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2012 Earlybird Preview

2012 Earlybird Invitational Preview by Coach Gustavo Ibarra

North Monterey County High School is proud to present the 18th Annual Earlybird Invitational! We’re set for a 7th year at Toro Park, site of this year’s CCS Championship in Salinas. It will be another thriller with more than 50 teams and over 2,000 athletes expected to participate Saturday, Sept. 8th. Races will be held by grade levels with combined team times being used for overall bragging rights. This may be the most competitive early-season meet in the state of California with many state and section ranked teams and individuals. Our traditional line-up of powerhouse squads from the north and central part of the state continues.  The Central Coast Section will shine, especially on the boys’ side, with 14 out of the top 15 ranked squads clashing here in the first week!! The Central, North Coast, Sac Joaquin, and the Northern Section will also send some of their best including several squads ranked in the top 3 in their section and state ranked squads that always break up the CCS party. As cross country is a true team sport, we’ll start by highlighting the top teams followed by the top individuals. We’ll start with the boys with most of top ranked teams in the region clashing here.

The BOYS, with 9 out of the 10 fastest squads ever at Toro lined-up here, will steal the show! The Central Coast Section teams are not afraid to meet early on here and the top 8 ranked squads will find out where they stand! Although the CCS showed well before 2002 with top performances by Bellarmine (1998), San Benito (1999), and Aptos (2000 & 2001), other sections have been taking home most bragging rights for quite some time. From 2002-2007 the titles went to Central Section powerhouse Madera. In 2008, Redondo Union rolled into town from the Southern Section and dethroned the Central Valley kings. CCS stormed back in 2009 & 2010 with Bellarmine highlighting. Last year Madera South, headed by Coach Rich Parris who led Madera to its streak, held off the Bells for a thrilling 80:31 to 80:43 to continue what we think will be a great rivalry here. Those times are currently the 2nd and 3rd fastest times ever at Toro and are quite special for such and early season meet! This year we are going with hard-working Madera South from the Central Section as favorites to defend their title coming off a 6th place showing last year in DII in state, a great summer of training, and a dominating win hosting the Dennis Dewitt Invitational this past week! Madera South has all the essentials for a championship team with elite front-running along with typical 20-30 second spreads among its scoring 5.  Depth will also be their calling card with about 10 guys capable of dipping under 17 minutes. How high they can climb in the state rankings will be interesting. Division I rivals Carlmont and Bellarmine counter for the CCS and should show very well. Carlmont comes in ranked #1 in CCS and put together the best stretch run last season capping it off with another CCS title in Division 1.  They feature a great top 5 and if they can adjust to their coaching change they could challenge.  Bellarmine, ranked #3 in CCS, lost several key guys to graduation but have shown the greatest yearly depth as they typically put 30-40 boys in each grade level race! They placed a solid 8th in State last year in the most competitive large-school division. With those numbers the cream will always rise making them a constant challenger here. Aragon (#4 CCS) features a solid top 3 and if they can shore up their depth they could mix it up. San Benito (#2 in CCS) took a big hit with one of their top 3 opting out of the season and will need to shore up their depth to upset the favorites and hold on to their ranking. Leland (#5 in CCS) has a great up-front duo. Redwood rolls into town from the North Coast Section and has a fine crew returning that placed 15th in State DIII. Los Gatos (#7 CCS) has a great leader once again and San Lorenzo Valley (#6 CCS) will be without the services of their top gun as he takes a recruiting trip to Alabama. Wilcox (#8 CCS) will have their best season in years. Saratoga (#10 CCS) had the best young squad last year and could surprise. And, don’t count out other CCS ranked squads including Los Altos (#11), St. Ignatius (#12), Menlo Atherton (#13), Willow Glen (#14), and Alisal (#15). Other teams hoping to show well include Homestead, King City, Lynbrook, Silver Creek, Santa Teresa, Monta Vista, Andrew Hill, and Moreau Catholic.       

The senior boys’ race may cap the day with a historic 4 year Earlybird winner and returns 5 guys that dipped under 16:00 last year! Richard Ho (Leland) has established himself as a meet legend with 3 titles and may get the elusive 4th title here! He is not afraid to push the pace alone and we’ll see if he can improve on his 15:28 best that has him as the 12th fastest ever at Toro Park!  Charles Deanda (Bellarmine) has been chasing Richard for years and was 10 seconds back last year. Those two better not forget Jose Herrera (Madera South) after he placed 3rd last year. He is very fit with a new course record at his home course this past week and is our dark-horse for the win. Miguel Vasquez (Andrew Hill) ran 15:40 at state last year and could pull off the huge upset. Randy Sosa (Greenfield) has a huge up-side and this may be his year to challenge up-front coming off a great 21:11 4 mile race at Toro last week! Ismael Guzman (Madera South) was right with Jose last year and they could work together once again to play spoilers. George Baier (Menlo Atherton) is the great surprise after a stunning mile title at the CCS Finals! Ciaran Murphy (St. Ignatius) rolled to a 4:17 mile in track and if he’s ready here could hang close. Raymond Meijer (Bellarmine) was only 11th here last year but rolled to a 9:29 2 mile in the spring. Christian Pedro (Aragon) and Rory Beyer are teammates to watch. Others to watch include, Atzen Cardiel (Westmoor), Jacob Cavillo (Leland), Reese Dickson (Carlmont), Eduardo Garibay (Yerba Buena), Justin Tucker (Wilcox), Ricardo Esqueda (San Benito), Uriel Cabanas (Madera South), Kyle Ryan (Redwood), Julian Chicoin (Moreau Catholic), and Timothy Layten (Carlmont).

We thought Madera South would upset Bellarmine last year in the junior race and we were right. This year look for another Madera South win for the seniors although Bellarmine could play spoiler if Meijer helps displace up-front. Los Altos was third last year and will be trying to hold off Leland, Mountain View, Salinas, Aragon, and St. Ignatius.

The junior boys’ will provide a great opportunity for others as RJ Collins (San Benito) has opted to skip this season and will not defend his Earlybird title that we predicted last year. David Garcia (Madera South) was 3rd last year and we think he’ll leap-frog RJ’s former teammate, Steven Velarde (San Benito), for the win. Steven has been 2nd twice before and may have other thoughts. Takuto Doshiro (Monta Vista) won here 2 years back and was 8th last year. If he’s ready to roll he could seek a 2nd win. Terence Rabuzzi (Los Altos) and Ryan Dimick (Carlmont) return to try to place top 5 again and Ryan is our pick as a dark-horse here. Jesus Covarrubias (Wilcox) and Brandon Sutton (Homestead) blitzed a 1:57 and 1:58 800 respectively in track. Also watch Fred Huxham (Redwood), Jacob Hicks (San Lorenzo Valley), Matt Seidel (Bellarmine), Arthur Schulte (Carlmont), and Josh Pleva (Bellarmine).

Bellarmine put on a show 2 years ago winning the freshmen team race by 70 points and last year winning the sophomore race by 73 points! Look for much of the same with Los Altos, Monta Vista, and Cupertino hoping for 2nd best.

The sophomore boys has Chris Foster (Los Gatos) hoping to get a 2nd win after his impressive 16:49 high school debut last year. Mark Vingralek (Carlmont) had a great first year and could dethrone him although our dark horse picks are Steven Sum (Saratoga) after a brilliant 9:26 2 mile in track and Juan Macias (Madera South). Emilio Torres (Monta Vista) and Edgar Bonilla (King City) return to challenge. Others to watch are Ben Haderle (Los Gatos), Bennet Shaw (Bellarmine), Tom Sanders (Lynbrook), and Ricardo Avila (Bellarmine).

Bellarmine started off their meet last year in the 9th grade team race with a massive win and should take it once again. Los Gatos and Madera South hope to spoil the party while Lynbrook and Monta Vista seek top 3 medals.

The freshmen boys’ race welcomes our newbies that get the meet off to a great start each year!  We’ll see if anyone can run with the Bellarmine army. Although we normally don’t predict outcomes here we’ll go on a limb and tag Eduardo Herrera (Madera South) as favorite.

Now, the GIRLS!  Tradition rich squads highlight this edition.  San Lorenzo Valley rolls into town as the top overall ranked team in CCS!  They are the most decorated team from CCS at the state meet with 4 state title and 3 runner-up finishes! They should start their 2012 state title chase in fine style here. Spear-headed by one of the best individuals around, they also feature a great pack and un-matched depth at this meet returning their top 5 from a runner-up state team in DIV. They are the clear favorites. League rival Aptos (#2 CCS) would be right on their heels but their top gun has opted to start her season later on as she deals with a slight set-back and a late start to her fall campaign. If Aptos can find a solid 5th runner here they could still shine with only one loss to graduation from a 3rd place State DIII team. Don’t count out the ladies from San Benito, #4 in CCS, with their super-star leader and hard-working crew that took top honors here last year. St. Ignatius (#5 CCS) returns everyone and has been an Earlybird power-house over the years. Redwood (NCS) returns their top 5 from a 17th place State DIII team. Madera South from the Central Section has ladies that would like nothing more than to join their boys near the front. They only lost one from a 15th place state team. Mountain View (#7 CCS) and Carlmont (#9 CCS) are traditional powers and have had great success at Earlybird. Los Gatos (#11 CCS) still holds the park team time record of 96:01 from 2006 and should show very well here. Monta Vista (#10 CCS), Homestead (#12 CCS), Presentation (#13 CCS), Lynbrook (#14 CCS), Aragon, Escalon (SJS), Valley Christian, Leland, Salinas, Sequoia, and Pioneer will also be shooting for a top 10 team finish. Host North Monterey County should also show well.

The senior girls’ race will miss two-time champ Nikki Hiltz (Aptos) who blazed a 17:44 last year to set the #2 all-time park mark. She has opted to start her season later on after a fantastic spring campaign as well as a bit of a set-back this summer. With the door wide open we’ll peg Vanessa Estrada (San Benito) as our heavy favorite. The CCS runner-up at 2 miles in track (10:35) Vanessa has become a formidable competitor with fierce training and racing habits. Not afraid to run hard from the front, Vanessa will take a shot at wins all season. She is coming off a blazing 17:56 time-trial effort at Toro Park a few weeks back as well as a new course record (10:31-3k) at the Dennis Dewitt Invitational this past week. She could take a crack at Nikki’s 17:44 from last year!! For reference, her solo training effort would be 5th fastest ever at the park! Danielle Katz (Los Gatos) notched an Earlybird title 2 years back just edging Nikki and missed last year’s race.  If she runs she could also shine. Alyssa Johnson (Leland) returns after a nice 3rd place sub 19:00 run last year. Speedster Kylie Goo (Westmoor), with her 2:10 800, could sprint past many. Maya Weigel (Mountain View), Shaelyn Silverman (Lynbrook), and Maura Forbush (San Benito) return after fine showings last year. Teammates Megan Bordes (Redwood) and Molly Hunt make the long trip and should shine. Others giving chase and hoping to break 20:00 will be Jackie Stanger (Aptos), Kinsie Prokopakis (Wilcox), Corin Soelberg (Carlmont), Katherine Chin (Aragon), Raylene Chew (Presentation), Madeline Cooper (Presentation), Sierra Lionudakis (Escalon), Fiona Maloney (Castilleja), and Claire Bowie (Los Altos).

The team race should be a great battle with previous champs Presentation and San Benito going for a tie breaker win. Lynbrook, St. Ignatius, San Lorenzo Valley, and Escalon could also spoil the party and grab medals.

The junior girls’ race has super-star Anna Maxwell (San Lorenzo Valley) returning to go after her 2nd Earlybird win after winning 2 years back. The reigning CCS 2 mile champ (10:21) is the most decorated cross country runner here with her showing at the National Footlocker Championships! She should set a great mark here for Vanessa to chase in the senior race. Clare Peabody (Aptos) won last year and placed 3rd in the CCS mile, but will now have her hands full with Anna. Kendall Hacker (St. Ignatius) was 2nd last year and 3rd two years back. Teammates Claire MacMillan (San Lorenzo Valley) and Abby Sherman will give Anna friendly faces up-front. Alex Lathos (Notre Dame-Salinas) was 3rd last year and will have to shine to place top 3 here. Katie Spence (St. Ignatius), Daisy Jimenez (Madera South), Melissa Reed (Mountain View), Kylee Kiesow (Willow Glen), Malena Grover (Salinas), Hannah Wood (Presentation), Bridget Gottlieb (Monta Vista), and Jeanine Noordam (Pioneer) return to try to place top 10 once again. Julia Hansen (Redwood) could medal.

San Lorenzo Valley dominated 2 years back when they were here. St. Ignatius dominated last year with their top 2 girls shining. It should be a great tie breaker with SLV as favorites with Anna, Claire, and Abby leading. Willow Glen, Monta Vista, Leland, Los Gatos, and Mountain View will be shooting for 3rd best.

The sophomore girls’ return Jenny Xu (Monta Vista) after she stormed onto the scene last year winning the 9th grade race with a great 18:59 clocking. Kaila Gibson (Soquel) had a great first year as Nor Cal Freshman of the Year and could dethrone her. Yulisa Abundis (Aptos) may also surprise. Jessica Germany (San Lorenzo Valley) debuts at Earlybird and should shine. Grace Ling (Lynbrook), Amy Quinones (San Benito), Veronica Pontis (Carlmont), Ashley Lara (Valley Christian), and Erin Chessin (Los Gatos) all return hoping for a top 10 finish. Antoinette Acosta (Moreau Catholic), Lizette Lopez (Firebaugh), and Isabel Hernandez (Firebaugh) made a long trip and could shine.           

Los Gatos won here last year and there was a very tight battle for second between Monta Vista, Salinas, San Benito, and Aptos.  Look for a shake-up as San Lorenzo Valley returns and has a great young crew. Firebaugh has a great group also.

The freshman girls’ race kicks off the meet and could immediately make decent teams great teams!

Ever since the CCS meet has moved to Toro Park on alternating years the park records have been constantly taking hits! Northern Section superstar Domenic D’Acquisto (Enterprise-2010) came to Toro 2 years back and flirted with what would have been a first ever sub 15:00 clocking at this park with a blazing 15:05 course record that should be safe today. Instead, the top guns here will be shooting to eclipse the 15:37 mark to make the all-time top 25 list! Richard Ho (Leland) is already on the list and hopes to improve his 15:28 best and we’re looking at 2-3 other guys that could do that this weekend, especially in the senior boys’ race chasing Richard! For the ladies, Tori Tyler (Gunn-2004) blazed a 17:16 course record and threw down a mark that will be hard to challenge here so early in the season but may be flirted with throughout the season and especially at CCS Finals at Toro this year! To give you some perspective, #2 on the all-time Toro list is the 17:44 that Nikki Hiltz (Aptos) threw down last year!  Anna Maxwell (SLV) in the junior race and Vanessa Estrada (San Benito) in the senior race have a GREAT SHOT to move past Nikki (17:44) on the all-time list. Anna blazed a 17:51 2 years back for 3rd best at the park and, as mentioned, Vanessa ran 17:56 just a few weeks back in practice! To make the top 25, the elite girls will have to run 18:31. 

As far as team time records are concerned, the boys from Mountain View blazed 80:13 at CCS 4 years ago but Madera South gave that park record a great scare last year blazing an 80:31 good for 2nd best ever!  Madera South will need to average 16:02 for their top 5 and may pull it off! Just a few ticks back Bellarmine rolled to an 80:43 last year making it the best 1-2 team performance ever at Toro!  Carlmont will try to join the party this year. The girls’ team time record of 96:01 set by Los Gatos 6 years ago averaging 19:12 for their top 5 girls seems within reach of San Lorenzo Valley if they are ready to roll, especially with Maxwell leading! To crack the top ten team times ever at Toro Park, boys’ teams will have to break 81:48 and girls’ teams 98:30. Good luck to all and we hope you enjoy the meet!


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