Santa Rosa's Luca Mazzanti, Maria Carrillo's Aimee Armstrong win NBL titles
Cheers echoed from the Jack Rabbit picnic area at Spring Lake as the first cross country runners dashed to the finish line in the North Bay League final race Friday afternoon.
Luca Mazzanti, a senior from Santa Rosa High, took first place in the boys race with a time of 15:37.
“It’s just a culmination of a pretty good high school running career,” said Mazzanti afterward. “It’s a really nice reward for all the work we’ve put in.”
Mazzanti’s first-place finish was especially impressive, because, according to Santa Rosa’s distance coach Carrie Joseph, he wasn’t on his normal training regimen because of a hip injury sustained a couple of weeks ago.
Mazzanti said he felt fine and will be 100 percent before the NCS race in two weeks.
Mazzanti was followed by Ben Lawson from Maria Carrillo at 15:46 and Ukiah’s Robert Swoboda finished third at 15:53. Lawson led Mazzanti early in the race.
Swoboda and Mazzanti finished in the top five at last year’s NBL final.
Maria Carillo was crowned NBL team champion for the fifth consecutive season, edging out Santa Rosa by 13 points.
Carrillo coach Greg Fogg was happy to uphold his program’s winning tradition.
“We just have a culture of winning at Maria Carillo,” said Fogg. “It just seems like we are blessed with a depth of runners and were really lucky to have all the raw talent that comes out of Rincon Valley.”
A surprise top-four finisher in the boys individual race that Fogg was especially proud of was senior runner Cooper Moore.
Moore was the final competitor to finish with a sub-16-minute time at 15:58, a personal record, which according to Fogg was something Moore had been working really hard to achieve.
“It was awesome,” Moore said. “I set myself a goal and finally broke it in my last race of my senior year. It’s an awesome feeling.”
Moore was honored by the Carillo cross country team and fans after the match by leading the final cheer of the NBL season. Moore didn’t want anything left on the Spring Lake 3.05-mile course.
“I just told myself that this is my last race on this course, and I knew i needed to give it all I had till there was no more — and that’s exactly what I did.” Moore said.
Maria Carillo’s girls team dominated the competition, winning the race handily with a score of 23, Santa Rosa came in second with 71 and Casa Grande placed third with a score of 77.
The “Carrillo Trio” finished 1-2-3 individually, as they have been all season. Aimee Armstrong took first place with a time of 18:40, with Sydnie Rivas right behind her at 18:51.
Talia Leano ran third at 19:03.
Casa Grande’s Siena Wigert crossed the finish line 34 seconds later and rounding out the top five was Santa Rosa’s Kirsten Carter at 19:43.
This was the first NBL girls championship race in four years with a new runner crowned champ.
Santa Rosa’s Delaney White won the previous four times.
New NBL champion Aimee Armstrong gave all the credit to her teammates and the rest of the “Carrillo Trio” for pushing her to this point.
“It was our goal from the start to come in 1-2-3 like that and we accomplished that,” Armstrong said. “It’s really cool being so close and being such good friends to have a moment like this.”
Carrillo’s Talia Leano said it’s a friendly competition out there on the course with Rivas and Armstrong.
“It’s really good having the same familiar faces out there when we race and having that kind of of support out there is really great,” Leano said.
Armstrong said the real goal of the race is to “bring out the best in each other and by pushing each other that is what we do.”
The girls team victory was Carrillo’s 14th consecutive NBL title.
Ukiah placed fourth in the girl’s team final, with Cardinal Newman, Montgomery and Rancho Cotate rounding out the pack.
Montgomery placed third in the boys race with Casa Grande fourth and Ukiah finishing out in the top five.