Benefield: Maria Carrillo runners still have lofty goals
No team has run faster.
The Maria Carrillo High boys' cross country team has made no bones about their ambitions for a run at the Division 3 CIF State Cross Country Championship title, but they have also made no secret of their desire to knock off the eight-year-old team record for the 3.05-mile Spring Lake course.
Mission accomplished on the latter. We have two weeks to wait and see what they can do on the former.
The Pumas beat the 2011 Piner Prospectors' team time of 76:59 by two seconds Friday en route to a dominating team win for the North Bay League-Oak Division crown. Pumas took all but two of the top seven spots, with senior Colton Swinth posting a massive personal best of 15:04 for the win, followed by Carrillo seniors Rory Smail with a 15:21 and Pierce Kapustka with a 15:23.
“We were really gunning for that,” Pumas coach Greg Fogg said of the record. “They accomplished what they wanted to do today. That is a bar that was set very high. I have huge (admiration) and respect for Luis (Rosales's) team of 2011 that set that.”
That team had one Luis Luna, the fastest prep runner to ever take on that course, running it in 14:43 as a senior. But the Pumas have more speed deeper in their lineup than those '11 Prospectors. Piner coach Luis Rosales, the guy who also coached the record-setting team, said Pumas are just stacked.
“It wasn't a soft record,” he said. “They are very talented. I wasn't surprised at all.”
He likened being there to watch it fall to watching history being made.
The fact that so many Pumas ran at the front and no team could really challenge them as a group made their achievement Friday even more impressive, Rosales said.
“It was all them,” he said. “With less competition they got it done, which is pretty darned impressive.”
In the league race for the varsity boys' banner, Santa Rosa came in second in league and Piner came in third. The NBL-Redwood squads are scheduled to duke it out on the same course Saturday.
But no one will come close to the Pumas' dominance or Swinth's pace.
Swinth's time was nearly a minute faster than his prior best on the course. When he crossed the line and saw 15:04, he said “I honestly didn't believe it.”
He had “home” written in ink on his forearm.
“Last race here in town so put it on for the team, put it on for the all the family members and friends out here to watch us. Home field advantage, I guess,” he said.
And his run was crucial to the Pumas getting the course record.
“We did it,” he said. “It means a lot. We were saying before the race this is probably one of the best teams, I mean, it is the best team to ever come through Carrillo teamwise, whether it comes down to friends or times. Putting that all together, we weren't going to leave the area with all of our senior class graduating without getting that Piner record so it feels great.”
Omar Alvarez-Hernandez of Carrillo took fourth in 15:28, Santa Rosa junior Andrew McKamey took fifth in 15:36, Carrillo's Patrick Philip took sixth in 15:38 and Jack Vanden Heuvel of Healdsburg was seventh in 15:40.
On the girls side, too, it was all Pumas all of the time.
Junior Nicole Morris took first in 18:39, followed by fellow Pumas, senior Jasmin Hirth at 18:48, Ashley Busienei, a sophomore, at 18:53, then Montgomery senior Mariah Briceno at 19:04, Santa Rosa sophomore Olivia House at 19:37, Carrillo freshman Avery Hedden at 19:50 and Carrillo senior Avery Damron at 20:30.
Santa Rosa came in second in league and Piner in third.
Fogg said the breakout performance was sophomore Busienei.
“Nicole ran a PR, Jasmin ran a PR and then right in their pocket was Ashley, so we got a 1, 2, 3 punch that wasn't there before,” Fogg said. “Something just clicked with her.”
Carrillo's depth was on display not only in the varsity ranks, but in junior varsity as well. The Pumas went went 1-8 in boys' JV and took 14 of the top 20 spots. Among girls, 1-6 in were Pumas and they represented 13 of the top 20.
“We are just so lucky and blessed with a lot of depth,” Fogg said.
Fogg said he's hoping the final weeks of the season – North Coast Section Championships in Hayward are Nov. 23 and the state meet is a week later in Fresno – will bring renewed energy to the Pumas girls' squad which has the talent, but hasn't shown the commitment as their peers on the boys' side.
“On the guys' side they are so much more committed. There is a lot of talent on the girls' side and if they put it together they can be a top five in the state team,” he said.
If everything goes to plan, there are two weeks left in the season to see if they can make good on their master plan. And Fogg called Friday's results a win and another step toward the team's bigger goals, especially for the record-setting boys.