Youth didn't translate into inexperience for the Menlo-Atherton girls' cross country as five freshmen and two juniors ran the Bears to the team title at the Peninsula Athletic League Championships on Saturday at Crystal Springs in Belmont.
The Bears put five runners, four of them freshmen, among the top 15 finishers while winning easily with 40 points over runner-up Half Moon Bay (71). M-A finished fourth in last year's race as Carlmont won its seventh straight title.
Things didn't start out exactly as planned as there was a 45-minute delay to the start of the girls' race, due to a runner in the previous race needing an ambulance. The race was held up until the ambulance left the course.
"Who knew how that was going to play out, especially with five girls new to cross country," said M-A coach Eric Wilmurt. "I do think them not knowing about the seven-year Carlmont streak took a little tension off the race for the frosh girls, too."
Junior Taylor Fortnam was the lone experienced runner among the Bears' scorers and toured the 2.95-mile layout in 19:30 while taking fourth. After that, it was all freshmen as Annalisa Crowe was sixth (19:49), Maddie Worden was seventh (20:00, Madeleine Baier took eighth (20:01) and Katie Beebe finished 15th (20:38).
In the varsity boys' race, Menlo-Atherton duplicated last season's runner-up finish by scoring 67 points. Carlmont defended its title with 19 points as the Scots place all five scorers among the top eight.
M-A's veteran lineup was led by senior John Lovegren in ninth (16:13) with senior George Baier 10th in 16:27. Junior Zack Plante was 11th (16:42), senior Alexander Aguiar was 18th (17:13) and junior Eric Snyder 19th (17:14) to round out the team scoring.
"Our boys had a tough start to the season at Half Moon Bay, and have been starting to turning it around as of lately," Wilmurt said. "They had a good day but, hopefully, they have better times for CCS."
Both teams will be back in action on Nov. 10 at the Central Coast Section Championships at Toro Park in Salinas.
Gunn and Palo Alto, meanwhile, will compete in the SCVAL El Camino Division championships on Tuesday, also at Crystal Springs. The girls' race begins at 4:30 p.m., with the boys going off at 4:50 p.m.
Palo Alto (26-5) went 4-1 at the annual Milpitas Spikefest II tournament on Saturday. After easy wins over Alisal (25-13, 25-7) and Mercy-Burlingame (25-19, 25-9), the Vikings dropped a 27-25, 26-24 decision to Central Valley Christian of Visalia and fell into the Silver Division.
Palo Alto bounced back and finished strongly with a 23-25, 25-23, 15-12 win over Homestead and a 22-25, 25-14, 16-14 triumph over Burlingame to win the division title.
Senior Shelby Knowles had 53 kills and 40 digs for the Vikings while junior Becca Raffel had 48 kills, senior Sophia Bono added 111 assists and junior Keri Gee finished with 68 digs.
Gunn won the Red Division title with a 4-1 record, losing only to St. Ignatius, 20-25, 25-18, 15-9. The Titans (15-15) defeated Silver Creek, Leland, Mountain View and Carmel with sophomore Meghan Mahoney leading the way.
Paly will host Los Gatos on Tuesday (6:45 p.m.), with a victory giving the Vikings no worse than a co-title in the SCVAL De Anza Division title. Paly will visit Gunn on Thursday, needing a victory for either a co-title or an outright championship.
Also on the line Tuesday will be the PAL Bay Division title, which host Menlo-Atherton can win by beating Mills at 5:30 p.m. Should the Bears clinch, Thursday's match at second-place Carlmont will be merely a tuneup for the CCS playoffs and have no bearing on the PAL race.