Luna fifth, Lane sixth at state XC meet


FRESNO — Looking at Piner’s Luis Luna and El Molino’s Nicole Lane, you’d never know they had similar results at Saturday’s CIF State Cross Country Championships.

Lane was ultra-pleased with her sixth-place finish in the first race of the day. Woodward Park’s rolling 3.1-mile course was covered in fog early when she ran, but was sunny and pleasant for the runners by mid-morning. The El Molino senior was more than happy with everything except just missing the 18-minute barrier.

Luna? He was kicking himself an hour after his fifth-place finish helped narrowly lift the Prospectors to third place in the Division 3 team results, edging North Coast Section rival Campolindo by one point, 161-162.

“This is the fastest I’ve ever run,” said Lane, who was a distant 19th a year ago in 19 minutes, 11 seconds. “I was really worried when I went out at 5:32 (for the first mile) after running 5:50 last week.

“But I beat Spencer Moore (of St. Mary’s College), which was one of my goals after beating her last week. She beat me in every race last year.”

The Lions runner clocked a time of 18:04, two seconds faster than her sophomore rival, who finished a couple of steps behind in eighth. Showing just how close the competition is at this level, Lane was only seven seconds out of second place. Her sixth still earned her a spot on the awards stand.

Being in the first race of the day, at 8:30 a.m., had its pluses and minuses.

“I got it over with so I could relax and watch the rest of the races,” said Lane, who has a 3.9 GPA and is still mulling her college possibilities. “But it’s cold (early in the day) and you have to get up early.”

Lane’s coach, Heather Rosales, says her athlete’s best years are still ahead of her.

“Runners like (Santa Rosa High grad) Julia Stamps had been running since they were very young, but this is only Nicole’s fourth year,” said Rosales of the 17-year-old ex-soccer player. “She still really green.”

Luna ran in the last race of the day, and with a mile to go he was in ninth place. He closed to clock a personal record on this course of 15 minutes, 28 seconds.

Good, but not good enough for the senior.

“I’m disappointed, this is not the way I expected to finish,” said Luna. “I could have gone out way faster at the start. I can’t explain it, I know I have to do that in a competition like this but I just don’t do it. Maybe I’m afraid to push it.”

Coach Luis Rosales said the two talked about the race and he expected Luna to be among the leaders early, but that the Prospectors runner is very confident in his finishing kick. Besides, a fifth and a team plaque were solid proof that the program is continuing to improve.

“We ran better than we did last week,” said the Piner coach. “Luis is very competitive, so we thought it would good if he got out with the others. At this level, everyone is good. Realistically, a top-five individual finish and a (third-place) plaque were a good day.”

Junior Jaime Silva (26th overall in Division 3) and sophomore Efren Reyes (41st) were joined by senior Jason Saler (53rd) and junior Matt Mulligan (92nd) to complete the bronze medal performance.

Other Redwood Empire runners with strong results Saturday included Sonoma Valley senior Alex Conner (38th among all boys, just 15 spots behind Luna), Ukiah junior Paul Holden (93rd) and Cloverdale senior Joe Carrillo (224th).

On the girls’ side, top Empire finishers included Maria Carrillo freshman Andrea Natoli (136th overall), Pumas junior Brynna Thigpen (162nd) and Casa Grande junior Ashley Moffett (203rd).