San Jose Mercury News - Winning with grace

Willow Glen senior Mohamed Abdalla earned much respect over his high school cross-country career.

But that wasn't just about talent. It was his smile, his generosity. Abdalla could set a course record and follow it up by congratulating his fellow runners at the finish.

He wasn't a rival, he was a friend. Someone a competitor could share a laugh or a handshake with. That was evident after Abdalla captured his third consecutive Blossom Valley Athletic League title and led the Rams to their fifth consecutive team crown.

He was besieged by autograph-seekers - runners he had just beaten.

After Abdalla carefully signed the numbers of Pioneer runners - "To Ray, Thank You, Mohamed Abdalla," was one - he posed for photos with members of the Silver Creek team.

Why the special attention?

"Because he's a legend," Pioneer sophomore Ray Brownie said.

"I took a picture with him because he's going to be in the Olympics some day," Silver Creek senior Kevin Tran said.

We'll see, but Abdalla did accomplish some rare feats.

He followed his state Division III championship with a runner-up finish this year, losing the lead in the final 100 yards. No Santa Clara County boy since two-time champion Jason Balkman of Lynbrook ('92, '94) has finished as high in multiple state meets.

Abdalla twice broke 15 minutes at Crystal Springs this year, the first to do so in one season on the landmark 2.95-mile course since 1986.

And he's the first to earn Mercury News boys' runner of the year honors in consecutive seasons.

San Jose Mercury News - Hoping To Put It All Together

For the past two years, Leland junior Stephanie Barnett has stamped herself as the best in the Central Coast Section by running faster than any other girl in the five-division championship meet. This year, she broke into the state's top-10 for the first time, finishing eighth in Division II.

But for Barnett, each season is a stepping stone into the next one. Her coach, Rudy Montenegro, has tried to avoid putting too much emphasis into one season. Instead, Barnett has tried to improve on different aspects of her running each year in hopes of putting it all together as a senior.

"As good as she is, there's that awareness of patience," Montenegro said. "Good things will come if she doesn't get beyond herself. That's the key."

This year, Barnett made a point of getting out quicker. She always had the ability to move up during a race, especially on hills. But starting fast required a different mindset and has made her a tougher and more confident runner.

"It's easy to hang back, and try to pass later on," Montenegro said. "But we didn't want to wait. I told her, 'Let them come after you.' "

The result is a more aggressive approach, from start to finish. The next step is the finish itself. Barnett will work on her speed during track season and see if she can run a complete race next fall.

"It's progress," Montenegro said. "Let's define what we have now, and expand it for next year."

Mercury News All-County Team Members: Mohamed Abdalla, WG (Runner & Senior), Lance Wolfsmith, Sobrato (Junior), Philip MacQuitty, Palo Alto (Soph), Parker Schuh, Mtn View (Frosh).
Rebecca Habatmu, Prospect (Senior), Stephanie Barnett, Leland (Runner & Junior), Claudia Barnett, Leland (Soph), Jackie Evans, Gunn (Frosh)
ALL SANTA CLARA COUNTY BOYS CROSS COUNTRY TEAM First Team Mohamed Abdalla 12 Willow Glen Michael Johnson 12 Los Gatos Nohe Lema 11 Willow Glen Philip MacQuitty 10 Palo Alto Garrett Rowe 10 Mountain View Dylan Shawhan 12 Los Gatos Lance Wolfsmith 11 Sobrato Second Team Charlie Avis 11 Palo Alto Clifford Crum 12 Milpitas Kindu Egiju 12 Santa Clara Abiy Geberkristos 12 Cupertino Phil Pompei 12 St.Francis Vince Rodriguez 11 Santa Clara Darius Terry 12 Piedmont Hills Honorable Mention Cameron Duran 12 Evergreen Valley Steven Foster 11 St.Francis Matt Guisti 12 King's Academy Dalton Guthrie 10 Bellarmine Valentino Julien 11 Willow Glen Alan Menezes 11 Saratoga Ian Myjer 10 Mountain View Nick Oliver 11 Homestead Dane Sawyer 12 Los Gatos Lawrence Smith 11 Bellarmine MVP - Mohamed Abdalla (Willow Glen) Senior Runner of Year - Mohamed Abdalla (Willow Glen) Junior Runner of Year - Lance Wolfsmith (Sobrato) Soph Runner of Year - Philip MacQuitty (Palo Alto) Frosh Runner of Year - Parker Schuh (Mt.View) ALL SANTA CLARA COUNTY GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY TEAM First Team Stephanie Barnett 11 Leland Jennifer Bergman 11 Valley Christian Jennifer Clarke 12 Oak Grove Jackie Evans 9 Gunn Shelby Golan 12 St.Francis Rebecca Habatamu 12 Prospect Kathleen Miller 11 Gilroy Second Team Claudia Barnett 10 Leland Michelle Callaway 12 Presentation Jean Feng 11 Monta Vista Allegra Mayer 11 Gunn Mary Reynolds 11 Mountain View Kaela Townsend 12 Los Gatos Alex Westbrook 11 Mountain View Honorable Mention Emma Dohner 9 Gunn Emily Evans 11 Homestead Cindy Huang 9 Lynbrook Bita Manesh 11 Santa Clara Katie Nast 11 Saratoga Zoe Pappas 10 Mountain View Sumika Shiokawa 12 Cupertino Kristine Talbot 11 Mountain View Lauren Tang 9 Lynbrook Tracy Vargo 12 Presentation MVP - Stephanie Barnett(Leland) Senior Runner of Year -Rebecca Habatamu (Prospect) Junior Runner of Year - Stephanie Barnett (Leland) Soph Runner of Year - Claudia Barnett (Leland) Frosh Runner of Year - Jackie Evans (Gunn)