Mix a little rain, a few nagging injuries and a cold or flu bug in with one of the Central Coasts most talented crop of runners, and youve got the makings of an exciting Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League Cross Country Championship race.
In the races, which will be held at Pinto Lake County Park today, the team favored on both the girls and boys sides is San Lorenzo Valley High. But, the Aptos girls and Watsonville boys are expected to be in hot pursuit.
The SLV girls are ranked first and the Mariners second in the most recent Mercury News poll, which rates teams in the Central Coast Section. But, the Aptos girls will be without their No. 2 runner, Meghan Hunt. Hunt has been out for several weeks with mono, and Aptos coach Dan Gruber said that it will be tough for the Mariners to compete with SLVs depth without Hunt in the mix.
"We just dont have the forces to fill in there," Gruber said. "Any team if they lost their No. 2 person ... theres nothing you can do. We were just hoping to come together at league and section. Its more sad for (Hunt) because shes been training all year and racing really well."
Defending league champion Stephanie Hamilton (SLV), Annie Adams (Aptos), Emily Romo (SLV), Linsdey Cooper (SLV) and Ashley Thompson (Scotts Valley) are predicted to be among the top girls finishers.
On the boys side, SLVs Alex Dunn, the defending league champion, has continued to prove himself as the leagues most dominant runner.
Dunn has won every race but one that hes competed in this season. In that one race, Dunn who has made a verbal commitment to run at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo next year finished second at the Stanford Invitational to the states top runner, Mohamed Trafeh.
Look for Jacob Evans (Aptos), Russell Bush (SLV), Darren Mattinson (Harbor), Jose Tapia (Watsonville), Beau Gradone (Watsonville), Jeff Gill (Soquel), Wes Davison (Soquel) and Kevin Kelley (SLV) to be near the front. Dunn, Evans and Mattinson all competed in the California Interscholastic Federation State Track and Field Meet in June.
"The top 10 in this league is pretty awesome," Watsonville coach Tom Leikam said of the SCCAL boys. "If you place in the top 10, youre really good."
The top team in each division will move on to the Central Coast Section meet, which will be held Nov. 15 at Crystal Springs. The division breakdowns are as follows: Watsonville (Division I), Aptos (D-II), Soquel (D-III), Harbor (D-III), Santa Cruz (D- III), SLV (D-IV), Scotts Valley (D-IV), St. Francis (D-V) and Mt. Madonna (D-V).
The top three individual runners not on a CCS-qualifying team will advance to the section meet.