With the chance to qualify for the state meet on the line, the Central Coast Section’s top cross country runners converged on the visually inspiring yet physically challenging 2.95-mile Crystal Springs course in Belmont on Saturday.
Though the Gilroy High boys and girls teams will not advance to the CIF championships, the all-around vibe after competition was that of celebration as the Mustangs’ runners conquered their “least favorite” course with times that met their expectations and those of head coaches Art and Cathy Silva.
“It ended the way it was supposed to. They really ran well today,” Art Silva said with smile that wouldn’t stop. “You don’t see any of these kids not giving their all. Today they produced and they are happy with what they accomplished.”
Senior Savannah Silacci paced the girls’ team around the winding, uphill, downhill, and uphill again course, which challenges the mental just as much as the physical with its daunting layout, in the Division II race with a 19:24 to place 14th. Maritza Ruelas (20:00), Athena Alarcon (20:27), Chelsey Kalata (21:36), Jessica Arciga (21:49), Noemi Rivera (21:52) and Sorayma Perez (22:46) round out the girls’ participants, which carried the Mustangs to an eight-place showing.
“For those three girls (Kalata, Arciga, Rivera) to be in the 21s, they’ve never come close to that before – ever,” Art Silva said. “That’s why we are so happy. It’s not about winning. It’s about making it. And they made it. You can’t ask for much more than that.”
The Silva’s did ask Kalata for push it down the stretch.
“I told her, ‘you’re sprinter, you better start now,'” Cathy Silva said in between posing for pictures with the team.
The senior obliged, sprinting the final 300 meters and passing a handful of competitors along the way.
“I saw the finish and I thought I could pass that last girl, so I pushed myself the hardest I could. I gave more than 110-percent for that finish. All I wanted to do is PR and beat last year’s time, and I did that today,” Kalata said, who changed her opinion of Crystal Springs. “The hardest part is going from a downhill to an uphill because it’s a change in your pace and the movements of your muscles. But, out of all the courses, this was my least favorite until today.”
Aragon’s Lauren Croshaw (18:05) won the Division II individual title, while Mountain View captured the team crown.
“I feel great, I wish I would have qualified (for state) individually, but I hate this course and I did better than I’ve ever done,” Silacci said, who described part of the journey around the dusty path as “lonely” at times. “Everyone pushed themselves to their best. We’ve been working so hard, and I think everyone put it out there for sure.”
The GHS boys, who entered the Division III race, were led by the exuberant Kyle Collett. Collett was the first of the Gilroy group to finish, clocking a 17:21.
“I felt good,” Collett said. “Once we got (to 800 meters), my legs un-tightened and I just started passing people.”
Ryan Swenor was right behind Collett with a 17:31. Humberto Gaeta also timed in the 17s with a 17:59 and Enrique Villanueva, who was among the leaders at the 1-mile mark finished at 18:12. Gabriel Contreras (19:07), Bryan Kachakji (19:09) and Andrew Mikkelsen (20:53) complete the Mustangs’ members. Gilroy placed 10th as a team. St. Ignatius won the team championships, while Valley Christian’s Sean Davis took the individual team title with a 15:36.
“I’m pretty happy,” Swenor said, who posted a course personal record. “This is one of the hardest courses. It’s just different, fast, and tough. My feelings are a little mixed, but I feel like it’s a good way to end the season.”
Allison Taylor was Christopher High’s top runner in the Division II race, recording a time of 21:58. Monique Esparza (22:54), Bridget Brown (23:16) – a personal best this season – Rachel Allen (23:19) and Paulina Llamas (24:50) also ran for the Cougars. Gilbert Haro individually qualified for the Division III race and posted a 19:58.
“Allison finished the season strong and showed well,” CHS head coach Mike Bomani said.