The Gunn girls and Palo Alto boys have a head start on their season goals, now that they've run off with their respective titles at the SCVAL El Camino Division championships.
Both squads overcame teams ranked higher in the Central Coast Section polls. Both teams ran from the front, and had the individual winner in each race. And both teams displayed solid depth, which made a difference between winning and losing.
With sophomore Philip MacQuitty winning the individual title in 15:12, a personal best for him on the 2.95-mile Crystal Springs layout in Belmont, the Paly boys won their first league title in two years and only their third since 1990.
The Vikings totaled 48 points to edge favored Mountain View, which finished with 53 in Tuesday's league finals.
The Gunn girls, with freshman Jackie Evans remaining undefeated this season while winning in a personal best of 18:09, raced to a six-point victory over favored Mountain View. The Titans totaled 30 points, beating the Spartans in their first four head-to-head matchups.
The team and individual triumphs puts both schools in solid position for the upcoming Central Coast Section championships, also at Crystal Springs, on Nov. 10. It could be said, then, that the Gunn girls and Paly boys have a head start in their quest for top-three finishes at CCS and berths in the CIF State Meet.
Evans knows all about head starts. When she attended grade school in Gilroy, her grades were so good that she lasted in third grade for about three weeks. Her teacher met with Evans's parents and it was agreed upon that Jackie be promoted to fourth grade.
The Evans family eventually moved to Palo Alto before Jackie entered sixth grade, where she attended Terman Middle School. Prior to moving on to Gunn for ninth grade, Jackie faced a big decision.
"My sister (Jasmine), who was at Gunn, said I should stay back a year <0x2014> where I'm supposed to be," Jackie said.
"Academically, she was strong," said Tom Evans, Jackie's father. "But while she was an excellent student in Gilroy, we figured she could probably use that year back to adjust better to the expectations in high school.
"I had some friends who graduated (from high school) early, and they wished they hadn't jumped ahead. I talked to some other people, too, and decided to hold her back."
Thumbing through a magazine one day looking for a private school where Jackie could study for a year, Tom came across and ad for the California Virtual Academy (CAVA). The program offers students the opportunity to be home-schooled. The student meets with a teacher once a month with the remaining work being done online.
"They provide you with a computer, with all the software on it," Tom said. "It really got her ready for high school." In a number of ways.
"One drawback," Tom said, "was that after a while you get bored. You don't have the friends you have in high school and not as many outside activities."
The big upside, however, was that Jackie had plenty of time to run.
"I trained in the morning and in the afternoon," she said. "I liked it. I did workouts on my own, more of a fitness thing. It's really hard to train by yourself."
Jackie also spent the 2006-07 season running with the Los Gatos Track Club, under the guidance of veteran coach Willie Harmatz. She competed in the national cross-country championships in her age bracket and gained all kinds of experience.
All the while, Jackie was able to stay on top of her studies and she prepared herself for a true freshman year at Gunn.
"It was a good learning experience," she said.
Moreover, being able to run as much as she did really gave her a head start on the 2007 cross-country season. That fitness has played out in an undefeated season for the talented freshman, thus far. Evans has won all six races she has run and her latest victory may have been the most impressive.
Facing a talented Mountain View team that was ranked No. 3 in the CCS poll (Gunn was ranked No. 4), Evans pulled away from the field before hitting the first mile mark.
"I thought it would be a really tough race," said Evans. "But, I felt strong and just went at the first mile."
When Evans took off and left junior teammate Allegra Mayer in a solid second place, the race belonged to Evans. Her winning time of 18:09 improved upon her previous best of 18:34 on the course and moved her among the all-time top 10 freshman list at Crystal Springs.
"I got in my zone and just ran," she said. "I really wanted to get under 18:15, so I was really happy with my time."
Evans led the Titans to a 1-2-6-9-12 finish. Mayer was second in 18:35 and was followed by freshman Emma Dohner (19:09), junior Joanne Reid (19:34) and sophomore Lisa Fawcett (19:44). Head to head, Gunn's top four runners beat Mountain View's to account for the margin of victory.
"Everyone's happy," Evans said of the team victory. "You feel good as a whole. I was happy we beat Mountain View."
Gunn probably will have to do it again at CCS, if the Titans want to advance to the CIF State Meet in Fresno. For the Palo Alto girls, that task appears more daunting.
The Vikings had only one runner <0x2014> senior Mia Lattanzi <0x2014> finish among the top 10 on Tuesday. Lattanzi clocked 19:22 for seventh. Paly's next four finishers came in among the top 22, giving the Vikings 77 points and a qualifying berth for CCS.
Trailing Lattanzi were teammates Leah Gaeta (13th in 20:03), Gillian Liu (14th in 20:04), Elizabeth Scott (21st in 20:32) and Kathleen Higgins (22nd in 20:33).