Sports

Local runners take aim at CCS titles in cross country

 

As many as four or five local athletes could run away with individual titles at the Central Coast Section Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Crystal Springs in Belmont.

Gunn senior Gillian Meeks is favored to defend her title in the girls' Division II race. She won last year in Division I. Meeks owns the fastest time in her division at 17:26.6, the third-fastest overall time in the section.

Menlo School sophomore Robert Miranda is a strong candidate for individual honors in the boys' Division IV finals. His season best of 15:31.6 at Crystal Springs ranks No. 3 overall in the section and No. 1 in his division. He finished third at CCS last year.

Priory senior Hana Marsheck looks to be favored in the girls' Division V race off her season best of 18:51.7 that ranks her No. 1 in the division. She finished fifth at CCS in 2014.

And, Palo Alto junior Kent Slaney will battle for individual honors in the boys' Division I race even though Los Altos senior Ben Zaeske has run 15:06.7 to Slaney's 15:14,5 at Crystal, those times coming in the SCVAL El Camino Division finals.

The Division V girls start things off on Saturday at 10 a.m., followed by the Division V boys where Priory's Robert Screven will be in the running for first place.

The Division I races follow for Palo Alto at 11:10 a.m. (girls) and 11:45 a.m., with the Gunn girls and boys going off in Division II at 12:20 p.m. and 12:55 p.m. The Menlo School girls and boys close the day's 10 races at 2:40 p.m. and 3:15 p.m.

While individual honors are in the offing, local coaches are focusing on qualifying their respective teams to the CIF State Meet on Nov. 28 at Woodward Park in Fresno.

The Palo Alto and Sacred Heart Prep boys plus the Priory girls all qualified for the state meet last season. The Gunn and M-A girls plus the Menlo boys would like to join them.

The Gunn girls ran in Division I last year and finished third. Only the top two teams advanced. Had they run in Division II, the Titans would have qualified. This season, the Titans are in Division II where three teams qualify. However, Gunn is sitting fourth in the race predictions.

"We are sitting in the first non-qualifying spot," said Gunn coach PattiSue Plumer. "Hopefully we have a good day. It should be close, again. We had a great meet at leagues and won with 36 points . . . and dropped in the rankings! But, the WCAL is really killing in cross country this year."

Meeks, who recently committed to Harvard, is feeling better -- she battled a cold at the league finals -- and reportedly is very excited about Saturday's race.

The Palo Alto boys were second at CCS last year and are sitting third heading into the finals.

"The team is very much looking forward to CCS, determined to take one of the top three spots so we can move on as a team to the state meet again with a little more experience this year," said Paly coach Kelsey Feeley.

The Menlo-Atherton girls, meanwhile, are sitting third in Division I where only two spots are available for the state meet. Senior Annalisa Crowe is coming off an individual title at the Peninsula Athletic League Championships.

"It will be a good race for sure," said M-A coach Eric Wilmurt. "This will be her (Crowe's) fourth time in this race. She is right in there for a spot, but the goal is to get the team to move on."

— Keith Peters/Palo Alto Online Sports

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