The 36th annual Half Moon Bay Artichoke Invitational made it's triumphant return after a one year hiatus. One of Northern California's premier cross country meets didn't take place last year due to construction on the school campus, most notably the baseball field (amazing set up now with 3 batting cages side by side). Started in 1971 by long time coach Dick Calvin, the Invitational record list (1971-1998) is a who's who of runners including 1983 Kinney National Cross Country Champion, Matt Guisto, 1995 CA State Meet 3200m. champion, Jason Balkman, Sara Bei (now Sara Hall) and ultra marathoning legend, Ann Trason. You can view a complete list of that record list at this link.
Below is the new course map on the left and the old course (1971-1998) to the right.
In 1999, the course changed due to construction of a new science building on campus. The new course stayed somewhat similar and thankfully kept the infamous Cougar Hill along with the same distance, 2.3 miles. In past years (including when I raced), the road leading up to Cougar Hill had the following ominous saying spray painted at the base of the hill, "Prepare to Die." In this day and age of political correctness, no such sign was present as you can see.
This year's races fielded smaller numbers due to the one year absence, SAT Saturday and the late addition of the meet to the racing calendar. As before, the races were split between small school (morning races) and large school (afternoon races). The cutoff for each division was 1300 students. In total, 55 schools attended the meet with the likelihood that the numbers will continue to grow as the meet gets established once again. The weather was spectacular with blue skies above giving the coast a rare reprieve from the usual fog.
With the divisions split between morning and afternoon and the varsity races split in the afternoon, the majority of the races turned into runaway victories. Leading the way for the girls in the morning were two Division IV dynamos who ran in different races. Samantha Hamilton of Half Moon Bay (pictured to the right) ran in the frosh/soph division as planned two weeks earlier by coach and athlete. She was racing in only her 2nd race following some down time with an achilles injury. Hamilton's time in FS race was 14:00.
Valley Christian's Jennifer Bergan had early help in the race from teammate Kendra Higgins. They ran together through the first mile until Bergman pulled away for the easy victory in 14:09. Like many of the winners to follow later in the day, Bergman had run the course before, two years earlier. She felt it was a pretty easy course except for the HILL. Finishing 2nd behind Bergman was Sacred Heart Cathedral's (SHC) unheralded Jocelyn Rodriguez who has really stepped up her running this fall after a solid track season. Bergman and Hamilton will see plenty of each other come CCS and state meet time. Mt. View was the team winner although the winning plaque went to SHC as it was determined that Mt. View should have been in afternoon races due to their school size.
The next varsity race featured one of the top runners in the nation, German Fernandez. Already the course record holder from two years ago at 11:20, German returned to lower his own record. Although the course has changed, the only clear difference from the previous course was the start of the race were the runners had to go around the baseball outfield as opposed to racing through the baseball field as they have done in the past.
Fernandez rocketed to the front as he has in all his previous races. He was in full flight by the time he reached the track for the first time and eventually pulled away from the field to the tune of 1 min. 4 sec. victory. The new course record was a crisp 11:04 and the general consensus of many coaches was that the new record will be around for a LONG time. German said the hill was so tough that it felt like you were walking. He had to really focus on accelerating on the downhills to make up the time lost on the uphill. His mile splits: 4:37 and 9:40. Mt. View was the boys' winner but the winning plaque went to Sacred Heart Cathedral.
After an hour break, the large school divisions got under way with the FS races leading the way. Girls' varsity race #1 went to Leland's Stephanie Barnett in another runaway victory. Her time, if new records will be kept for this course, will be the new course record. She was in the lead right from the gun and seemed to have a safe lead most of the way. Following the race, Barnett said she always likes to imagine the runners are closer to her to help her push through the races. She enjoyed having the hill in the middle of the race as she is a very strong hill runner. Varsity girls' race #2 went to Washington's Beth Raymond as she powered away from the field going through the first mile in 6:00 and went on to record a time of 14:34. Castro Valley was the winner in Race #1 over the fast improving Aptos girls, 45 to 56. In the 2nd race, Silver Creek narrowly edged out 4 teams to claim the title.
The boys' varsity race #1 was the most exciting of the day with a strong team effort by Grace Davis along with a stirring comeback by Castro Valley's Jack Leng. Dayne Gradone of Aptos was the early leader for the first half of the race as he was closely pursued by the Grace Davis trio. According to Leng, he was somewhere in near the top 10 runners along the first part of the race. He made his move following Cougar Hill as he hit the steep downhill. With 800 meters to go, his coach's (Peter Brewer) booming voice encouraged him to continue his drive toward the leaders. He rounded to the final section hitting the track in the lead but was unsure as to which direction to go. Once he got his bearings, Leng raced home to a narrow victory over Chris Izquierdo of Davis as they both recorded the same time, 12:22. Leng's teammate, James Fazzio, finished 4th and helped pace Leng through much of the race.
Grace Davis (shown here to the left chasing the early leader at the mile mark) won the team battle scoring 33 points to Castro Valley's 52. Both Division I schools will have their hands full at this year's Section meets attempting to qualify for the state meet. Jesuit, Davis, Sheldon, Modesto and the Grace Davis crew will contest a hot battle in the San Joaquin Section (SJS) for those coveted 2 state meet berths. In the North Coast Section (NCS), Castro Valley will be one of possibly 8 schools who have a legitimate shot at the state meet. Just like the SJS, only two NCS school will qualify for the state meet this year.
The final varsity race went to St. Francis runner, Phil Pompei. Fresh off his first ever cross country victory in WCAL meet #1 this past Wednesday, Pompei did most of the work in leading a tight pack through most of the race. He passed through the mile in 5:06 and eventually pulled away the second time on the track to a 19 second victory and a 12:18 clocking. The St. Francis boys easily won the second varsity race with 43 points over 2nd place Cupertino which scored 82.
Top 10 overall times (girls)
1) Stephanie Barnett (11) Leland 13:49
2) Samantha Hamilton (10) HMB 14:00
3) Jennifer Bergman (11) Valley Christian 14:09
4) Marissa Ferrante (10) Aptos 14:19
5) Sable Browning (12) Merced 14:22
6) Amy Schnittger (12) Aptos 14:33
7) Beth Raymond (12) Washington 14:34
8) Jocelyn Rodriguez (12) Sacred Heart Cathedral 14:36
9) Claudia Barnett (10) Leland 14:39
10) Cindy Huang (9) Lynbrook 14:41
Top 10 overall times (boys)
1) German Fernandez (12) Riverbank 11:04
2) Erik Olson (10) Novato 12:08
3) Phil Pompei (12) St. Francis 12:18
4) Mark Blatter (10) Alhambra 12:19
5) Jack Leng (12) Castro Valley 12:22
6) Chris Izquierdo (11) Grace Davis 12:22
7) Ian Myjer (10) Mt. View 12:28
8) Roberto Rosas (10) Grace Davis 12:29
9) James Fazzio (12) Castro Valley 12:30
10) Dayne Gradone (11) Aptos 12:30
Complete results can be found at the following link:
It was a great meet and nice to see the return of a legendary cross country race. The Artichoke Invitational #37 will be back next year. Mark your calendars for the first Saturday of October, the tradition date from many moons ago.