HAYWARD -- Sarah Sumpter's evolution from a little-known runner, training in relative obscurity, to state prominence continued Saturday at the North Coast Section Cross Country championships
The Healdsburg senior ran the second-fastest time ever over the 3-mile Hayward High course, finishing in 16:59. Ukiah's Amber Trotter ran 16:15 in 2001 to set the record.
Sumpter's time established a new Div. IV record, eclipsing Bishop O'Dowd's Ariel Wright's 17:15 in 2004. Sumpter will travel Saturday to Fresno for the state meet as one of the overall favorites, and certainly the runner to beat in Div. IV.
When Sumpter crossed the line, there wasn't another runner in sight. In fact, Sumpter had made her way to the scorer's table and had taken off her number before the next runner entered the long stretch run. Her closest competitor was Taylor Lawson (St. Mary's College Prep), who finished in 18:43.
"I was thinking around 17:13, something like that," Sumpter said. "I started to pull away around a half-mile. I actually veered off course a couple of times; that cost me some time."
Sumpter also broke stride going down the long grade into the stretch, another time-consuming mishap. "At one point I yelled, 'where am I going?' "
While Sumpter's individual effort was the talk of the meet, there were other significant achievements. As expected, the Petaluma boys took home gold in Div. II, besting De La Salle. The surprise was Montgomery making a big move to take third place and earn a trip to state. Santa Rosa was fifth..
Petaluma's Sterling Lockert ran 15:24 to win Div. II, with twin brother Devin second. The first six finishers had a decidedly Empire flavor. Nathanael Litwiller (Clayton Valley) was third, Ukiah's Andrew Zellman fourth, followed by Trojans' teammates Cole Yungert and Brandon Felipe.
The Trojans will most likely be seeded in the top three overall at state, and definitely the Div. II team to beat.
"Everyone ran well. Sterling ran a fantastic race," said Petaluma coach Jim Lynch. "He went out and took charge, and the other guys stepped up.
The Casa Grande girls made history with a third-place finish in Div. II, earning their first-ever trip to the state meet. Led by sophomore Jacque Taylor, who ran second to longtime foe Nicole Hood (Carondelet), the Gauchos put together their fastest race of the season. Santa Rosa's Suzi Rozga and Montgomery's Celeste Berg also get to make the trek to Woodward Park in Fresno.
"I've never thought of Fresno as beautiful," said Casa's Sarah McSweeney. "But now I think it's beautiful."
Led by the Curtin twins, Lauren and Cara, the Maria Carrillo girls ran a strong second to perennial Div. III power Campolindo. Lauren Curtin won the race in 18:11, while Cara was third (18:35).
In the boys' Div. III, Campolindo and Carrillo had the same order as the girls' event. Campolindo picked up the gold with Carrillo second. Nathan Huckeba had the Pumas' best time, running fourth in 15:36.
Willits' Kenny Smith will get a shot a state medal with a second-place finish in Div. IV. Smith and St. Mary's College's Matt Duffy staged a spirited duel from the opening gun. Smith had a short advantage with about 100 yards to the line, but Duffy (15:36) found a late kick to defeat Smith (15:38) by a narrow margin. Joe Withers (15:44) of Cardinal Newman also qualified for state, along with Micah Shaw-Henderson (El Molino) and Rory McLeod (Santa Rosa)..