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LOCAL QUALIFIERS

CIF State Cross Country

Races to be held Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno

Division 3 boys

Lucas Chung, Windsor

Maria Carrillo team

Division 3 girls

Lilja Chung, Windsor

Maria Carrillo team

Division 4 boys

Piner team

Division 5 boys

Andre Williams, Sonoma Academy

Jack Vanden Heuval, Healdsburg

Paden Collard, Cloverdale

Aidan Barker, Technology

Rincon Valley Christian team

Division 5 girls

Gabrielle Peterson, Healdsburg

Dylan Hutchinson, Fort Bragg

Brooklyn Huffman, Middletown

HAYWARD — After nearly two weeks of unease and worry over where and when the North Coast Section cross country championship meet would be held, there was palpable excitement when racing got underway Tuesday morning at Hayward High School.

But it was relatively short-lived.

At 10:38 a.m., halfway through the race schedule, the event was canceled when the air quality index registered at 154, above the section’s threshold of 150.

“We had three different people on the meet management team that were checking constantly,” said co-meet director Chuck Woodridge, who is also the cross country coach at Campolindo High School.

“It was disappointing given the amount of work the meet management team has put in to put on the meet, and the distances the teams have traveled obviously, but it is in the interest of the health of the kids,” he said.

The threshold and modified format of the meet — and what would happen should it be canceled or cut short — was laid out in an email from NCS staff that was sent to coaches and athletic directors Monday.

The results from the races that had been completed — Division 1, 2 and 3 boys, and Div.ision 1 and 2 girls — will stand. A committee of three was tasked with determining which teams and runners from the schools that did not get to compete would advance to the CIF state cross country championship at Woodward Park on Saturday in Fresno.

The decision will be based on criteria that include most recent published rankings, most recent meet performances and prominent regional and statewide races, Woodridge said.

The timing of the decision to cancel meant that section favorite Gabby Peterson, a senior at Healdsburg High, could not defend her title.

Nor could Sonoma Academy senior Andre Williams go after the section title in Division 5 that eluded him last year. He, like Peterson, is a lock to go to the state meet, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t disappointed to miss out on Tuesday’s competition.

“It’s a bummer — everyone wanted to run here. I know my team is bummed,” he said. “I was looking forward to it, but it’s fine. It is what it is.”

And Williams, who like everyone else in the section had to try to arrange his training toward an as-yet-unknown race date when the meet was in doubt, postponed, rescheduled and then canceled, was trying to see the positive to Tuesday’s cancellation.

“It’s a bummer but since it was already canceled on Saturday, it was already kind of sketchy just because state and NCS would be so close,” he said. “So I mean it’s a blessing in disguise, I guess, because we get to rest more.”

The other silver lining came in the form of an added team berth for those races that did not get run Tuesday.

“The CIF said that for any contest that did not happen today, they would give us an additional berth for the team advancers,” Woodridge said.

But the move left a lot of coaches both disappointed that their kids couldn’t run and discouraged by the process.

“I feel bad for our seniors; they didn’t get to run,” Piner coach Luis Rosales said. “It’s always hard to put it to a selection committee. We either run fast or we don’t. Historically, we do well now.”

LOCAL QUALIFIERS

CIF State Cross Country

Races to be held Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno

Division 3 boys

Lucas Chung, Windsor

Maria Carrillo team

Division 3 girls

Lilja Chung, Windsor

Maria Carrillo team

Division 4 boys

Piner team

Division 5 boys

Andre Williams, Sonoma Academy

Jack Vanden Heuval, Healdsburg

Paden Collard, Cloverdale

Aidan Barker, Technology

Rincon Valley Christian team

Division 5 girls

Gabrielle Peterson, Healdsburg

Dylan Hutchinson, Fort Bragg

Brooklyn Huffman, Middletown

“Shoot,” he said.

Piner’s boys squad — including speedsters Nathan Hayes and Manny Delgado — was left to wait, but they were chosen among the four qualifying teams in Division 4.

Waiting, too, was the Rincon Valley Christian boys’ team in Division 5 and a handful of other runners who were considered “on the bubble” and looking for a good day to send them to the biggest meet of the year. RVC did end up qualifying.

“Obviously, it’s not an easy day for anybody,” Montgomery coach Melody Karpinski said. “People were running well; they were prepped and ready.”

Coaches from across the area expressed sympathy for those affected by the deadly fires in Butte County, but many urged section officials to have a better system than what felt like a wait-and-see approach.

“I think North Coast Section could have done a little bit more planning,” Maria Carrillo head coach Greg Fogg said. “I’ve seen other sections do a good job of having options.”

Choosing a team or athlete to represent the section from a paper application, “It’s not an option,” he said. Fogg was in favor of having different sites as backups for the Hayward campus.

The Carrillo boys team finished second in the Division 3 race to rival Campolindo, so the Pumas will automatically advance. The Carrillo girls team, also a lock to go to the state meet, was not able to compete, something Fogg said is a clear disadvantage come Saturday in Fresno.

Maria Carrillo junior Colton Swinth was the Pumas’ top finisher on the 3-mile course after Windsor’s Lucas Chung’s second-place finish in the Division 3 race. Swinth finished in 15:26.2, followed by Carrillo junior Rory Smail in 15:25.5 to get fifth.

Will McCloud, a senior, finished in 15:54 for 14th. Pierce Kapustka, a junior, got 16th with a time of 16:03 and junior Patrick Philip finished out their top five with a 17th-place finish in 16:04.

“I feel better about (the boys) racing and coming in second than I do about (the girls) getting through without racing,” Fogg said.

For many teams, it has been 10 days of treadmills and indoor activity — not the same thing as a true cross country workout. So Tuesday’s race meant more than just competition, Fogg said.

“Part of them running here today is you get the shock of ‘Oh, this isn’t a treadmill, it’s not indoors.’ To be outside is actually a benefit that I think the girls missed today and the boys got that,” he said.

Casa Grande’s boys team finished sixth in the Division 3 race behind runs by sophomores Owen and Will Hite, who finished in 16:05 and 16:12, respectively.

The Santa Rosa boys finished in seventh place in the Division 2 race. Sophomore Andrew McKamey was the top finisher for Santa Rosa in 16:21.

The Santa Rosa girls squad finished in 9th place in the Division 2 race. The top finisher for the Panthers was senior Anika Williams, who finished in 19:49.

Other qualifiers included Windsor’s Lilja Chung in Division 2, Fort Bragg’s Dylan Hutchinson and Middletown’s Brooklyn Huffman in Division 5 girls, and Healdsburg’s Jack Vanden Heuval, Cloverdale’s Paden Collard and Technology’s Aidan Barker in Division 5 boys.

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