Benefield: Maria Carrillo cross-country runners stay ahead of new challengers
WINDSOR — The Piner Prospectors threw everything and the kitchen sink at Maria Carrillo Wednesday afternoon, but so loaded is the Pumas’ boys cross country squad that a couple of their guys could have stopped to wash their hands in that sink and Carrillo still likely would have run away with the win.
Carrillo’s Rory Smail and Colton Swinth, both juniors, crossed the line in near lockstep for first in 17:56, although a game of roshambo broke the tie when Swinth chose scissors and Smail chose rock. Their fellow Puma, senior Will McCloud, crossed in fourth in 18:21, followed by teammate Pierce Kapustka in fifth at 18:19.
The Pumas won 20-37.
The Puma stranglehold on the top spots was broken by a huge effort from Prospector senior Nathan Hayes, who crushed his personal record on his home Foothill Regional Park course by 31 seconds to finish third, crossing the line at 18:02. Prospector Manny Delgado took sixth in 18:24 and teammate Jeremiah Caro finished seventh in 18:34.
“I’m upset that both of them beat me, but it will be good competition for league finals,” Hayes said. “I was really excited. I haven’t raced either of them yet and I really wanted to race them.”
It was a showdown that many were looking forward to since the beginning of the season. Heck, many were looking forward to it when the new North Bay League configuration was announced, a move that shifted Piner from the former Sonoma County League into a division with the likes of perennial favorite Carrillo, as well as Santa Rosa, Montgomery, Ukiah and Healdsburg.
“I knew they were going to come chase after us,” Carrillo coach Greg Fogg said. “And I knew they would strike some fear into the kids. And they did that.
“A lot of my kids said, ‘Man, those Piner guys were right on me and I couldn’t shake them off,’” Fogg said. “You are in their house. This is what they do here.”
Think Piner was fired up to face the behemoth that is Maria Carrillo? The Prospectors put up so many PRs I lost count. Piner coach Luis Rosales said every one of his guys ran their fastest race ever on that course Wednesday.
“I was happy. They competed. They weren’t afraid and we did the best we could,” Rosales said. “They ran as tough as they could. I said, ‘You know what? Show courage. Don’t give up and run smart,’ and they all did that.”
It was the first loss the Prospectors have suffered on their home course since 2007.
“They’re the best. Sometimes that happens and you don’t come out ahead, but hey, it’s not because we ran terrible,” Rosales said. “They ran pretty fast.”
Carrillo is simply too much. And there are too many of them who are too much.
The Pumas are the clear favorite to go back-to-back and win the North Coast Section Division 3 meet in Hayward Nov. 17. And, depending whose rankings you look at or who you ask, the Pumas just might be the strongest Division 3 team in the state.
“I don’t want to obsess or pay attention to rankings right now because it doesn’t matter,” Fogg said. “I think if you are in the top three, four ... unless somebody is really running away with it, even if you are ranked fifth, you’ve got a shot for the big win.”