Mercury News

McKayla Plank has been a standout runner since her freshman year at Archbishop Mitty, when she led the Monarchs to the Central Coast Section Division II cross-country title.

Saturday, the senior made the most of her final CCS appearance, finishing second behind Gunn High's Tori Tyler as an individual and leading the Monarchs to another team championship.

The win earned the Monarchs a berth in the state finals, set for Nov. 27 at Woodward Park in Fresno.

``This one meant more because the whole team was faster,'' said Plank, who will run at Iona College in New York next season. ``This is the best team we've had in a while. Everybody works hard, and we all get along real well.''

Plank battled through breathing problems to finish second on the three-mile Toro Regional Park course near Salinas with a time of 18 minutes, 24 seconds. Everyone else on the team had personal best times as the Monarchs beat Los Gatos for the championship.

Sophomore Renisha Robinson finished third with a time of 18:35.

``Renisha came out of nowhere,'' Plank said. ``She really took care of business and helped the team.''

Sophomore Kari Laux (20:03), junior Stephanie Wilson (20:17), freshman Aisha Lott (20:32), sophomore Mary Shaffer (21:20) and senior Danielle Denatale (21:54) all made contributions for the Monarchs.

``It's been a fantastic group to work with,'' first-year coach Mark Frise said. ``We had some injuries to key runners early in the year, but we've had our younger runners really step up and perform well.

The underclassmen learned about discipline and training from Plank, the team captain.

``McKayla is very consistent and always runs at the front of the pack,'' Frise said. ``She has a great attitude and always wants to do more. We have to try to moderate her training. She is extremely focused, and that cascades down to all the other runners in the program.''

Robinson, a standout 800-meter runner during the track season, has been an important part of the Monarchs' resurgence.

``She's becoming really strong mentally and is keeping her pace up,'' Frise said. ``She is very consistent and keeps improving with each race.''

The Monarchs figure to be strong again next year, when Laux, Wilson, Lott and Shaffer will have one more season under their belts.

``Losing McKayla will certainly hurt the team,'' Frise said. ``But this group has really jelled. There are no personality issues with these girls.''

The Los Gatos girls team earned a trip to state by finishing second. The Wildcats were led by Ariana Nicewonger, Kaela Townsend, Jacqui Kemp, Jill Goodwin and Allie Lemon.

Saratoga senior Alicia Follmar had the second-fastest time of the day among all divisions and took first in Division III with a time of 18:20. It was the first CCS cross-country title for Follmar, who won the state Division III cross-country title last season and is the two-time defending state champion in the mile.

The Saratoga boys team qualified for the state meet with a fourth-place finish in the Division II race.

The Falcons were led by senior Hari Iyer, who finished second with a time of 16:02.

Lynbrook sophomore MayC Huang ran a personal best of 19:09 to finish eighth in the Division II girls race and earn a spot in the state finals.

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