St. Francis runner places second in boys race


Special to the Mercury News

It may have been his best finish yet, but it fell short of his senior-season goal.

St. Francis runner Ben Sitler was denied a title at the California Interscholastic Federation State Cross-Country Championships when Michael Coe of Cabrillo (Lompoc) broke away at the 1-mile mark and cruised to the Division III victory in 15 minutes, 4 seconds.

Sitler, in his fourth appearance at the state meet, finished second in 15:29.

``I was really going for the win today,'' said Sitler, who will run for Princeton in the fall. ``That was one of the preseason goals.''

The Central Coast Section champion has made great strides since he first competed at state in 2002, when he finished 26th in 16:09. In 2003, he placed 23rd (16:16) and last season he was fourth (15:31).

This year, Sitler dominated his regular-season meets. But Saturday, Coe had the upper hand.

``I knew I had to get a good jump on him in the last mile,'' Sitler said. ``He's a much faster miler than I am. When I got close to him, he just started going.''

In the Division V race, Robbie Noor of Valley Christian finished second in 16:08.

Girls races

San Lorenzo Valley (Division IV) and Aptos (Division II) each clinched a state title.

Aptos Coach Dan Gruber said he thought his team would finish in the top five, but he didn't expect the Mariners, ranked fifth in the state by, to compile 150 points and beat top-ranked Newport Harbor (Newport Beach), which had 161.

``We had great senior leadership,'' Gruber said. ``This is the highlight of coaching.''

San Lorenzo Valley made it back-to-back state titles, finishing with 90 points. Lutheran (Orange) finished second (97) and Half Moon Bay was third (132).

``We just happen to show up,'' San Lorenzo Valley Coach Rob Collins said. ``We won four state championships and a runner-up in two years. Sometimes I wonder how we do it. . . . Win or lose, they come out here to compete.''

Sophomore Taylor Johnson was San Lorenzo Valley's top runner, finishing second in 19:25. Maritza Garcia of Riverbank won in 18:14.

Results in Scoreboard, Page 15D.