Runners advance to finals

Runners advance to finals

Dustin Jones ’17 competes in the 69th annual Mt. SAC Invitational on Oct. 21. Both the boys and girls qualified for the State Finals with their fourth and fifth-place finishes in the CIF Division IV Finals on Nov. 19. State finals begin Nov. 26. Credit: Joe Levin/Chronicle

Most teenagers use their weekends to catch up on sleep, but before most people even woke up Saturday morning, both the girls’ and boys’ cross country teams accomplished what they set out to do at the start of summer practice: qualify for State Finals.

And they did it all before 8 a.m.

Needing to place in the top seven at Saturday’s CIF-Southern Section Division IV Finals to qualify, the boys finished fourth overall, while the girls finished fifth. For the girls, the feat was extra sweet, coming a year after finishing 12th in CIF-SS Finals a year ago.

“I’m so happy,” Casey Crosson ’17 said. “I had been nervously anticipating this race for the past year, so to finally make it to today and to succeed in the goal we set out to accomplish is the greatest feeling.”

Crosson anchors the girls’  team, along with fellow captain Lochryn Howe ’17. The two of them came in 10th and 12th respectively on Saturday.

The girls won the Mission League this year, a title they have been after since losing it last fall.

“It really raised the stakes and made qualifying this year that much better,” Crosson said.

The boys found a way to qualify in spite of running what they say was not nearly their best race of the season.

“Most of us pushed the pace too much for the first mile to mile and a half of the race, so we ended up getting too tired and people passed us,” Nicholas Sweeney ’17 said. “We’ve put a lot of emphasis on starting out fast to avoid getting caught behind people, and we just took it a little too far this time by not leaving enough energy for the later part of the race.”

Jason Santillan ’17 turned in the top time for the boys’ team, followed by Jonah Ring ’18 and Andrew Shibuya ’19.

Missing from the list of top times is Nate Hollander ’17, the November Student Athletic Advisory Committe Male Athlete of the Month and, usually, the team’s top finisher. Hollander had been nursing a sprained ankle in the weeks leading up to CIF Finals.

“Everyone else stepped up,” Hollander said. “We are a team with great depth, so even though I dropped off today and had a poor race, we were never at risk of not qualifying.”

Earlier in the year, the boys finished first at the 69th Annual Mt. SAC Invitational, the largest cross country meet in the country.

The girls finished fourth at the same meet.

Now, all attention turns toward State Finals, which will be held next Saturday in Fresno.

“I’m very excited to see what our team can do on the state course,” Crosson said. “We’re not favored to win or anything, but I am confident that we can place well. We’re a tough group, and the state course rewards tough runners because it is a pretty challenging course.”

The boys will look to build off of last year’s experience in the State Finals.

In last year’s Sate Finals, the team finished their season coming in sixth place.

“Our main problem there was that we didn’t start the race fast enough, so a lot of people got ahead of us early on,” Sweeney said. “That’s a big reason why we’ve been working on starting out fast this year.”

The qualification is special for the Wolverines. It is special for them that both the boys and the girls team reached State, which is a very rare accomplishment.

“Although we compete separately, we really are one single team,” Crosson said. “To have only half of us go to state [would have felt] very wrong.”

No one knows what will happen when they  wake up next  Saturday morning, but one thing’s for sure: when they go to sleep tonight, the Wolverine runners will be dreaming of earning themselves and their team a state championship.

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