Cross country has become so popular on the Mountain View High School campus that coach Evan Smith was forced to make cuts for the first time this season.
With more than 100 students going out for the team, Smith held time trials and cut the squad down to 84 runners — 51 boys and 33 girls. And yes, Smith knows all their names.
"It's not so bad, we only had 20 new runners out this year so those are the only names I had to learn," Smith said with a laugh. "Making the cuts has made the middle of our lineup so much stronger. Years ago, all you had to do was show up and you were on the team. Having cuts has made everyone work harder throughout the season."
Smith has quality runners to match the quantity on his team. Both the girls and boys teams are ranked No. 1 in the CCS in the most recent poll of area coaches. The boys are ranked No. 1 in California and the girls are No. 4 among Division II schools, in a list compiled by DyeStatCal.
On Saturday sophomore Allison Sturges clocked the fastest time of any female Central Coast Section runner at the Stanford Invitational, running a time of 18:59 in the 98-degree heat for 14th place overall in the seeded 3.1 mile race.
Sturges missed last year's CCS cross country meet with a stress fracture in her foot. She came back for track season finishing second in the 1600 in a dramatic finish. Her time of 4:59.32 was just .24 behind San Benito's Courtney Allen.
"Allison is taking a cautious approach doing most of her running on grass," Smith said. "The race at Stanford and an earlier run at Toro Park show that she is one of the top girls in the CCS. She has a really great turnover, and if someone tries to make a move on her in the last 400 yards, they have waited too long to make their move."
Senior Martina de Geus (19:23), Carol Passarelli (20:20) and Zoe Pappas (20:25) rounded out a solid day for the Spartans at Stanford as the team finished sixth.
"Martina has made a huge jump in the last few weeks," Smith said. "The girls team is starting to look like the boys with 3-4 real solid runners and a bunch of girls to back them up."
Mountain View finished 11th in the boys seeded race, two spots behind Bellarmine College Prep for the top spot among CCS teams. But the Spartans competed without senior standout Garrett Rowe, who has been nursing sore knees. The defending Division II CCS champion is expected to begin competing this week.
Spartan junior Parker Schuh (15:35) finished eighth in the boys seeded race, trailing Palo Alto's Philip MacQuitty (6th in 15:27) and Paul Summers of Gunn (7th in 15:30) among CCS runners.
Bryan Crook (16:03) and Ian Myjer (16:41) also had productive runs for Mountain View.
"Garrett is being careful early on because he knows these early-season races don't really mean much," Smith said. "Parker has improved a lot. We usually see a marked improvement between a runner's freshman and sophomore years, but Parker is running as fast as Garrett was as a junior."
With Crook getting faster and faster every week, the Spartans chances of winning the big postseason meets are looking promising, if the runners can stay healthy.
Schuh, Crook and Rowe worked out together all summer — tackling long runs up Black Mountain in Rancho San Antonio while pushing each other to reach their potential.
"Their improvement has been exponential," said Rowe, who has narrowed his college choices to Harvard, Brown, Stanford or Princeton, where he would follow in his father's footsteps as a runner. "It's been a lot of fun running together.
"We feel like our team is real strong and we've got a good shot at winning state if we can stay away from some kind of crippling injury."