Gunn senior Gillian Meeks, Palo Alto junior Kent Slaney and Priory senior Hana Marsheck all ran to individual titles at the 2015 Central Coast Section Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Crystal Springs in Belmont.
Those individual efforts, however, helped only two of three teams advance to the CIF State Meet on Nov. 28 at Fresno's Woodward Park.
Slaney led the Paly boys to one team berth in Division I while Marsheck led the Priory girls to the other in Division V. Both squads also qualified last year.
Palo Alto was third at two miles while Slaney was leading by 25 seconds. His margin of victory was 13 seconds as he clocked 15:22.0 (No. 2 overall time in all division). Fellow junior Naveen Pai was 13th in 16:02.1 and freshman Henry Saul took 14th in 16:06.5. Sam Craig finished 20th in 16:20.8 and Spencer Morgenfeld was 21st in 16:21.0.
"The boys were fantastic at CCS, and the win from Kent was not too surprising," said Paly coach Kelsey Feeley. "We came into the race ranked third, and I was so impressed that the boys were able to keep to their race plans, even when one of our opponents went ut faster than expected and the other went out much slower than we expected. That is something that very much could have thrown off the mental aspect of the race, but my boys ran consistent as usual and didn't try to do anything crazy that could have led to a poor outcome. To hold restraint and run such smart races was great to see. We are all looking forward to the state meet later this month."
Marsheck, who was fifth last year, improved by 1:19 while capturing her first title with a 19:00.2 clocking. She helped the Panthers score 62 points for second place behind Crystal Springs. Each team finished with 62 points, but Priory lost out by having a slower sixth-place finisher.
Elise Rust of Priory was 11th in 20:51.7, teammate Sarah Halabe was 15th in 21:16.1, Stephanie Sanchez was 20th in 21:52.4 and Maria Naclerio rounded out the Priory scoring in 23rd with a 22:06.2 time.
It was a bittersweet day for Meeks, who ran a personal best of 17:17.6 on the Crystal Springs course and won her second straight section title. But, she couldn't help her team advance to the state finals as the Titans finished fourth.
Gunn was sitting third at the two-mile mark while Meeks led by 10 seconds. She lost only one second of that lead, but the Titans lost a great deal more as St. Ignatius moved up from fourth to take the final qualifying berth.
Gunn's Illi Gardner was 10th in 18:40.4 and also qualified for the State Meet as an individual, but the rest of the scoring Titans came in 24th, 36th and 47th.
"I am thrilled for Gillian," said Gunn coach PattiSue Plumer. "She felt a lot of pressure being the presumed favorite and running her last race at Crystal, but managed it extremely well and made it two in a row and a PR on a day when they were hard to come by. The warm, dry weather and the deep inversion layer caused trouble for a lot of runners.
"I am proud of my teams. Although it is hard to miss state by just a few points again, the girls know that they gave it their all and made it closer than projected. We knew that everything would have to line up and with the sickness bug still enjoying its visit with our team, we couldn't quite get the breaks we needed."
The Gunn girls were seeded fourth coming into the race with three WCAL teams ahead of the Titans. That's the way the predictions played out.
"I am very excited that Gillian and Illi Gardner will be representing Gunn at the State Meet," said Plumer.
Division II boys
Gunn finished seventh with 186 points with Jonas Enders leading the Titans with a time of 16:10.8 for 18th. Justin Robison of Lynbrook won in 15:11.5 with St. Francis, Willow Glen and St. Ignatius taking the state berths.
"The boys had their highest finish in several years and moved up a spot despite our No. 5 boy being sick and losing our No. 3 runner to a bad fall about half-mile in," said Plumer. Ryan (Araghi) was able to finish (a non-scoring 87th) despite a big gash on his arm and deep bruise on his shoulder, but he was never able to recover. Cross Country truly is a team sport. But, overall they had a great season and so much to be proud of."
Division IV boys
Menlo School sophomore Robert Miranda earned an individual berth to the State Meet by finishing third in 15:47.2. Brett Anstrom finished 11th in 16:18.8 to help Sacred Heart Prep finish sixth in the team race that saw San Lorenzo Valley, Half Moon Bay and King City take the berths for the state finals.
Division V boys
Robert Screven clocked 16:16.9 while finishing fourth for the second straight year, again qualifying for the State Meet. The Panthers just missed a team berth by finishing fourth behind Crystal Springs, St. Francis-CCC and The York School.
Division I girls
Menlo-Atherton improved by two positions from 2014, but it still wasn't enough as the Bears missed out on the two automatic berths for the state meet. Homestead won with 62, Monta Vista was second with 89 and M-A was right behind with 95, despite running its second-fastest team time (97:01) ever at Crystal Springs.
A silver lining for the Bears was the performance of senior Annalisa Crowe, who clocked a personal best of 18:11.7 to finish second behind Lauren Jacob of Los Altos (18:05.6). Crowe finished 38th in last year's race.
Crowe earned an individual berth to the state finals. She and her teammates were in great shape to qualify as Madeleine Baier finished in 18:57.3 for eighth and fellow senior Cat DePuy clocked 19:06.5. The Bears' next two finishers, however, came home 34th and 41st.
Palo Alto finished seventh with 248 as sophomore Julia Doubson took 12th in 19:08.2.
Division IV girls
Castilleja finished seventh as a team, Sacred Heart Prep's Natalie Novitsky finished 10th in 19:12.8 (qualifying for the State Meet), her SHP teammates took 12th and Eliza Crowder of Menlo School clocked 19:33.6 for 12th individually in a race that saw Cate Ratliff of Santa Cruz run 17:04.4 -- fastest by any girl on the day.
Division V girls
Eastside Prep freshman Zion Gabriel finished second in 19:28.3 to earn an individual berth to the state finals. The Panthers finished fifth in the team race.
Elyse Folkman of Kehillah Jewish was seventh in 20:24.2, earning her first trip to the state finals.