By JOEL TIMBRELL
Special to the Tribune
More than 90 schools sent their best runners to the 2015 North Coast Section Championships at Hayward High School last Saturday, Nov. 21.
Hayward has a long history of championship races, dating back to 1999. Throughout the years the distance has remained the same: three miles for both the girls and boys races. The course starts on the campus’s grass fields, runs around the dirt track, up moderate inclines, and through the hallways and basketball courts. All runners complete their races back at the grass fields again and into a finishing chute.
NCS separates the schools into five divisions based on school size. Alhambra, being a medium-sized school, raced in Division III against teams such as Bishop O’Dowd and Campolindo.
This meet also determined which athletes qualify for the State Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno. The top five individual runners who were not among one of the top four teams guaranteed their admission to Fresno.
Former Coach Tim Bruder (1987-2009) liked to say “The hay is in the barn” in reference to the rigorous months of training required to improve as a runner. After training hard since the summer months under Coach Angela Paradise, several Bulldogs capitalized on their profits.
The Division III girls were the first to race. With 121 athletes on the line, the race started at 8:30 a.m.
Sophomore Marissa D’Atri moved near the front among the top 10 runners, where the favorites Chloe Hansel (Las Lomas) and Cassidy Haskell (Miramonte) were leading the pack.
After coming up to the final hill before the grass straightaway, D’Atri was in seventh place overall. She sprinted across the finish line still in seventh to hold off Campolindo’s second runner, Hannah Ruane.
D’Atri’s time of 18:21.8 is the second fastest in Alhambra history, and the finishing place achieved both an NCS medal and the third individual qualifying spot to State. The only other Bulldogs to make it to Fresno as individuals were Amy Loper-Riley (‘96, ‘97, 98’), Jessica Neu (‘98, ‘99), Jewelz Andrews (‘07, ‘08, ‘10) and Allie Timbrell (‘13, ‘14).
Other Bulldogs that impressed in the girls D3 race included Erica Cardinale, who ran a personal record of 20:47.2, a new best time by nearly a minute. Senior Catherine Stites simultaneously broke both the 23 and 24 minute barriers for the first time with a 22:50.6, and Isa Mendoza finished with a solid 23:26.3.
Bishop O’Dowd’s Grace Taylor upset Hansel and Haskell for the win in the D3 girls race with a blazing time of 17:30.1.
At 9:40 a.m., it was the Division III boys’ turn to race. Incredibly, five out of six Alhambra boys distance team runners exceeded their previous best times at Hayward.
Connor Hayes, a junior, was the first of the Bulldogs to cross the line, attaining a huge improvement of 16 minutes, 57.2 seconds. Likewise, Robert Viano (17:24.9), Dylan Gregory (17:31.9), Trevor Oliveira-Smith (17:42.3) and Luis Garcia (18:12.1) each picked up personal best times by 25 seconds or more.
Noa Nabeshima was not able to bring home a personal best but still finished as the second Alhambra runner in 17:19.2. As a team, Alhambra ended up a respectable 11th out of 20.
David Frisbie of John F. Kennedy High School took the gold by finishing first overall out of 139 runners in an outstanding 14 minutes, 58.2 seconds.
Alhambra will be represented at State in Fresno this Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, by Marissa D’Atri. The top 10 individuals in every race take home medals.
For more information and pictures, please visit www.alhambratrack.org.