Barrientos eats up CCS competition

Mercury News

Given that another Barrientos sister has stamped herself as one of the Central Coast Section cross-country elite, patriarch Salvador Barrientos didn't hesitate to provide an explanation.

``It's not the genes,'' said Barrientos, who makes his living as a cook. ``It's the beans.''

His daughter, Harbor's Christina Barrientos, the CCS Division IV champion, rolled her eyes.

``He says that all the time,'' she said.

Barrientos blitzed through the 3.0-mile course at Toro Park in Salinas in 18 minutes, 42 seconds Saturday to become the first in her family to win a section title as a freshman.

That takes some doing, considering sisters Alejandra and Raquel each had top-five state finishes and now compete for UCLA.

``She responded to the pressure,'' Harbor Coach Dennis Reader said of the added expectations created by her name. ``That's not easy to do.''

Racing was intense with berths on the line for the Nov. 27 state championships in Fresno, with the most drama coming in the girls Division III race.

Burlingame, a first-time state qualifier last year, was in the words of Coach Steve O'Brien ready ``to take the next step'' by capturing a CCS title.

But No. 2 runner Katie Voigtlander collapsed 50 yards from the finish.

Battling an illness, Voigtlander fell at least twice. By the time she gathered herself and crossed the finish line, the Panthers had lost, 37-39, to perennial champion St. Ignatius, but her ability to finish ensured a state-meet berth.

``I gave it everything I had,'' she said.

Mostly, however, few races were close as is the norm with top athletes spread out among five divisions.

Two former teammates from Blach Middle School in Los Altos -- Gunn's Tori Tyler and St. Francis' Ben Sitler -- ran the day's fastest times and will lead a CCS contingent of 29 teams (15 boys and 14 girls) and 39 individuals into the state meet.

Tyler finished nearly 30 seconds off her course record but was never challenged after bolting past Archbishop Mitty's McKayla Plank after the first mile. Tyler won in 17:42, becoming the only girl in any of the five divisions to break 18:20.

Sitler did his best to hold off a North Monterey County surge in the Division II race, leading St. Francis to a runner-up finish with a 15:35. Sitler had the confidence to switch speeds at will, and dug hard on a hairpin turn to gap the field.

North Monterey County got a boost from Nathan Huerta, last year's Division III champion who missed the Monterey Bay League meet because of inflammation in his knee, and didn't have to rely on its sixth and seventh runners.

With Huerta, NMC Coach Bruce White believes the Condors can win a state title. Paced by his fourth-place finish, they finished with the fastest team time of the day.

Aptos, which qualified for state for the 12th time in 13 years, ran the fastest girls team time of the day on the way to winning the Division I title.

The only close individual races were both in Division I: a six-second victory for Fremont's Kevin Schneider (15:42) over Menlo-Atherton's Evan Anderson, and a five-second victory for Live Oak's Cobbie Jones (18:30) over San Benito junior Amanda Boyd, a first-year varsity runner, who switched from volleyball in late September.

Schneider's victory completed a transformation from an average runner to champion in one year, but his victory was far from his greatest accomplishment: the junior scored a 1,580 on the SAT, missing only two math questions.

``It's the kind of thing that bugs me when I think about it,'' he said.

Contact David Kiefer at