Cross country preview: Invitational kicks off season

By JIM CROWHURST
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Nursing a slight injury, Maria Carrillo High School cross country standout Ryan Anderson times his teammates at practice on Wednesday.

Nursing a slight injury, Maria Carrillo High School cross country standout Ryan Anderson times his teammates at practice on Wednesday.

Cross country kicks off the 2013 season for Redwood Empire high schools Friday with the running of the Rancho Cotate Invitational, a multi-team extravaganza that launches the fall running season toward the crowning of league, section and state champions in November.

The list of accomplished runners returning to compete for their schools heralds what might be a memorable cross country season.

BOYS

Of all the talented runners returning this season, none is more noteworthy than Maria Carrillo senior Ryan Anderson, whose stunning rise on the local running scene led the Pumas to North Bay League and North Coast Section team championships in 2012.

How stunning was his rise? As a sophomore, Anderson placed 12th in the NBL junior varsity meet. Last season, as a junior, Anderson won the NCS Division II individual championship and placed 13th at the state meet.

“My mindset for the season is actually fairly simple — to trust in my training and not overthink the rest,” Anderson said. “I plan on reviewing race strategy and ‘running’ the race in my head the night before meets, but I think it’s important to enjoy the race as much as it is to have a great time.”

Anderson, who has a muscle strain and won’t be competing Friday in the meet at Rancho Cotate, is hardly all Pumas coach Greg Fogg has in his “Big Green Army.” Also returning are senior Nick Jensen, a second-team All-Empire runner who was fourth at the NBL meet last season, and junior Zac West, who was 10th at the NBL meet. And, if a race comes down to a sprint at the end, teams don’t want to be up against senior Dante Hay, who has 1:53.72 and 49.92 track speed.

The NBL also boasts sophomore Matt Salazar from Casa Grande, who turned a lot of heads in his freshman year by finishing just behind Anderson in both the NBL and NCS finals. On the track, Salazar’s 3,200-meter time of 9:53.94 is bettered on the freshman all-time list by only Petaluma’s Sterling Lockert and Piner’s Luis Luna.

The NBL has three other returning third-team All-Empire runners in junior Adan Chavez and senior Aden Holmes of Santa Rosa, and Windsor senior Zach Price.

The Sonoma County League has returning first-team All-Empire runner Efren Reyes, a Piner senior, back as one of the co-favorites to dominate that league. Reyes finished eighth in the state in Division IV. He will be challenged by Petaluma senior Casey Kramer, who finished third in SCL meet last year.

The Coastal Mountain Conference should see Sonoma Academy senior Patrick Loftus leading the way. He was third in the league meet last year, making him the highest-placing returning runner.

The new kid on the block to keep an eye on may be Santa Rosa freshman Daniel Pride.

GIRLS

With all three league champions returning this year, plus two more first-team All-Empire runners, the Redwood Empire has a lot of talent back for the 2013 season.

Possibly the best of the bunch was the newcomer in 2012, Santa Rosa sophomore Delaney White.

In her freshman season she won the toughest league final, the North Bay League.

“Delaney is going into the season with a lot of confidence after a very active summer training routine,” Panthers coach Doug Courtemarch said. “She has the drive to make it to the state meet this year, yet the ultimate goal is constant improvement.”

The other two returning league champions are Analy senior Molly Foster from the SCL and Mendocino senior Erin Thomas from the CMC.

Foster is a versatile athlete. In last year’s track finals she ran the two shortest and two longest races. Her day included a leg of the 400-meter relay team, the 1,600, the 100-meter high hurdles, and she finished with the 3,200.

Thomas is the class of the CMC, having won the cross country final the past two years, the 2012 race by more than a minute. She also won the Division 5 race at the prestigious Stanford race, and on the track she won the CMC 3,200 by more than a minute and a half. Her 11:18.22 at the Meet of Champions was the fastest 3,200 in the Empire in 2013.

Not to be overlooked are two other first-team All-Empire runners — Windsor senior Hannah Haley, who was third at the NBL cross country meet and second in NCS, and Maria Carrillo junior Andrea Natoli, who last spring won the NBL 3,200 title.

Natoli’s season may be determined by how well she bounces back from some injuries, but in general Maria Carrillo appears to be the team to beat. Others back for the Pumas are second-team All-Empire runners junior Shaz Breedlove and sophomore Cecilia Avelar, plus third-team All-Empire runner Shannon Palladino and Shawn Cichosz, both juniors.

Other NBL runners to keep an eye on are Windsor senior Victoria Tomaszewski and two Casa Grande teammates, sophomore Saskia Van Ommeren-Egberts and junior Andrea Gonzalez.

In the SCL, Foster’s biggest challenge will probably come from Piner senior teammates Paloma Romero and Mayra Villa, with the dark horse being Petaluma sophomore Madison Parrett, who last spring as a freshman ran 5:17.79 and 11:58.14 on the track.

In the CMC, Sonoma Academy has sophomore Alyssa Goody back who was second to Thomas in last season’s finals and looks to be the next strongest runner in the league.

Jim Crowhurst covers Redwood Empire cross country and track on his “On Track” blog at running.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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