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Empire notebook: Maria Carrillo grad in top 20 in NYC Marathon

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Class of 2007 Maria Carrillo grad Alia Gray raced to a 19th-place finish in the New York Marathon Sunday with a finish time of 2:37:09 (that’s 6-minute-mile pace, people). Gray posted on Instagram that it was her first marathon in more than two years. She qualified for the Olympic Trials in February with a 2:34:25 at the 2017 Chicago Marathon. Montgomery grad Sara (Bei) Hall, among the prerace favorites after racing to the sixth-fastest marathon time for an American woman at the Berlin Marathon in September, dropped from the race at mile 18.

Big bounce back from Pumas

The No. 5 seed Maria Carrillo Pumas may have been bounced from the North Coast Section Division 2 volleyball playoffs by No. 4 seed Redwood High Saturday (25-16, 25-14, 25-21), but their season was a pretty remarkable turnaround from last year. The Pumas, under first-year coach Chris Woodbury (a teacher and coach at Rincon Valley Middle School who moved over to take on the Pumas this season), went 23-11 and 8-2 in the tough North Bay League-Oak Division. They finished one game behind league winners Cardinal Newman and handed the Cardinals their only league loss. Not bad for a team that went 4-19 overall and 1-9 in league last year and failed to make the playoffs.

Are you ready for winter?

What’s that sound? It’s basketballs hitting the hardwood, soccer balls hitting the back of the net and wrestling mats being unfurled. That’s right, even though fall sports are still in full (postseason) swing, the winter lineup is under way. The official start date for winter sports was Monday, according to North Coast Section rules.

Soccer playoff brackets set

North Coast Section boys soccer competition kicks off Wednesday with a slew of North Bay teams making the cut into the postseason. In Division 1 action, Fort Bragg got the No. 4 seed and will host Oakland Military Institute, while No. 5 Arcata will host No. 12 Lower Lake. St. Helena, No. 6, will host No. 11 Eureka and No. 14 Clear Lake will travel to Kezar Stadium to play No. 3 International.

In Division 2 boys action, No. 4 Calistoga will play Fremont Christian at Middletown High, while No. 8 Sonoma Academy will host No. 9 Cloverdale. Roseland Collegiate Prep, the 12 seed, will travel to San Francisco to play No. 5 Drew at Kezar Stadium and No. 11 Technology travels to play No. 6 Head-Royce. Quarterfinal games in both divisions 1 and 2 will be played Friday and Saturday.

In the Division 3 bracket, top seed Anderson Valley got a bye and advances to play the winner of the No. 4 Tomales versus No. 5 Point Arena game scheduled for Wednesday. No. 2 Archbishop Hanna also got a bye and will play the winner of No. 3 Mendocino and No. 6 California Crosspoint Wednesday. Both semifinal games will be played Saturday on the campus of the higher seed.

On the girls side, both No. 4 Roseland University Prep and No. 5 Middletown earned first round byes in Division 1 action and will face each other at Analy High at 7 p.m. Saturday. St. Helena got the No. 8 seed and will host No. 9 Clear Lake Wednesday while No. 7 Cloverdale got a first-round bye and will face No. 2 Eureka on the road Friday. Credo High got the No. 6 seed and will travel to No. 3 Arcata either Friday or Saturday.

In Division 3 action, Tech High earned the top seed and on Saturday will face the winner of No. 4 Calistoga against No. 5 South Fork, to be played on Wednesday. On the other side of the bracket, the winner of the No. 3 Upper Lake versus No. 6 Roseland Collegiate Prep game on Wednesday will travel to No. 2 St. Bernard’s Academy Saturday.

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

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