Tuesday, October 30, 2007

BVAL Championship Meet at Crystal Springs Course

On a chilly Monday afternoon, the Blossom Valley Athletic League (BVAL) kicked off championship week at the Crystal Springs Course. The league is comprised of three separate divisions (Mt. Hamilton(A), Santa Theresa(B) and West Valley(C). All three divisions compete on the same day at the league final to determine the qualifiers for Central Coast Section (CCS) which will take place on Saturday, May 10. With 24 total teams, the teams in the top 50% advance as well as the top 9 individuals not on those teams.

The six races that took place included the girls and boys' reserve races, girls' junior varsity, boys' frosh/soph and the two varsity races. The girls varsity race pitted Stephanie Barnett of Leland against Rebecca Habatmu of Prospect (formerly of Roseville). Barnett and her younger sister, Claudia, stormed out to an early lead as they jetted down the downhill start. Habatmu caught the older Barnett during the flat part of the first mile and ran side by side heading toward the mile marker.
Barnett passed through the mile in 5:33 followed by Habatmu at 5:34. Barnett kept hammering away during the downhill filled 2nd mile with Habatmu doggedly hanging on as the two runners passed the two mile mile in 11:35 and 11:36. Barnett eventually pulled away during the third mile following her ascent of Cardiac hill (a steep 80 meter hill just past the 2 mile mark).

Her time of 17:36 is the fastest time this year at the Crystal Springs Course. It was also a new school record for Leland as her time eclipsed Jennifer Ashe's 17:37 from 1987. The 17:36 ties Barnett with Maria King of the now defunct San Jose Cindergals for the 38th fastest time recorded on the course by a high school runner. Habatmu ran 17:51 for 2nd place, which improved her personal record on the course from the 18:07 she ran the previous week at the 3rd Center Meet.

The team battle was a close one as Leland edged Sobrato 51-57 powered by the 1/4 finish of the Barnett sisters. Sobrato had 3 top 10 runners with Kirsti Whitmeyer, Abhi Deveraj and Alex Seda finishing in 6th, 7th and 8th place respectively. Willow Glen finished in 3rd place with 150 points led by 9th place finisher Hayley Tharp.

The varsity boys' race featured one of the best teams (Willow Glen) and runners (Mohammed Abdalla of Willow Glen and Lance Wolfsmith of Sobrato) in Northern California. Willow Glen has been ranked in state throughout the season and despite still missing one of their top five runners, dominated this day with 25 points to the 107 for the 2nd place Evergreen Valley.

Abdalla, the defending Division III state champion, had aspirations of breaking Mitch Kingery's fabled course record of 14:28 that dates back to 1973. As many of his races, this was to be a solo record attempt for Abdalla. He swept through the first mile in a very relaxed looking 4:44. Wolfsmith came through in 3rd place along with Nohe Lema of WG as they both trailed Jose Bedolla of Yerba Buena.
Abdalla passed the 2 mile mark in 9:46, comfortably in the lead and went on to finish in 14:58, the fastest time on the course this year. Wolfsmith came in 2nd at 15:16 followed by Lema in 15:30. WG was able to pack their first five in the top 10 as Valenti Julien came in 4th in 16:01, Nati Wolde was 7th in 16:22 and John Ladd finished 10th in 16:25.

3rd placer Lema, a junior, is participating in his first cross country season. He took part in Track and Field last year and with some friendly prodding from his teammates decided to give XC a try this year. In his lone attempt at XC last year, Lema couldn't finish the Crystal Springs course. His admiration for Mohammed was clear as he spoke at length of his teammate's pacing help during races as well as helping him with both the mental and physical parts of the sport. Lema said his first season with XC has been "amazing!".

As for the CCS meet, Barnett feels that her two biggest competitors in Division II will be Gunn teammates, Jackie Evans and Allegra Mayer. Three teams will qualify out of the division to the state meet and Leland could surprise a few teams with a youthful top 7 (4 freshmen, 2 sophomores and 1 junior). The strong team favorite at this point is Mt. View HS.

Willow Glen will have their hands full in Division III with a suddenly potent Aptos team, a streaking North Monterey County team (fresh off their MBL championship) as well as one of the WCAL's best, St. Ignatius. The healthy return of Eyoel Galato would greatly aid their cause as this will be the most competitive division in CCS along with Division II.

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