Published Sunday, Nov. 11, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News

San Lorenzo Valley delivers team effort

Special to the Mercury News

The San Lorenzo Valley girls cross-country team will get a chance to defend its state title in two weeks after the Cougars won their third consecutive Central Coast Section championship Saturday. Even though their top runner, Stephanie Hamilton, finished eighth, the Cougars bettered six of the top 15 teams in the CCS and won the Division III team competition.

Presentation sophomore Melissa Grelli won the race in 17 minutes, 40 seconds, the 12th-fastest girls time at the Crystal Springs Course. Sacred Heart Cathedral junior Melissa Gallagher finished second at 17:41.

San Lorenzo Valley Coach Rob Collins had considered this to be a rebuilding season for the Cougars, who had three freshmen, three juniors and one senior on the course Saturday.

``Division III is the toughest division,'' Collins said. ``We had a shot at winning so we went for it. They are very team-oriented and still learning.''

In recent years, San Lorenzo Valley was led by Alejandra Barrientos, state champion in 1999. But Barrientos graduated last year and is now running for UCLA.

Raquel Barrientos, Alejandra's younger sister, said this season has been different for the Cougars.

``Everyone's more competitive and has put in a bigger effort,'' Raquel Barrientos said.

The top two boys and girls teams in each division advanced to the state meet Nov. 24 at Woodward Park in Fresno. (The Castilleja girls and York boys teams were the only Division V squads to qualify.) Five runners not on those top teams, provided they finished in the top 12, also qualified.

Aptos senior Brett Gotcher had at least a 50-yard lead throughout much of the Division I boys race and repeated as champion with a time of 14:56 -- 28 seconds off the fastest boys time on the course and 31 seconds ahead of second-place runner Patrick Hernandez of Hollister.

``My goal was to run away and hammer the course,'' Gotcher said.

Other winners Saturday included:

  •  Division I: Milpitas junior Jessica Baldwin won the girls race in 18:00. Serra was the top boys team and Milpitas won its second straight girls title.

  •  Division II: Jorge Murillo (Alisal) led the boys with a time of 15:51 and Ruth Graham (Gunn) paced the girls in 17:45. Gunn won in the boys division, and Mitty won in the girls division.

  •  Division III: William Kraemer (Saratoga) captured the boys crown with a mark of 15:23. St. Ignatius took home the boys championship.

  •  Division IV: Carl Lostrom ran a 16:03 to lead Carmel to the boys title. Evelyn Wing (Valley Christian) was first in the girls competition with a 19:07, and Half Moon Bay won the team championship.

  •  Division V: Nathan Condie (The King's Academy) was the individual champion among the boys, and Carmen Buenrostro (Anzar) won the girls race in 19:49.

    Results in Scoreboard, Page 18C.