NBL cross country: Carrillo still rules, but Casa closing gap

Santa Rosa High sophomore Delaney White, wearing orange, defended her NBL cross country title at Spring Lake  on Friday. (JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat)

Santa Rosa High sophomore Delaney White, wearing orange, defended her NBL cross country title at Spring Lake on Friday. (JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat)

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Casa Grande has been chasing Maria Carrillo around the cross country course all season long, and it happened again Friday. The Gauchos turned in strong performances at the North Bay League championships at Spring Lake, but weren’t fast enough to overtake the Pumas.

Maria Carrillo won the boys varsity team competition with 28 points to Casa’s 57 (lower is better in cross country). The girls competition was closer, with the Pumas tallying 34 and the Gauchos 44.

“I welcome Casa to our league,” Carrillo coach Greg Fogg said of the Gauchos, who joined the NBL for the 2012 fall season. “This is awesome. They came in here, and they automatically decided to sit right in second place. There should be a honeymoon period where they have to hang out in fourth or fifth place for a while.”

Casa Grande has exhibited no such patience. Gauchos coach Carl Triola said this is the strongest boys team in school history, and the girls aren’t far behind. Casa sophomore Matt Salazar took second place in the boys race in 15:28, 13 seconds behind winner Ryan Anderson of Maria Carrillo. And a trio of Gauchos sophomores — Saskia VanOmmeren-Egberts, Ileana Moon and Adria Barich — took fourth, fifth and sixth among the girls.

The warm afternoon belonged to the Pumas, though, as it so often has lately. It was the 11th consecutive year the Carrillo girls have won at least a share of the NBL pennant, and the eighth time in 11 years for the boys.

Santa Rosa finished third in both events — the boys had 78 points, the girls 93 — and boasted an overall winner in sophomore Delaney White.

Her victory didn’t register as a surprise.

White won the league championship as a freshman last year, though she raced at Spring Lake on a stress fracture. Healthy this year, she crossed in 18:26, 10 seconds ahead of Maria Carrillo junior Shaz Breedlove and 26 seconds in front of Pumas sophomore Cecilia Avelar.

White, known as The Freak to her teammates, likes to run out front of the pack — which is fortunate, because that’s usually where she finds herself.

“I have a deep-seated fear that if I draft somebody, I’m gonna trip over their feet,” White said. “Because it just seems like I can’t see where I’m going, and it scares me.”

Breedlove continued her strong campaign with the second-place finish. Not bad when you consider that she went most of the summer without running while visiting family in Morocco.

Avelar’s finish was a nice surprise for Maria Carrillo.

“She’s capable. She’s done it before, but it’s hard to tell which Cecelia’s gonna show up, and today the fast one showed,” Fogg said. “And as well with Carolina.”

That would be Cecilia’s twin sister. Also a sophomore, Carolina finished eighth. Fogg got the fast Avelars on Friday.

Anderson had hopes of becoming the third boy to crack 15 minutes at Spring Lake, and didn’t finish far from the mark at 15:15, two seconds off the personal course record he set last year. He’s an impressively consistent runner, though he had to adjust to running with a big lead Friday.

“I thought it was really hard running by myself the whole race,” Anderson said. “It took a lot out of me mentally. … Usually Matt goes out really fast. He was more conservative today.”

Salazar saw it differently. His pace felt normal; it was Anderson, he believed, who bolted the start. In any case, Salazar should have been thrilled with his result. He strained an abdominal muscle at practice Monday, and was in considerable pain all week. He took an ice bath Thursday, went for a mile tune-up run Friday morning and felt much better.

Oh, and Salazar got a little more aerodynamic, too, spontaneously shaving off his mustache Friday morning.

Next up: the North Coast Section Meet of Champions at Hayward High on Nov. 23, when the Redwood Empire’s top two teams will resume their friendly duel. Maria Carrillo and Casa Grande have a legitimate chance of finishing 1-2 in both the boys and girls divisions at the NCS meet.

“It could potentially be that way,” Triola said. “They give us a great target to shoot after, and it’s great to have two schools from one league, you know, looking pretty good.”

You can reach Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.

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