By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
It was a day for one senior to continue her dominance of league competition and another to continue his surprising first season of success. And, it was a day for one school to celebrate team championships for the first time.
The West Bay Athletic League cross-country championships had it all on Friday over the rolling 2.95-mile layout at Crystal Springs in Belmont.
Priory senior Kat Gregory made it look easy as she cruised to a 27-second victory in 18:44.5 to win her second straight individual crown. Menlo senior Daniel Pugliese took a little longer to pull away, but did so while running a personal best at Crystal Springs -- a 16:02.3.
The Sacred Heart Prep girls, meanwhile, successfully defended their team crown with 61 points while the SHP boys made it a clean sweep while holding off defending champion Menlo by just seven points.
Pugliese did his best to help Menlo return to the top spot as he remained unbeaten against league competition this season, despite running competitively after playing water polo for three years.
"I loved the sport, but it wasn't working out," Pugliese explained of the switch in sports. "I want to do triathlons, so I figured this was a good way to start."
Pugliese's winning time eclipsed his previous best of 16:10 at Crystal. Given his inexperience, Pugliese really has no idea just how fast he can be. Still, he won by 14 seconds over Sacred Heart Prep senior Zach Kaplan (16:16.3), who led the Gators to a 2-6-12-14-15 finish and the team crown with 49 points.
Menlo was hoping to defend its title and looked in good shape when sophomore Matt Myers took third in 16:29.0 and junior Andrew Schmitt finished fifth in 16:46.2. The next two Knights, however, ran 19th and 28th to dash those hopes.
SHP's Kyle Burbach finished sixth (16:49.5), fellow senior Bill White was 12th (17:08.5), sophomore Joey Putnam was 14th (17:10.3) and junior Steven Glassmoyer was 15th (17:10.6) to provide the Gators with their winning points.
Sacred Heart Prep, Menlo and fourth-place Priory all qualified their teams to the Central Coast Section Championships on Nov. 12, also at Crystal Springs.
Gregory also helped her team qualify for the CCS finals while Sacred Heart Prep successfully defended by finishing 2-8-10-20-27 (overall).
Gregory remained unbeaten against league competition this season as she cruised to an easy victory. She has faster times at Crystal this season, including a season best of 18:12. She didn't need to run that fast in the WBAL meet after missing the past eight days of training while resting a sprained ankle.
"My motivation today was trying to get our team to CCS," said Gregory, who is also a two-time defending CCS Division V individual champion. "My ankle felt a little weird, but haven't run in the past eight days."
The Sacred Heart Prep girls held off runner-up Crystal Springs by nine points while Menlo School was third with 76. The Knights sorely missed their top runner, Maddie Price, who is out with an injury.
The Gators got a second-place finish from freshman Gillian Belton (19:11.1) to lead the way. The top eight teams all qualified for CCS. While Pinewood didn't field a complete team, freshman Nicole Colonna finished seventh in19:55 and qualified for CCS as an individual.