division II race as Maria Carrillo triumphed with some strong performances.

Casa Grande’s Ashley Moffett qualified for the state meet in second at 18:20 but Carrillo placed third, fourth and eighth with freshman Andrea Natoli 18:37, junior Lauren Kraus 18:37 and junior Brynna Thigpen 18:57 all in the top 10.

“Andrea has been a little shy to try and run with Lauren.” Coach Greg Fogg said, “but what really helped the team today was the strong placing by Brynna with a big personal best today.” This was Carrrillo’s fifth NCS win since 2004.

The last and probably most surprising winner of the day for the Empire came in the division I boys race as Santa Rosa senior Michael Tomasi pulled off the win. So strong was the North Bay League finals this year that Tomasi was only sixth in that race. Tomasi became the fourth Panther male to win an NCS title since 1990.
On this day Campolindo was just a bit too strong for the Piner boys team as Campolindo’s Thomas Joyce (14:58) bested Luna (15:03) for the two fastest times of the day from all the divisions. Campolindo scored 63 points to Piner’s 82 for the team crown in division III. Both teams will battle again at state.

Sonoma Valley senior Alex Conner placed third in that racein 15:17 to earn his trip to Fresno next week.

In the boys division II race, Ukiah’s Paul Holden (15:20) and the Carrillo boys team qualified for state with second-place finishes. Carrillo was led by junior Harrison Luft’s eighth-place finish in 15:49.
Cardinal Newman had a strong showing and state qualifying third-place finish in the Division IV race with Alexi Taylor placing second in 15:52.

Sonoma Academy was the fifth Empire school to earn a state trip with a fourth-place finish in Division V, led by 12th place Jax Reiff in 16:27. Cloverdale’s Joe Carrillo will also go on to state with his fifth-place finish in 15:42.

Three more girls qualified as individuals: Piner twins Kyra Johnson (seventh, 18:29) and Dezirae Johnson (15th, 18:50) in division III, and Sonoma Academy’s Katy Lee (eighth, 19:01) in Division V rounded out the Empire qualifiers.