By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online
It was a runaway for the Mountain View boys' and girls' cross-country teams at last season's SCVAL El Camino Division Championships, as both teams featured individual winners and dominated in the team competition.
Gunn and Palo Alto would like to change the outcome next week when the Spartans defend their titles at the SCVAL finals at Crystal Springs in Belmont. The first race of the day is on the rolling 2.93-mile layout set for 2 p.m.
Both Mountain View teams are considered to be favored again, even though the Gunn girls (No. 2) rank ahead of Mountain View (fourth) in the latest CCS rankings. The Mountain View boys rank No. 1 with Gunn No. 4 and Palo Alto No. 5.
"Of course, Mountain View is far and away the favorite," Gunn coach Ernie Lee said of the boys' race, "but it should be a great competition between us and Paly for second.
"As for the girls, it'll probably be us against Mountain View again. At full strength, our squads are about equal, but they have a big advantage over us on depth."
The Mountain View boys scored just 23 points last season while Paly was second (54) and Gunn third (70). In the girls' meet, Mountain View had 25 points while Gunn took second with 42 and Paly third with 80. The top four teams will advance to the CCS Championships, also at Crystal Springs on Nov. 14.
Palo Alto coach Joe Ginanni believes his boys are ready to challenge Mountain View after a solid effort at the Palo Alto City Championships on Tuesday at Gunn.
"I think we have the opportunity to surprise a few people, because we haven't raced a lot this year," said Ginanni. "To people outside the team, it looks like we are behind where we actually are."
Palo Alto's chances would be even stronger next week if senior Philip MacQuitty was perfectly healthy. But, he's not. Much like last season when he was coming off a sprained ankle heading into the league meet, this time it's an IT band on his right knee that's giving the talented runner some problems."
"Philip has been a bit sore; he really committed himself to this season and has been training harder than ever," Ginanni said. "His level of fitness is high right now, so taking a little down time this week should not affect his performance later in the season. Our plan is that with a light week this week, he will be able to race (at the league meet) and put in four more weeks of quality training leading up to State Meet. From there, we will make adjustments as necessary."
MacQuitty paced his teammates last weekend at the Concordia Classic in Portland, Ore. Earlier, at a meet in Clovis, he clocked a solid 15:13 while finishing eighth. Since then, however, MacQuitty has been slowed by the leg problem. He did not compete in the City Championships on Tuesday, even though he was able to jog around the course. Without him in the race, Gunn won the boys' team title with 25 points while Paly was second with 30.
"For the boys, Paly and us are essentially equal," said Lee. "If MacQuitty had run yesterday, Paly would have won, but it would have been very close." Ginanni agreed.
"If we had Philip running yesterday, we beat Gunn head-to-head," Ginanni said.
Gunn senior Paul Summers took advantage of MacQuitty's absence and won going away in 10:26 on the fast 2.18-mile layout. That's the No. 2 mark all-time, just off MacQuitty's record from earlier this season.
"Even without MacQuitty," Lee pointed out, "this was the fastest boys' race ever. Six runners made it onto the record board (top 20 all-time).
Gunn's Alex Johann ran a personal best of 10:39 for second (No. 5 all-time) while Paly's Josh Newby was third in 10:46 (No. 9 all-time). Gunn's Robert Chen was fourth in 10:51 (No. 13 all-time) and Paly's Peter Wilson was fifth in 10:57 (No. 17 all-time). Palo Alto's Ben Sklaroff also made the all-time list, No. 19 in 10:58 while taking sixth.
"Our varsity runners have progressed perfectly this season," Ginanni said. "Newby and Wilson ran great times yesterday and the total time for our top five runners was faster than we were at the same race last year . . . This Gunn race was a huge boost for our boys."
The Gunn girls completed the day's sweep by taking their division with 17 points. Palo Alto was second with 39. Castilleja also competed, but didn't field a full team.
Gunn junior Erin Robinson won individual honors in 12:36, the sixth-fastest time ever on the course. She's in only her first season of running cross country. She only started running on the Gunn track team last season. Despite that lack of experience, Robinson still qualified for the CIF State Meet in her first attempt.
Robinson was followed to the finish line Tuesday by sophomore teammate Kieran Gallagher, who clocked 12:39 (No. 8 all-time). Gunn's Emma Dohner was third in 12:52 (No. 15 all-time) and Claire O'Connell was fourth in 12:59 (No. 19 all-time). Lee rested Lisa Fawcett, who is recovering from an illness. Fawcett is expected to be ready for the league meet, where she finished third last season.
Palo Alto was led by Gracie Cain, who ran fifth in 13:16. She was her team's top finisher in last season's league finals.
It will be a busy week of league meets at Crystal Springs next week. The PAL Championships will be Nov. 5 (1 p.m.) with the West Bay Athletic League meet set for Nov. 6 (2 p.m.). Castilleja, Pinewood and The Priory will battle for honors in the girls' WBAL finals. Castilleja's Rachel Skokowski tuned up by running 13:19 for sixth place in Tuesday's race at Gunn.n
Palo Alto City Championships
At Bol Park (2.18 miles)
Team scores -- 1, Gunn 25; 2, Palo Alto 30.
1, Paul Summers (Gunn) 10:26
2, Alex Johann (Gunn) 10:39
3, Josh Newby (Palo Alto) 10:46
4, Robert Chen (Gunn) 10:51
5, Peter Wilson (Palo Alto) 10:57
6, Ben Sklaroff (Palo Alto) 10:58
7, Henry Jordan (Palo Alto) 11:05
8, Aaron Guggenheim (Gunn) 11:06
9, Alex Voet (Palo Alto) 11:17
10, Daniel Damian (Gunn) 11:23
11, Rory Runser (Gunn) 11:26
12, Varun Kohli (Palo Alto) 11:46
13, Ethan Glassman (Gunn) 11:55
14, Brian Raftrey (Palo Alto) 12:40
Team scores -- 1, Gunn 17; 2, Palo Alto 39. Castilleja incomplete.
1, Erin Robinson (Gunn) 12:36
2, Kieran Gallagher (Gunn) 12:39
3, Emma Dohner (Gunn) 12:52
4, Claire O'Connell (Gunn) 12:59
5, Gracie Cain (Palo Alto) 13:16
6, Rachel Skokowski (Castilleja) 13:19
7, Kathleen Higgins (Palo Alto) 13:20
8, Rachel Wittenauer (Gunn) 13:24
9, Susan Heinselman (Palo Alto) 13:26
10, Clare O'Malley (Castilleja) 13:31
11, Leigh Dairaghi (Palo Alto) 13:40
12, Melia Dunbar (Gunn) 12:45
13, Erin Kiekhaefer (Palo Alto) 14:05
14, Regina Wang (Palo Alto) 14:24
15, Rachel Voscos (Palo Alto) 15:02