The cross country community is a close-knit group where little of importance slips past fans, coaches or runners. All the focus on the Sonoma County League girls championship event Saturday was on a ninth-grader who’s good now, but bound for greatness.
“Oh, Piner has that little freshman girl,” fans whispered. “She’s amazing! She’s going to be hard to beat.”
Piner’s Cynthia Rosales did not disappoint, finishing with a strong burst to hold off Analy junior Emma Douch to win the SCL girls’ title at Spring Lake Park in Santa Rosa.
The freshman Rosales finished in 18 minutes, 23.42 seconds. Douch ran stride for stride with her until reaching the parking lot, about 200 yards from the finish line.
“I didn’t have a race strategy,” Douch said after turning in a time of 18:27.56. “I just run as hard as I can for as long as I can. I was with Cynthia the whole way, but she pulled away at the end.”
Rosales entered the race planning “to go hard” early. She admitted that strategy “changed some” as she dueled Douch.
“I never expect to have a strong finishing kick,” Rosales said. “I’m happy whenever I finish strong like I did today. It was a great race.”
Sonoma Valley’s Amy Stanfield finished third in 18:47.31 to lead the Dragons to the SCL team championship. Petaluma was second, followed by Piner, Analy and Healdsburg.
El Molino’s Brian Schultz won the SCL boys title in a time of 15:41.39. Sonoma Valley’s Travis Claeys edged Petaluma’s Travis Dunbar in a thrilling race to the finish line. Clayes finished in 15:48.64, with Dunbar on his heels in 15:49.36. Piner’s Jonny Vargas was fourth, completing the hilly, 5-kilometer course in 15:51.39.
Piner won the SCL boys team crown, followed by Petaluma. Healdsburg, Sonoma Valley and Analy.
“The race went pretty good,” El Molino’s Schulz said. “It was a nice pace.”
Schulz narrowly averted disaster midway through the race.
“I got a little confused and wasn’t sure whether to run to finish or go another loop,” he said. “I was a little directionally challenged.”
Claeys was pleased with the SCL feature event. “It was a great race. Great competition,” he said. “Everything fell in line today.”
Petaluma’s PJ Lynch won the boys’ junior varsity title in 17:30.49. His teammate Lilah Singh won the girls’ JV crown at 22:19.
SCL runners will now prepare for the North Coast Section qualifying meet Nov. 21 in Hayward.