Despite being the multiple time defending TCAL champions, the girls varsity cross country team entered the North Coast Section Championship on Saturday in virtual anonymity. None of the Panther runners were predicted to be among the top finishers in the Division IV race, nor was the team picked to be a serious challenger for one of the three coveted state meet spots. They were, essentially, considered an afterthought by most of the pre-meet prognosticators.
However, it was duly noted by girls coach Denis Mohun that predictions and prognostications are done Monday thru Friday by fans and coaches but races are contested among runners on Saturdays. And so, running with the desire and determination they’ve shown all year, the girl’s team made a valiant run at a top three finish before falling just seconds short while finishing in the 4th spot.
“Without a doubt, our girls ran their best race of the season,” said a smiling coach Denis Mohun afterwards. “I’m so proud of how we competed. We ran a really good race at league and that same race would have gotten us 6th today. Instead, our girls decided they wanted more and they went out and almost pulled a major shocker. They were awesome.”
Leading the way was all-league first teamer Jordan Cornet. Running her finest race of the year, Jordan finished 8th overall in a new personal best 19:18. Jordan’s 8th place finish was one place away from the 1st team all-NCS team. Fellow junior Nan Wemmer finished 2nd. for the team, flirting with the vaunted 20:00 barrier before finishing in 20:02. Freshman Sofia Jackson, whose meteoric rise from JV to varsity has been nothing short of incredible, finished right behind Nan in 20:04.
“Sofia’s race was a catalyst for us today,” commented coach Mohun. “Her effort pushed Nan, Leiah and Olivia to PR’s. Her effort, I thought, was a big key for us today.”
Fellow freshman Leiah Goode ran a new PR, 20:39, to place 4th on the team, while junior co-captain Olivia Lawson was right behind in 20:44. Freshman Summer Graham broke the 21:00 mark when she crossed the line in 20:59… while senior Wiona Tan ran her final race as a Panther in 21:11.
In sum, coach Mohun had this to say: “Overall, the race today was bittersweet. On the one hand we competed really well and had our best race of the year but the fact that this is it for this season stings. I think if we had a few more weeks we could have made an even bigger run. We simply ran out of time.”
For the boys, their 10th place finish was not close to a state meet birth but did culminate a much-improved season and deliver a glimpse of what may be to come. The Panthers, led by a pair of freshmen – Mateo Malko-Allen’s (16:50) and Adrian Licea (17:26), return their top 6 runners next season and should be able to use this season and their NCS experience as a springboard into next season. Junior’s Zax Lieske and Riley Hartney ran in the 3rd and 4th positions (17:28, 17:41), while sophomores Ryan Painter and Jeffrey Norris placed 6th and 7th for the team. All totaled, the future of the boy’s team, in 2020 and beyond, seems bright.