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Maria Carrillo and Santa Rosa continue to be the cream of the Sonoma County track and field crop, as the schools demonstrated Saturday at the North Coast Section Redwood Empire championships at Piner High.

The Panthers and the Pumas each placed in the top three in the boys and girls team competitions. The top three boys teams were Marin Catholic (61), Maria Carrillo (54) and Santa Rosa (52.5). The top three girls teams were Santa Rosa (77), Maria Carrillo (61) and Redwood (52) of Larkspur.

“We had a really good day. I feel good about things; the kids are peaking at the right time of year,” Santa Rosa coach Doug Courtemarche said. “Our girls won because of a concerted team effort, which was a very balanced performance. We are extremely happy with the boys finish as well. We delivered today.”

The event featured 32 teams from four leagues (North Bay League, Sonoma County League, Marin Catholic Athletic League, and the Humboldt-Del Norte League) plus athletes from Lower Lake High. The event is a qualifier for next weekend’s northern California NCS final, known as the Meet of Champions, at UC Berkeley. The top seven finishers in Saturday’s events (12 field and 20 track events each for boys and girls) automatically move on to the MOC.

Perhaps the day’s biggest feat was turned in by Casa Grande’s girls 4-by-400 relay team, which set a Redwood Empire record (49.1) as it cruised to victory.

“Our handoffs were excellent. They relay team had a great day, and improved their previous record by over half a second, which is a big deal,” Casa Grande coach Jamie Pugh said. “For the MOC, it is a big step up in competition, but our 4-by-400 relay team has a good chance to make it to the second day.”

High-profile Panthers girls Kirsten Carter (first in the 400 meters, second in the long jump and second in the 200 meters) and Delaney White (first in the 1,600 meters, second in the 3,200 meters) each had productive days. Carter and White were also on the winning 4-by-400 relay team.

“Santa Rosa’s girls team won with a reasonable margin, so kudos to them,” Maria Carrillo coach Greg Fogg said. “From a Maria perspective, our results were pretty consistent with our expectations.”

Maria Carrillo’s Amani Baker got the Pumas in the girls’ individual winner’s circle with a victory in the 100 meters. She also came in fourth in the 200 meters and third in the long jump.

For the boys, the Pumas’ Ian Herculson won the 100- and 200-meter sprints as expected.

“It was a big step us for me because there was strong competition from the Marin Catholic runners in both sprints,” Herculson said. “Our team finishes were a little better than I anticipated.”

Other boys finishers included the Panther’s Delano Bell, who won the discus, and Casa Grande’s Zack Esponda, who came in second in the 800 meters.

The surprise of the day came from Piner’s 4-by-400 girls and boys relay teams, both of which registered unexpected third-place finishes.

“I was pretty happy with that,” said Piner’s Luis Rosales, the meet’s host coach.

“Piner’s relay teams ran very well,” Fogg said. “They stepped up when it mattered. Their team should get a lot of credit.”

Even though the predicted rain showers never materialized, at times weather was an issue, dampening the track and providing challenges for a few of the field events.

“The weather was a factor at different times,” Courtemarche said. “It was unpredictable. The wind was a factor.”

The top three finishers in each event at the MOC move on to the California state championships at Clovis on June 4 and 5.

“Today was kind of amazing; the spectator turnout (1,245 tickets sold) was great,” meet director Chip Castleberry said. “I think the Redwood Empire is going to do well at the MOC.”

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