By JOEL TIMBRELL
All 12 of the Diablo Athletic League high schools met for the 2016 DAL Cross Country Championships this past Saturday, Nov. 5, at Martinez’s own Hidden Valley Park.
In 2015 and several previous years, the league lineup schools included Acalanes, Alhambra, Campolindo, Dougherty Valley, Dublin, Las Lomas, and Miramonte. This year, Dougherty Valley and Dublin were kicked out to the East Bay Athletic League to make room for Northgate, Concord, Clayton Valley Charter, Mt. Diablo, Ygnacio Valley and College Park.
Other than the change in the team lineups, nothing new was introduced. The Frosh/Soph and junior varsity runners raced two miles, while varsity took on the tougher 3-mile course which added a few more loops and hills.
As the final regular meet of the fall cross country season for most runners, the Bulldogs were in the hunt for a final personal or season best time.
A record total of more than 500 athletes participated in the competition during the day. The Frosh/Soph boys were the first to run the 2-mile distance at 1 p.m.
With an unprecedented 179 runners, Alhambra’s small group of runners were outmatched. That fact did not dishearten anyone, however, as all three of them notched a season personal record. Sophomore Alan Kobylik led the trio across the finish line in 13 minutes, 18 seconds. Dean Sobhy was right on his heels just four seconds later at 13:22, and Caleb Banez finished out his season by dipping under the 14 minute mark as well, finishing at 13:53.
Roughly an hour later it was the junior varsity boys’ turn. Like the Frosh/Soph boys, only a trio of runners were there to represent the Blue and Gold, but they took the opportunity to PR also.
Shayan Mirzazadeh beat the clock to run just under 14 minutes at 13:59.9. Teammate Jaime Ayala cut over 20 seconds from his time at the Ed Sias Invitational to cross the line at 14:35, and Nate Rogers took home a time of 19:08.
The varsity runners were the only athletes that were not yet finished with their season. Every coach is allowed to register up to seven of their athletes for each team at the North Coast Section Championships (varsity girls and varsity boys). It is the top seven fastest runners, therefore, that are usually guaranteed a place at NCS. The top five on each team score points, and the lowest score overall wins.
In the Varsity Boys race, Senior Connor Hayes equaled his 2015 DFAL time in 17 minutes and 43 seconds, which was good for 27th place overall. Noa Nabeshima, Robert Viano and Trevor Oliveira-Smith finished second, third and fourth for the team by completing the 3-mile course with times of 18:06, 18:14 and 18:33, respectively.
For the second time, freshman Carson Edwards was promoted to varsity, and he impressed again with a time of 18:40, the fourth-fastest time out of all freshman runners at three miles. The five Bulldogs scored well enough together to wind up with 208 points, and defeated Berean Christian and Concord High School.
Graham Manning was only ten seconds back from Edwards at 18:50. Meanwhile, Gabe Winslow and Dylan Gregory fought over the seventh Alhambra place, but it was Winslow who took it with a 19:35 to Gregory’s 19:41.
A major theme of Alhambra cross country is quality, not quantity. With that in mind, the only five girls on the team all set forth to hit personal record times on Saturday.
Last year’s DFAL Championships saw varsity girls runner Marissa D’Atri finish in eighth place with a 19:08. On Saturday, D’Atri climbed three places higher to cross the line in fifth place in a very respectable 18:57. After this performance, she is almost certainly a favorite at the upcoming NCS Championship Meet.
Sophomore Nicole Tria finished her race in 18th place at 20:30, making her the fifth-fastest varsity sophomore girl. The effort was good enough to win the second individual medal for Alhambra.
Erica Cardinale sliced more than a minute off her 2015 time to end up in a solid time of 21:35. Fellow seniors Isa Mendoza (25:00) and Karina Diaz (25:23) rounded out the point-scorers. When the points were added up, Alhambra had again topped two teams in Concord and Acalanes with a score of 150.
On Saturday, Nov. 19, the North Coast Section Championships will be held at Hayward High School.