FRESNO — On a day of stirring races at the CIF state cross country championships, perhaps none packed a bigger emotional wallop than Montgomery High School senior Leah Haley’s ninth-place finish in the Division 3 girls final.
It was less than a week ago that Haley, along with scores of others, was prevented from running in the North Coast Section final in Hayward when the air quality was deemed, mid-meet, too unhealthy from wildfires to let racers continue. A committee of three was put in charge of determining which of those runners who had not been allowed to compete would advance to state.
Before the meeting, Haley was considered by many a shoo-in. Until she was left off the entry list.
A formal complaint was filed by officials at Montgomery High, calls were made and NCS officials relented. Haley was in.
On Saturday she showed everyone why.
Haley ran to a 18:40 finish, good enough for ninth place and the best time among local runners in that division.
“That definitely also fueled it,” she said of the committee’s original decision. “I was just going to go out and prove myself, and race for my teammate who should have been on that list too, but another mistake. It was a tough week but I came out and proved myself.”
Montgomery’s Mariah Briceno also was left off the state qualifying list after the section meet wasn’t run, but she wasn’t reinstated as Haley was.
Last year Haley finished 102nd in 20:25. This year she crossed the line 1 minute and 45 seconds faster.
“It was having fun knowing how far I’ve come from last year,” she said.
“She did what I knew she was capable of doing,” Montgomery coach Melody Karpinski said. “Take that, NCS.”
Runners from around the Redwood Empire put up strong performances throughout the day that was cool with little wind — perfect for racing.
In addition to two newly crowned state champs — Andre Williams of Sonoma Academy in Division 5 boys and Gabby Peterson of Healdsburg in Division 5 girls — area runners seemed to put weeks of uncertainty and unnerving schedule changes because of poor air quality behind them, running to solid results.
In the Division 3 boys’ race, Windsor High senior Lucas Chung finished 12th in 15:50, just ahead of Maria Carrillo junior Rory Smail, who crossed in 13th place at 15:52. Carrillo junior Colton Swinth finished 23rd in 16:01 and Pierce Kapustka, also a junior, finished in 30th in 16:31.
“I ran to the best of my ability. I left it all out there,” Chung said. “I did have dreams of top 10 but 12th, I will take that over any other place … unless it was higher. Yeah, I’m very happy with what I did today.”
The Carrillo boys team, who all season were eyeing a shot at a state title, finished in sixth place in the team results.
“We were racing jerseys, we were racing to win first,” Kapustka said. “Until we couldn’t, until we died out.”
“Your ‘couldn’t moment’ is when your body literally won’t let you. When you say, ‘I want to go get that guy” and you can’t,” he said. “You race until you can’t.”
CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park, Fresno
Division 3 girls
Leah Haley, Montgomery, Sr., 9th, 18:40
Aimee Armstrong, Maria Carrillo, Sr., 12th, 18:43
Nicole Morris, Maria Carrillo, Soph., 50th, 19:34
Jasmin Hirth, Maria Carrillo, Jr., 57th, 19:36
Meghan Field, Maria Carrillo, Sr., 92nd, 20:02
Hannah Cohen-Sandler, Maria Carrillo, Jr., 129th, 20:43
Lilja Chung, Windsor, Fr., 153rd, 21:12
Avery Damron, Maria Carrillo, Jr., 156th 21:15
Vivian Mattice, Maria Carrillo, Fr., 169th, 21:35
Division 3 boys
Lucas Chung, Windsor, Sr., 12th 15:50
Rory Smail, Maria Carrillo Jr., 13th, 15:52
Colton Swinth, Maria Carrillo, Jr. 23rd, 16:01
Pierce Kapustka, Maria Carrillo, Jr. 30th, 16:13
Will McCloud, Maria Carrillo, Sr. 85th, 16:49
Elijah Ettedgui, Maria Carrillo, Jr., 104th, 16:58
Patrick Philip, Maria Carrillo, Jr., 135th 17:21
Omar Alvarez-Hernandez, Maria Carrillo, Jr, 163rd, 17:42
Division 4 boys
Nathan Hayes, Piner, Sr., 58th, 16:43
Manny Delgado, Piner, Sr., 111th, 17:19.2
Jeremiah Cano, Piner, Jr., 112th, 17:19.3
Jimmy Garcia, Piner, Fr, 150th, 17:52
Juan Vazquez, Piner, Jr., 188th, 18:40
Division 5 girls
Gabby Peterson, Healdsburg, Sr., 1st, 17:44
Brooklyn Huffman, Middletown, Fr., 53rd, 20:33
Dylan Hutchinson, Fort Bragg, Fr., 59th, 20:43
Division 5 boys
Andre Williams, Sonoma Academy, Sr., 1st, 15:35
Brady English, Rincon Valley Christian, Soph., 17th, 16:26
Simon Peterson, Rincon Valley Christian, Soph., 26th, 16:45
Jack Vanden Heuvel, Healdsburg, Soph., 27th, 16:50
Paden Collard, Cloverdale, Jr., 33rd, 16:54
Isaac Methum, Rincon Valley Christian, Sr., 41st, 17:06
Aidan Barker, Technology, Jr., 52nd, 17:19
Dante Benedetti, Rincon Valley Christian, Soph., 69th, 17:32
Zach Passalacqua, Rincon Valley Christian, Sr., 97th, 17:48
Scott Dolan, Rincon Valley Christian, Sr., 170th, 19:02
Gabriel Kim, Rincon Valley Christian, Jr., 210th, 21:37