By TED SILLANPAA
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
ROHNERT PARK — Casa Grande’s Adria Barich pulled away from Maria Carrillo’s Carolina Avelar in the last 350 meters, on the back stretch of the track, to win the girls’ varsity title Friday at the Rancho Cotate Invitational cross country meet.
Barich and Avelar, both seniors, entered the football stadium with the Carrillo runner holding a slim lead. After maintaining their postions on the turn, Casa’s Barich sprinted past Avelar to finish in a time of 18 minutes, 47 seconds.
Avelar finished second in 18:52, holding off teammate Allie Ahern who put on a strong finishing kick to end in 18:56.
Santa Rosa’s Daniel Pride broke away from the pack to cruise to the boys’ varsity victory in 15:18. Carrillo’s Jordan Scobey, running with orders not to push himself due to injury, was second in 15:48. Santa Rosa’s Luca Mazzanti was third in 15:48. Casa’s Matt Salazar was fourth (15:57).
The boys’ race started with the Rohnert Park temperature still a breezy 88 degrees. By the time the girls lined up, a cloud cover cooled things to 82 degrees.
“I came into the race with a time in mind more than anything else,” Barich said. “I ran a faster pace than I expected. I have to thank Carolina for that.”
Avelar was thrilled by her performance in the first race of the season.
“I didn’t expect to run anywhere near this time,” she said. “I was think 19 minutes, 19:20. This is a lot better than I expected.”
Barich was in the lead pack for the first mile, with Avelar well behind.
“I was in the chase pack,” Avelar said. “Around the 1-mile mark, I just pushed past people and caught up with the lead pack and then Adria and I broke out.”
Santa Rosa’s Sophia Mills was fourth in 19:03, followed by Carrillo’s Sydnie Rivas in 19:06. Teammate Cecilia Avelar ran a 19:14 to finish sixth, just ahead of Casa Grande’s Sakia van Ommeren-Egbert (19:23).
Pride, a junior, was running for the lead with 2014 Empire boys’ cross country runner of the year Salazar through the early part of the race. Pride burst to the lead and held a giant advantage by the time he entered the stadium for the final lap on the track.
“I felt really good about the race,” Pride said. “I took the lead and felt really good. By the time I got back to the track, I felt great.”
Scobey, a junior, suffered a summer injury that sidelined him for two weeks. He turned in an impressive performance, despite planning not to really test the injury.
“I wasn’t supposed to go 100 percent,” Scobey said. “I thought I’d run a controlled pace and just see how it goes. It felt fine.”
Pride and Salazar battled for the lead before the Santa Rosa starred pulled away.
“I slowly moved up through the pack,” Scobey said. “I started to gain on Daniel and Matt in the final mile.”
Santa Rosa’s Mazzanti put on a strong kick to slip by Salazar for third place
Carrillo’s Carson Kimball was fifth in 16:16, followed by teammate Scott Kruetzfelt at 16:19. Montgomery’s Stuart Lovelace ran 16:30 to hold off Roseland Prep’s Brandon Escandon (16:23).