CROSS COUNTRY: Freshmen take first, second to lead CHS girls to Center Meet sweep

Christopher's Cynthia Gonzalez competes in the race Wednesday against North Salinas, Seaside, Alvarez and Watsonville at Christmas Hill Park.

When Christopher High cross country head coach Mike Bonomi met freshman Jamie Boutte’ during summer workouts and learned of her best mile time as an eighth grader he had one thought:

“’Oh, OK, this is good,’” Bonomi recalled Wednesday before his team’s first Monterey Bay League Pacific Division Center Meet at Christmas Hill Park.

“She’s a strong runner, a hard worker and already becoming a leader,” Bonomi added.

One freshman on varsity isn’t uncommon. But two, the other being Natalie Filippi, making immediate impact, is another.

“The one thing about those two is that they never complain,” Bonomi said. “They are at practice every day ready to work.”

Neither Boutte’ nor Filippi stand more than 5-feet tall, yet their strides have chewed up courses with consistency to start the year.

Boutte’ was shot out of a cannon in the first invitational of the season two weeks ago at El Toro Park, finishing third out of 199 other freshmen at the Early Bird. She backed that up with a 10th-place showing, with Filippi following close behind in 17th, at the Chieftain Classic last Saturday.

And the two diminutive distance runners were at it again Wednesday in leading the CHS varsity girls to a clean sweep, earning the maximum six points.

With the new race format that was implemented when the MBL was formed as a two-division institution, each team is scored head to head. Lowest score wins that dual and a point is awarded to the victor. That result is put toward the day’s final record.

“I felt pretty good. Nothing hurts on my body. I felt fresh,” Boutte’ said still catching her breath after recording the field’s fastest time of 20 minutes, 33.9 seconds for first for first place out of 34 individuals who made their way around the dusty, 3.15-mile course, which takes runners into the park’s surrounding hills.

“I just push myself 100 percent at practices and the hard work pays off,” she added.

Boutte’ led wire to wire and widened the gap as the race moved along.

Filippi, who was shoulder to shoulder with one runner during the first third of the race, separated herself along the switchback hill climb and clocked a 22:00.3 for second, 1:30 behind Boutte’ but 45 seconds ahead of the third place runner.

“It’s harder than El Toro,” Filippi said. “I expected top-10, so it’s exciting. (Jamie) pushes me and I wouldn’t be as good without her.”

CHS had two other runners clock top-10 times. Senior Allison Taylor took eighth in 23:38.7 and junior Cynthia Gonzalez grabbed 10th in 23:38.7.

Sophomore Bridget Brown padded the scoring for the Cougars, crossing in 24:57.8 for 19th.

“I’m excited for this season,” Bonomi said.

“It seems like they are melding together as a team. They all get along. I’m just going to try and push them as hard as I can and see where it goes.

“I expected them to do really well today. And they did.”

The boys were able to salvage two points mark Wednesday, beating Monte Vista Christian and Pajaro Valley. The Cougars just missed exiting their first league meet at 3-3, losing to Alvarez by two points.

Jesus Nunez was Christopher’s top finisher, hitting the chalk at 20:33.3 for 22nd. Matthew Switzer came in right behind him in 23rd.

“I’m happy. Jesus looked really strong. He really impressed me,” Bonomi said. “Matt finished really well too.”

Seaside won the boys meet (six points) and Watsonville came in second (five points.)

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