Luna looking toward cross-country nationals

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Running back of the pack and closing strong finally paid off for Luis Luna as the Piner senior will race in the prep national cross country championships Saturday.

Not that Luna likes running from behind. But after section and state finishes that didn’t meet his goals, Luna ran best when it counted most in capturing seventh at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships West Regional this past weekend. Luna is on the West team for the National Finals in San Diego on Saturday.

“I just didn’t start out fast. But it turned out OK,” Luna said. “At nationals I will do better. I think I’m ready to have a fast time.”

A better warm up combined with a more open course and smaller field of runners should help Luna finish the season with a peak performance.

Nationals are run on a 3.1 mile course in Balboa Park featuring hills early and late in the race. There are 40 runners, four teams of 10 qualifying at regional meets in the Northeast, South, Midwest and West.

“I think that’s definitely going to be in his favor,” said Piner coach Luis Rosales.

In the west regional race, Luna was well back of the leaders after the first mile at Mt. San Antonio College, in Walnut. Luna was hurt by a slow start and the course’s narrow early stretches.

“It’s super easy to get stuck. I thought I was going to get out well, but everyone was going at the same pace,” Luna said.

Over the next two miles Luna picked off runners in bunches. He came in just 14 seconds behind the winner in a very strong field — many of the best high school runners from 12 western states.

“That’s not the way to race. That’s risking it too much. At these bigger meets most of the runners aren’t going to fall back to you,” Luna said.

Two runners Luna finished ahead of beat him at the California Interscholastic Federation Division 3 finals, where Luna was fifth.
Luna was second at the North Coast Section meet.

While great results for most runners, Luna was disappointed. One of the Empire’s all-time great prep runners wanted to win.

“It’s good for most people, but I was expecting to do better,” Luna said.

Not until several days after the state meet did Luna decide to enter the West Regional.

“I thought I was done. But I didn’t want to end my season with two bad races,” Luna said.

Fulfilling his goal to finish strong, Luna will line up with the nation’s best prep cross country runners Saturday.

“It’s my last high school race. I’m just going to do my best,” he said.