Empire notes: Casa Grande boys capture Vine Valley Athletic League cross country title

Casa Grande ran away with the Vine Valley Athletic League cross country title Saturday, with the boys squad dominating the 3.05-mile Spring Lake course. Nolan Hosbein, a junior, led the Gauchos with a 16:16 finish, followed by senior Logan Moon’s 16:17 and junior Luke Baird’s 16:21. Napa High’s David Acuna, a junior, won the individual league title for boys.

On the girls’ side Saturday, Vintage was the dominant team behind junior Mary Deeik’s ?first-place finish in 18:41 - 33 seconds faster than the second-place finisher, Casa Grande senior Emma Baswell who finished in 19:14. Vintage had the next four fastest finishers: Senior Amber Elias (19:24), junior Tamara Hernandez (19:32), junior Josephine Borsetto (20:16) and junior Maile Sittler (20:34).

Locals lead Salt Lake to title

When the Salt Lake City Real Monarchs won the USL Championship title 3-1 over favored Louisville City on the road Sunday night, they did it with the help of two Sonoma County soccer products. Luis Arriaga, who relocated to Arizona to play with the Real Salt Lake Academy when he was 14, was subbed on in the 26th minute and James Moberg, who prepped at Maria Carrillo before starring at the University of Washington, came on for the Monarchs in the 40th minute. It was the first title in organization history.

‘Thank you Coach Danny’

Maybe it was the shirts. The entirety of the Sonoma Academy boys and girls cross country squads donned T-shirts with the message “Thank you Coach Danny,” replete with head coach Danny Aldridge’s face on them, before racing to double league wins at the Coastal Mountain Conference championship cross country meet last week. The Coyotes won both the boys and girls North Central II League team titles in what, we think, is Aldridge’s last year at the helm. Aldridge, a longtime track and cross country coach and one of the greatest runners ever to come from Sonoma County, has been openly courting his desire to pull away from coaching and retire. Sonoma Academy athletic director Chris Ziemer seems almost magical in his ability to keep Aldridge around. It must be the shirts.

Bear Cubs haul in awards

Newly minted Big 8 men’s soccer champs Santa Rosa Junior College have not only grabbed the conference title, but also made a haul of individual awards. Freshman Adrian Fontanelli, who was a star at Rancho Cotate High, earned Conference Player of the Year honors, leading the Bear Cubs’ most potent offense in years, a group that scored more than three goals per game. Sophomore Derek Neidlinger, who prepped at Windsor High, is the Defensive Player of the Year on a team that held opponents to .74 goals per game en route to a 16-1-2 overall record heading into the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the NorCal Regionals. Marty Kinahan was named Big 8 Conference Coach of the Year.

The Bear Cubs host No. 16 Napa Valley at 1 p.m. Saturday in the first round of the playoffs.

Locals crowd NCAA West Regional race

It looked like old home week in the race results from the NCAA Division I West Regional cross country meet hosted by Washington State University on Friday. Loads of locals raced to fine finishes, including former El Molino ace Brian Schulz, now a junior at UC Santa Barbara. He covered the 10K course in 30:46 for 42nd place out of 191 ?competitors. St. Mary’s freshman Lucas Chung, a standout for Windsor High, finished 136th in 32:26. Among the women, Analy grad and current UC Davis freshman Sierra Atkins was the top local finisher on the 6K course at 21:01, good enough for 51st. Santa Rosa High grad Delaney White, The Press Democrat All-Empire Cross Country Runner of the Year in 2015, finished 72nd in 21:16 and Healdsburg grad and Oregon State freshman Gabby Peterson, the CIF state cross country champ in Division 5 in 2018, finished in 90th place at 21:27.

Panther grad Mazzanti earns scholar-athlete award

Santa Rosa High grad Luca Mazzanti, The Press Democrat All-Empire Student-Athlete of the Year in 2017, was named a Corps Squad Scholar Athlete of the Month for October at West Point. The civil engineering major has a cumulative GPA of 3.5 and was a contributor to Army’s 2019 Patriot League Champion cross country squad, as well as the 2018 champions and the 2019 Indoor Track Championship team.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud, “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

Kerry Benefield

Columnist, The Press Democrat

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