2012 Earlybird Invitational Post Meet Story by Coach Gustavo Ibarra
Monterey County High School proudly presented the 18th
Annual Earlybird Invitational on Saturday, September 8th at Toro
Park in Salinas. On paper it looked like the largest (70 schools in the end and 2,500 runners!) and most competitive meet
in the history of the popular early season event and it didn’t disappoint! Anxious harriers kicked off their 2012 season
in fine style at the very popular site of the CCS Championships this fall. A
very festive atmosphere greeted the huge crowds and the energy transferred to the ones that really matter, the kids! On to the details!
day started with a very fun and low-key open race that had quite a group show up! Jack Bordoni (Bellarmine Alum) won
the 3 mile race with Miguel Gallegos (North Monterey County Alum) in 2nd. That’s about all the info
we got from the fun race. Join us next year!
middle school kids then had some fun on 2 mile course and we didn’t get results but they had fun going the right way
main event started with the 9th grade girls! The girls seemed a bit hesitant and nobody dared take the lead with
a group together in a nice lead pack through the mile at 6:35 with Jaquelein Escalera (Fremont) leading. She pulled
away in the 2nd mile and hit 2 miles in a modest 13:39 after going over the famous Toro Hills and would have to
pick it up to dip under 20:00. She did just that and got her first Earlybird win in 19:58 and was rewarded with a nice trophy.
A couple of the early leaders faltered in the hills and Zoe Enright (Menlo School-20:06) and Jamie Boutteac (Christopher-20:08)
capitalized to snag 2nd and 3rd with their conservative start. Carlmont only had 5 youngsters
in this race but that’s all they would need to snag the first team plaque of the day along with their team medals with
72 pts.! Menlo Atherton (95) and long traveling Redwood (117) would get the other team medals.
The 9th grade boys were not scared at all to push the pace with our pre-meet favorite running straight to
the front and bringing all the young brave souls with him. Eduardo Herrera (Madera
South) was coming off a meet record run last week at his home meet and wanted another win in as many races. He hit the
deceiving up-hill mile in 5:28 and the obviously hilly 2nd mile in 5:52 (11:20). He had some company a few ticks
back but would pull away for the win in a very fine 16:34 cruising 5:14 for his last flat and fast segment that is just a
tad short of a mile. Andy Ehrenberg (Redwood-16:40) and Ben Zaeske (Los Altos-16:55) also dipped under 17:00. Bellarmine brought
their traditional army and has another fine crew to keep the CCS power’s cupboard full for a few more years! They rolled
to a 97 point win and started the hardware haul for them today! Homestead (115)
and San Benito (136) also have some young pups that will bode well in the future!
The 10th grade girls had Jenny Xu (Monta Vista) returning after
she stormed onto the scene last year winning the 9th grade race with a great 18:59 clocking. Jenny came to run
hard for her 2nd trophy and took it out in a 6:11 mile and was 4-5 seconds clear of our other pre-meet favorite
Kaila Gibson (Soquel), last year’s Nor
Cal Freshman of the Year. Jenny pressed on to 2 miles in 13:11 while Kaila faltered a tad. Grace Ling (Lynbrook-19:39) and Hannah Allen (Homestead-19:51) would
slide past Kaila while Jenny would hold on to get her 2nd Earlybird title in as many tries. Next year we hope she
goes for #3! Salinas (94) had a close race for medals last year and moved up to
1st this year for a nice win for the local ladies. San Benito (130) and Monta Vista (132) were also able to upset pre-meet favorite Los Gatos (4th-199).
The 10th grade boys also had a defending champion as Chris Foster
(Los Gatos) was hoping to improve on his 16:49 win from last year! He got out nice and was tucked right at the front of
a great looking lead pack with many of our pre-meet favorites hitting the mile in 5:24 and a solid hilly 2nd mile
in 10:59 setting up a possible sub 16:00 finish. Steven Sum (Saratoga) our pre-meet
dark-horse to upset Chris after a brilliant 9:26 2 mile in track did just that rolling to a 4:58 last segment for a 15:57
win and the first sub 16:00 of the day! Chris fought hard to the end and just
missed the barrier hitting 16:00 flat! Miles Meijer (Bellarmine-16:20) would set
up a dominating win for his squad, their 2nd of the day! Bellarmine would
roll with 41 points with section rival Carlmont (143) and Saratoga (152) a distant 2nd and 3rd.
The 11th grade girls started to feel a bit of the warmth as temperatures went up a tad although what was
on FIRE were the feet of our pre-meet favorite Anna Maxwell (San Lorenzo Valley). She was returning after her Earlybird win 2 years back. The reigning CCS 2 mile champ (10:21)
showed why she is the most decorated cross country runner here with her showing last year at the National Footlocker Championships! Anna heard the gun today and SHOT
off with a stunning 5:26 first mile and hit the mid-point in the race at 8:30! That’s easily one of the fastest clockings
ever at the park! Meet management encouraged the crowd to rally as the once thought untouchable course record of 17:16 by Tori Tyler (Gunn -2004) was actually within
reach with Anna’s fast start and credentials. Anna would have to work the hills hard alone as she had opened up a massive
400 meter lead at that point! She valiantly gave it a good run and may have seen the finish clock tick past the course record
that now lives on to fight another day. Anna stopped the clock at 17:28 and now
moves past Nikki Hiltz (Aptos-17:44) to #2 All-time at Toro! She improved her previous park best by 33 seconds! Anna
now sets herself up nicely for maybe a state title and a return trip to Footlocker! Congrats Anna on the fine effort! And,
with CCS finals here at Toro in a couple of months, Anna may just take down the historic record! Kendall Hacker (St. Ignatius-19:17) must have felt odd finishing in 2nd but having no one in sight
almost 2 minutes back. Abby Sherman (San
Lorenzo Valley-19:59) would dip under 20:00 and make it 2 in the top 3 for San
Lorenzo Valley that would roll on for a massive win with 43 points! Redwood (105)
and Menlo Atherton (114) had a great team battle and would settle for a distant
2nd and 3rd.
With adrenaline rushing at the meet, the 11th grade boys had to keep it going and did just that! Steven Velarde (San Benito) had been 2nd twice before and
showed he wanted a win here blazing a 5:18 uphill mile! David Garcia (Madera South)
was 3rd last year and we thought he could upset the field. He joined Steven early on and helped do the work up-front.
Unfortunately for them and fortunately for others, the hot early pace wore on the early leaders. Fred Huxham (Redwood) capitalized and blazed the last mile to an impressive 15:44 win! The time missed making
the top 25 all-time park list by 7 seconds! Not bad for his first run at Toro Park! Terence
Rabuzzi (Los Altos) also capitalized and got 2nd in 16:02 with Cooper
Sloan (Homestead) a tad back in 16:06. David (16:09) and Steven (16:10) were
rewarded for their hard work in 4th and 5th respectively. Bellarmine
would continue the hardware haul with their 3rd winning plaque of the day with a dominating 57 total points! Los Altos (142) and local school Alisal (206)
would also snag medals.
It’s always bitter-sweet as the senior girls line-up for what will be their last Earlybird! After a few tears
and reflections here and there the veteran ladies dial in as the gun goes off. With defending champ Nikki Hiltz (Aptos) out
with a very unfortunate injury, Vanessa Estrada (San Benito) became our heavy favorite and she didn’t disappoint although she may be a tad disappointed herself. The strength based
senior hoped to improve on her time-trial 17:56 effort she did over the summer at Toro as well as her official best of 18:11
from last year! Going out in 5:53 for the mile and hitting 12:22 at 2 miles, she would need a fantastic run to go sub 18:00
once again. With warmer temperatures she fought hard alone and stopped the clock
at 18:09! Although a tad off her own goal, the time now moves her from #12 to #9 all-time at Toro! A great effort
from a class act! Danielle Katz (Los Gatos) notched an Earlybird title 2 years
back just edging Nikki and returned in fine style looking smooth at 18:32! Her time just missed the all-time top 25 park list
by 1 second! She now sets her goals to get on that list later on this season! Alyssa
Johnson (Leland) returned after a nice 3rd place last year and duplicated that finish at 19:15. We thought
the team race would be a great battle and it surely did not disappoint as St. Ignatius
(92) led another four teams (Presentation-100, Homestead-118, San Benito-119,
Redwood-120) that would only be separated by 10 points! Now that’s team cross country!
With boys usually getting stronger and faster with age and with our pre-meet line-up, we knew the senior race was the
race to watch! Well, it was a thriller!!!! The senior boys’ race indeed
capped the day with a historic effort by many. Richard Ho (Leland) had established
himself as a meet legend with 3 titles and was going for an elusive 4th title trying to achieve something only
done a couple of times in the history of the meet. Our dark-horse of the race Jose
Herrera (Madera South), would have none of it as he blasted off to a blazing
4:59 first mile! For those of us that have seen a topographical map of the first mile at Toro, it boggled our minds as very
few guys have ever gone out that fast on the deceiving up-hill segment. Jose would either buckle under the hot pace or hang
on for a historic run. Richard may have felt odd giving chase as a traditional front-runner and still flying by at 5:07. Richard
would use the down-hill to his advantage to even the race at the mid-point as they went shoulder-to-shoulder at 7:30! If you
do the math and look at the course record of 15:05 by Domenic D’Acquisto (Enterprise-2010)
the crowd knew it was in for a treat. The pair rolled on through the hills as a huge pack of talented seniors chased.
Coming past 2 miles at 10:23 the duo had opened 20 seconds on the now slipping and stringing out chase pack. On the back flat
portion Jose made a nice move and came clear of Richard as they emerged to the open last half mile of the course. Hitting
the gas once again, Jose seemed like and man on a mission to get a record. Unfortunately for the anxious crowd, Jose faltered
just slightly in the finish stretch as he hung on for a fabulous and now officially
rounded-up time of 15:14!!! The clock ticked past the 15:05 course record just as he caught a glimpse of it. The time cements him as the 4th fastest ever at the park trailing only Mohamed Abdalla (Willow Glen-15:13-2007),
Matthew Petrillo (Los Gatos-15:12-2006) and the previously mentioned Domenic. When I told Jose he had just beat the
time of local legend Diego Estrada (Alisal-15:20-2007) who just represented Mexico
in the London Olympic 10k final, Jose flashed a smile and said he had just told his teammates how cool it would be to run
in the Olympics some day! I wouldn’t put it past the hard-working lad! Awesome memories were created for hundreds of
finish line spectators as he flashed his arms into the sky in honor of his ailing grandfather. Richard used the wave of momentum as he blasted a 15:20 good for a tie with our Olympic representative at #5 all-time!!
Congrats Richard on 3 Earlybird wins capped by an amazing time on your last one! Miguel
Vasquez (Andrew Hill-15:40) just missed the top 25 all-time by only 3 seconds while the race featured 3 other stars breaking
16:00 (Daniel Bereket-Carlmont-15:48, Raymond Meijer-Bellarmine-15:49, Uriel Cabanas-Madera
South-15:58). We’ve been able to call this team race the last two years and may go to Vegas now as Madera South (57 pts) pulled off the win once again in this very competitive team race! Bellarmine would have their win streak of the day halted here
as they settled for a very strong 2nd with 77 pts. Carlmont also showed
well with 110 pts.
With grade level races we use combined team times for bragging rights and plaques to end the meet. For the ladies, San Lorenzo Valley rolled into town as the top overall ranked team in CCS and the
most decorated team from CCS at the state meet with 4 state titles and 3 runner-up finishes! They started their season in
fine style with the win here at 1:40:27 on the combined team time. Anna obviously
pulled much of the weight and helped off-set some team set-backs with freak injuries and illness. Watch out for this crew
when they fire on all cylinders down the road as they could snag an incredible 5th state title in Division IV! San Benito was close at 1:40:44 with Vanessa also pulling quite the weight up-front and a solid cast of hard-working girls making them
a force all year. Monta Vista (1:42:48), St. Ignatius (1:43:32), and Homestead (1:44:10), made it a top 5 sweep for CCS schools.
For the gentlemen, we knew Madera South was for real after spending a week
with them in Mammoth Lakes at an altitude training camp. The fine Central Section squad that placed 6th at the
state meet in Division II was on a mission to take town the Toro Park course record
of 80:13 set by power-house Mountain View in 2008. The crew was well versed as they had scorched a 80:31 last year at this
meet and held the 2nd fastest team time ever! Well, after a valiant
effort spear-headed by Jose’s magical run, the 2012 edition of the team managed to TIE their 2011 time at 80:31!!!
Coincidence? I think not! With so many valiant boys that leave it out there day in and day out you’re bound to run those
times year in and year out! We’re already looking forward to them improving on their 6th place state showing
and coming back to Earlybird in 2013 to take another shot! Lost in the commotion was a very fine showing by CCS powers Bellarmine (81:26) and Carlmont (81:41)!
Not much off their school records on this course, these Divison 1 rivals now take their battles forward to what will be yet
another exciting season for them! Los Altos (83:27) and Leland (84:19) made it 4 CCS schools in the top 5 after Madera South.
Finally, the meet always awards the largest plaque to the best overall program, boys and girls combined. And, with not much of a surprise, Bellarmine walked away with yet another one after several years of taking
it home. And once again, we’re all in awe as the power-house CCS team does
it year in and year out with not a single girl on the roster! Winning 3 out of
4 races for them and placing 2nd in the 4th was more than good enough for the class act program!
North Monterey County High School wants to thank all the runners, parents, coaches, and volunteers for making the 18th
Earlybird the greatest yet! 2013 should be quite the meet with our 20th anniversary edition in 2014 looming!
Visit our meet website for full results! http://nmcxc.tripod.com/id22.html