11/28/2020

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Local football previews
John Devine’s analysis of the weekend’s local football matchups appear throughout the week. To see other game breakdowns go to montereyherald.com  



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Jim Tunney, TunneySide of Sports:

By Jim Tunney

sports@montereyherald.com
 
After further review ...

Contact Jim Tunney at jim@jimtunney.com. Information about his programs and products can be found at jimtunney.com.

www.ccsrank.com 


By John Devine
 Confidence wasn't exactly oozing out of Brita Sigourney when she was home for the Christmas Holidays.
 For starters the Santa Catalina graduate was struggling just to get around because of a hip injury. And there were a few tricks that weren't coming around for a freestyle skier.
 "I kept falling on the same trick,'' said Sigourney. "You have a mental block. You start thinking maybe I don't want to do the trick. If you're not confident, it shows in your skiing.''
 Then again, it takes just one big moment to erase those doubts and create new expectations, as was the case last week for the 27-year-old.
 "I skied real well last week,'' Sigourney said. "I was the last qualifier coming in and took second place. That relieved me of a little stress and pressure.''
 As a result, the dream of returning the Winter Olympics in the Freestyle halfpipe is alive going into Thursday's National Olympic qualifier at Mammoth Mountain in Southern California.
 "Second is a good spot because I think the United States will get four spots,'' Sigourney said. "I just have to not completely blow it this week.''
 Sigourney, who grew up in Carmel Valley, will compete Thursday and Friday, with the US Olympic team being announced Friday night.
 "I feel good, especially after last week,'' Sigourney said. "The last couple of years have been rough. From a mental standpoint, last week was big.''
 For someone who has endured seven surgeries during a punishing eight-year career, Sigourney feels physically good going into Thursday qualifying rounds.
 A three-time X-Games qualifier that won a silver in the superpipe in 2011 and a bronze in 2012, an Olympic medal is all that's missing from a career filled with accolades.
 Sigourney, who qualified for the Winter Olympics in 2014, finished sixth in the halfpipe, leaving her with an empty feeling.
 "What made it tough was I qualified in second place,'' Sigourney said. "But I wasn't able to make my run in the final as clean as I wanted to. It made me thirsty. You want your best effort.''
 Her struggles and injuries -- some of which have sidelined her for eight weeks -- over the last couple of years have made her contemplate a change in careers.
 While Sigourney has been able to make a living as a freestyle skier, there are different realms to skiing that she has considered.
 "I'm not sure how much longer I want to keep doing this,'' Sigourney said. "I'm thinking this might be it. I don't know how serious I'll take it after the Olympics. But I'll keep my foot in the door.''
 Skiing down a U shaped ramp, Sigourney finds herself doing tricks in mid air, airing it out and doing spins and flips before landing back on the ramp.
 Speed down the ramp isn't as important as execution in the air. Gravity only leaves you floating for so long.
 "You can speed coming down the ramp,'' Sigourney said. "But I have no idea how fast I'm going. You have to be in control. Each pipe is different. Each jump is different.''
 Perfecting a jump remains a work in progress. Being on the world stage for as long as Sigourney has provides a mental edge. Physically, you can't have any doubts.
 "I think the experience I have of competing at a high level for a number of years helps,'' Sigourney said. "It certainly doesn't hurt having had the Olympic experience.. I've been doing this for a long time.''
 While she's accomplished every trick ever attempted, Sigourney has a few thoughts in adding a little flair in her runs over the next 24 hours.
 "I've definitely been incorporating new tricks in my run,'' Sigourney said. "I've done everything I've wanted to do. Now it's about perfecting them on the biggest stage. Be consistent and fine tune.''


By John Devine
 Brita Sigourney hasn't felt the need to pinch herself. Perhaps because when she steps out into the Olympic Village, with her comes a circular bronze medal the size of grapefruit.
  "I'm not sleeping with it,'' Sigourney laughed. "I'm trying to keep it clean. But I do take it with me. People want to see it. The first reaction I get is it's so heavy.''
 The Santa Catalina graduate won't be coming home until after the closing ceremonies next week of the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
 When the 28-year-old does, it will be with a bronze medal, achieved in the Halfpipe Freestyle Skiing competition.
 "It's definitely sunk in,'' said Sigourney, who medaled on Tuesday. "I'm so estactic. I've dreamed of this. I can't believe that this has actually come true.''
 Sigourney has spent the week doing the interview circuit, even appearing on the Today Show, which is actually happening around 11 p.m. at night in South Korea.
 "It still surprises me how excited people get when I pull the medal out,'' Sigourney said. "It's big and heavy. I don't want to let it out of my sight.''
 What Sigourney has done is reflect on the work that she has put in over the years, the countless hours and devotion to a sport that she grafitated towards the minute she put on skies.
 "The Olympics is such a big state that it allows you to reflect on everything so deeply,'' Sigourney said. "You being to realize how much work you've put into it. It makes the medal so much more special.''
 Emotions poured with her mother and father after it was announced that she had passed her friend and teammate Annalisa Drew for the bronze on her final run.
 "The most emotional moment came when I saw my family,'' Sigourney said. "They obviously know me the best. They've shared my dream with me. I felt all that time in the gym in rehabbing injuries definitely paid off.''
 Anxiety and stress followed Sigourney to the top of the halfpipe for her final run. While at the top, she heard Drew's score, which moved her United States team into third place.
 "There wasn't much time to think,'' Sigourney said "I knew my first score wouldn't hold up for a podium spot. It put a crazy amount of pressure on me in the moment.''
 Sigourney asked her coaches what should she do. The answer was simple. Do what you think you need to do.
 Yet, what Sigourney envisioned or planned changed in the middle of her run, as she decided to forgo one of her trick.
 "I had a different plan,'' Sigourney said. "I was going to go for a different trick. But while I was in my run. I felt I was having the run of my life. I made decision to just go with it.''
 While the run was nearly identical run, Sigourney was holding air more on her hit, held her grabs longer and landed smoothly.
 "I felt like I had the run of my life,'' said Sigourney, a three-time X Game medalist. "That was basically all I could ask for.''
 Sigourney would be enough to surpass her United States teammates.
 "Anna had one of the most amazing runs I had ever seen her do,'' Sigourney said. "I wasn't sure how the judges would award me. It was a crazy moment waiting for the score.''
 To add to her nervous tension, Sigourney wasn't able to lean on her parents for support.
 "They were in another area,'' Sigourney said. "I missed the most stressful moment with them.''
 Yet, when her score was announced, Sigourney made a dash to her parents.
 "My parents were so happy,'' Sigourney said. "That minute waiting for the scores seemed like forever.''
 Sigourney, who came into the final ranked third after the first round, never thought back to 2014 when she was in second, but faltered to sixth after a bad run.
 "Sochi (Russia) never crossed my mind,'' Sigourney said. "I was completely in the present moment. That is something I've been working on. All the books I've read paid off in that moment.
  While Sigourney won't commit for four years, she will compete in the final World Cup Circuit in France later this spring, where she is currently the overall leader.
 She also plans to compete next year in the World Cup next year and the X Games. Beyond that is up in the air.
 "Four years is a long time to commit,'' Sigourney said. "I don't think I can do that right now. I'll take it one year at a time. What I want to do is get home to Carmel, stop by Santa Catalina and thank everyone for their support.''

By John Devine
 Adam Hidas hasn't tasted defeat all year against league opponents. Accept in challenge matches in practice with teammate Henry Chen.
 The Stevenson School sophomore had challenged Chen just as recently as last week, falling for the second time this year 6-1, 6-1.
 "When Henry is in a rhythm, he's tough," Hidas said.
 So is Hidas, who put together arguably his best match of the season Wednesday in upsetting Chen 6-4, 6-3 at the Monterey Bay League Singles Tennis Championships at Chamisal Tennis Club.
 "I wasn't expecting to lose,'' said Chen, who is from Taiwan. "But being upset about it won't change anything. I just have to redeem myself at the section tournament."
 Both Hidas and Chen will advance to the Central Coast Section singles tournament in two weeks, as will the MBL champion doubles team of Bryce Zinani and Joseph Russo of Salinas.
 The two seniors and cousins put their talents together to knock off freshman teammates Holden Evers and Brayden Andersen 7-5, 5-7, 6-0.
 Hidas, who was 12-0 in league playing No. 2 singles for the Pirates this spring, served well and put the ball in places that had Chen on the run.
 "I don't want to take anything away from Adam," Chen said. "He played a bit higher than his level and I played a bit lower than mind."
 While Chen didn't want to cast blame on his racket, he was forced to play the championship match with a teammates racket after he broke the strings in all three of his racquet's Tuesday.
 "It makes a difference,'' Chen said. "I string my own rackets in my dorm. But because I was out here all day on Tuesday, I had to focus on my homework. This is a lesson in being better prepared."
 Chen, who was 15-0 going into the tournament, had dropped just one first set all season, ironically that coming in Tuesday's quarterfinals.
 And while Chen engaged in numerous rallies with Hidas, it was his understudy that was finishing the rallies with a wicked cross court shot.
 "I think the most important reason I won today is I kept my composure,'' Hidas said. "I didn't lose focus when things didn't go as expected. And I kept him out of his rhythm."
 Hidas used a hard flat serve
 "I was able to mix my shots,'' Hidas said. "My cross court rollers were good. And at times I served well. I see myself as an underdog. I'll go into CCS flying under the radar."
 Up until a week ago, Zinani and Russo were singles players for the Cowboys, who are going to the CCS tournament as a team for the first time in over two decades.
 Yet, the pair put their efforts together with the thought of winning a title and moving on to the CCS tournament.
 "We've only played together for this tournament," Russo said. "It felt really weird."
 And while the pair had breezed through the first three rounds to reach the finals, Russo and Zinani found themselves down 5-2 in the first set to their teammates.
 "At that point, I'm thinking I'm a senior," Zinani said. "Make this count."
 Zinani and Russo got locked in and went on a rally that enabled them to win the next five games to win the first set.
 "This is our last year,'' Russo said. "It was important to encourage each other and stay positive."
 Yet, the pressure mounted when the pair couldn't maintain the momentum, falling 7-5 in the second set, forcing a tiebreaker set.
 "Sure there was pressure," Zinani said. "We've never been in this position to have a chance to win a title."
 That encouragement Russo spoke off got contagious in the third set as the dynamic duo looked like a pair that have played together for more than a week,
 While Evers and Andersen engaged in lengthy rallies with Zinani and Russo, they couldn't match the intensity that their teammates picked up.
 "We had good communication," Russo said. "We focused on each game."
 The pair didn't lose a game in the third set, needing 13 minutes to close out the two freshmen, who also qualified for the CCS tournament.
 "I thought we served well,'' Zinani said.
 Russo offered a different prospective.
 "It feels good to be over with," Russo said.

By John Devine
 The experience was gut wrenching and humbling for a then 22-year-old kid from a town of 2,800 in Illinois.
 So much so that Jason Owen voyed that he would never play Pebble Beach Golf Links again unless it was in a tournament.
 "I qualified for the 299 U.S. Amateur,'' Owen said. "I came out here so scared. I played so poorly. I said I'm not getting on that course again unless it for redemption."
 That was 19 years ago for the CSU-Monterey Bay men's golf coach. Redemption came Wednesday when Owen won the Northern California PGA Match Play Championship at Pebble Beach.
 "I got my redemption," said Owen, who is taking the Otters golf team to the NCAA Division II West  Regionals on Saturday in Amarillo, Texas. 
 The win just didn't provide Owen with piece of mind, but it also qualified him for his first ever PGA tournament, where he'll compete in August in the Barracuda Championships in Reno.
 "I've played at every level accept the PGA Tour," Owen said. "It's been like a life long goal to tee up in a tour event."
 Owen, who has been the golf coach at CSUMB for 10 years, played 108 holes over three days at four different golf course, playing 36 holes each day.
 "I probably haven't played six rounds of golf in the months of March and April combined,'' Owen said. "I don't know if my players were shocked. But they were extremely happy."
 Playing in a field of 64, Owen wo  his first two match play rounds on Monday at Corral De Tierra Country Club and two more at Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz.
 "I didn't play well in my first couple of matches," Owen said. "By the time I hit Tuesday, I started to play some pretty good golf. Like I have in the past."
 A win in Wednesday's semifinals at Cypress Golf Course ensured him a trip back to Pebble Beach for the first time since that uneventful nightmare.
 "What was special about Cypress is one of my former players caddied for me," said Owen, who was seeded No. 9 coming into the tournament.
 Now it was time for a little revenge on the world renown course.
 "I know what I'm doing," Owen said. "It's more can I get in a good rythym and let it go? As the week kept going, things became easier and easier for me."
 In 10 years at CSUMB, Owen has taken the Otters to one national championship, three regional titles and three conference crowns.
 But redeeming himself at Pebble Beach has been on Owen's bucket list for nearly two decades. A 5-4 win in the championship round put a few demons to rest.
 "I don't play very much at all any more," Owen said. "I go in spurts with the guys where I play with them every other week. I'm trying to carve out a little more time. It's a balancing act."
 Yet, his effort over the course of three days didn't surprise him either.
 "It's one of those things were I know it's in there,'' Owen said. "Lots of hours have been put in the game in the past. For me, can you calm your mind and let your body do what it knows what to do?"
 Another round of golf will be on hold as Owen hopes to keep the Otters season going another two plus weeks. CSUMB comes into the West Regionals ranked No. 14 in the nation.
The Otters have  arguably one of the best golfers in the nation in sophomore Ellis Svard, who won the conference title and earned CCAA Player of the Year honors.
 "Everyone kind of feeds off him,'' Owen said. "This group is different than past teams. It doesn't go in with expectations. It's been an adjusting period for me. But it works."
 Once the season is over, Owen will devote a little more time to his craft. He will treat his first PGA event like any other tournament, with an expectation to win.
 "What can I do from the wedge game and short game?" Owen said. "If I can get dialed in, who knows. I'm not going in hoping to make the cut. I'm going in there with the thought of winning."

CSUMB women's basketball
 The significance in the Otters current two game winning streak is both came the road, where they were winless last year.
 The other is it gave CSUMB six California Collegiate Athletic League conference wins this year -- the most since 2013.
 For a program that managed just one win last season, the Otters have taken a leap forward this year in terms of respectable.
 The Otters, who host East Bay tonight, have a roster that includes just two seniors, meaning second year head coach CJ Pace has a foundation in place for the future.
 Struggles from the field continue, as the Otters are shooting just 37 percent from the field, 28 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. But it's an improvement from last season.
 CSUMB also has a presence in the a paint, where 5-foot-11 transfer has a team high 232 points and 128 rebounds, averaging just under 14 points a night.
 Sophomore Chyna Dews and freshman Katie Fitzgerald have both distributors and can score, with Fitzgerald averaging 11.8 points a night.
 As Pace works to improve her depth in her rotation, Camille Parker has been a mark of stability in the paint, joining Fitzgerald and Dews and one of three players to start all 19 games.
 Soccer goalie turned sharpshooter Serena Toney has given the Otters a spot up shooter beyond the 3-point arc, forcing opponent to come and not sag down in the paint.
 Pace is a proven winner as a player and coach at previous stops. CSUMB is not that far away from challenging for supremacy. She's clearly changed the culture in two quick years.




By John Devine
 Pacific Grove >> The perpetual trophies have had a familiar home for five years.
 That home will now become permanent.
 A sixth straight Mission Trail Athletic League track and field title for King City and Santa Catalina had a little more meaning this time.
 With the league seizing to exist after this spring, the Mustangs will have to find a full-time home for an historic and aging boys trophy after posting a 158-74 win over runner-up Carmel.
 Santa Catalina pulled away late from Stevenson to secure a 100-78.5 win for its sixth straight MTAL girls title.
 "It feels like a fulfillment of my time at Santa Catalina," senior Avery Blanco said. "There was some pressure on us. We've set the bar for others to follow."
 While King City did it with depth, the Cougars relied on eight girls producing points to engrave its names on the plague one last time.
 Half of Santa Catalina's points came on wins as Carolina Bishop defended her titles in the 300 low hurdles and 100 hurdles, producing 26 points as an individual.
"As a captain, I was trying to keep the nerves steady,'' said Bishop, one of two seniors in the program. "We have athletes that haven't experienced this. "I'm trying to be a good mother."
 Mission accomplished.
Three freshman helped make the Cougars league championship 1,600 relay team. And then there is junior Laurel Wong.
 The current state leader in the pole vault at 13-3, Wong defended her title at 12-6, and was a part of the league champion 400 relay team, supplying 20 1/2 points among her four events.
 "I knew competing in four events, that it would be unrealistic to get a personal record today,'' Wong said. "I could have tweaked a couple of things. But the objective for this meet was team."
 Santa Catalina produced points in 14 of the 16 events -- manufacturing 14 points in the 100 hurdles and 300 low hurdles, 11 in the pole vault and 10 in the long jump.
 "You have to have a little balance of both in terms of pressure and expectations,'' Blanco said. "We have been preparing for a run at the title. I felt we have a responsibility."
 The Mustangs won just three events. But they piled up points in several events, producing 28 points in the triple jump, 20 points in the long jump, 19 points in the discus and 18 in the 110 high hurdles.
 "Points were equally distributed,'' long jump champion Dylan Oliveros said. "We weren't individuals today. We were unselfish. A lot of us did multiple events. We had too. What mattered was the title."
 Oliveros, who will likely be King City's quarterback this coming season, contributed 18 points, as he finished second in the triple jump behind teammate Cesar Chavez.
 "We felt if we all did our part, we were going to fine," King City hurdler Jhames Bautista said. "This was the last MTAL meet. We wanted to keep the trophy forever."
 Bautista ran arguably his best race of the season in capturing the 110 high hurdles, then came back to place third in the 300 intermediate hurdles
 "I was able to three-step the entire race in the 110's," Bautista said. "I had rythym. I started to gain more speed."
 Rashaan Ward and Nick Sloan combined for 41 of Carmel's 70 points, with Ward winning the 100, a step in front of Sloan. The pair traded places in the 200.
 "I had a strong finish,'' said Ward clocking 11.33 in the 100. "I felt people in the beginning. When I am in the lead, I tend to tighten up."
 That was the case in the 200 when Sloan caught Ward at the tape in photo finish. The pair were also a part of the Padres league champion 400 relay team.
 Sophomore Aaliyah Carreras became's Marina's first ever double event winner at the league finals,  blistering the track in the 100 (12.68) and 200 (25.99).
 "I slipped out of the blocks in the 100," Carreras said. "At that point, I just tried to drive through the first 30 meters. I caught the field at 50. I made a lot of mistakes. I can run a lot faster."
 Soledad's Noora Hautamaki was a double event winner, capturing the triple jump (36-7 1/2) and shot put, unseeding defending league champin Soana Laulotu with a mark of 35-6 3/4.
 Danyelle Landeros won the most difficult double of the meet, capturing the 400 (61.83) and 800 (2:26.37).
 Carmel's Colleen Lang won the 3,200 and finished second to Stevenson's Anna Watson in the 1,600, who was second to Lang in the 3,200.
 Distance ace Christopher Plascensia became the first Marina champion in the 1,600, the came back 20 minutes later to finish second in the 800 to Pacific Grove's Will Stefanou.

By John Devine

 Perhaps the biggest ovation all year from an appreciative crowd stood for 45 seconds and applauded the efforts Friday of an historic volleyball season.
 Carmel won't be playing for a Northern California Division II title. But the milestones it achieved this spring are what other programs will be chasing.
 "This is the team that others will look to emulate in the future,'' Carmel coach Isarel Ricardez said. "I don't know if we'll see this again. It was a once in a lifetime experience."
 The Padres record breaking season ended Friday, falling in five sets to Harker 25-20, 19-25, 20-25, 25-21, 15-8 at Carmel.
 This time it was Harker gaining a measure of redemption from falling to Carmel in the Central Coast Section Division III title match 13 days ago.
 "We'd like to think our section title was bigger,'' Ricardez smiled. "That's by far the best team we've faced all year."
 Carmel went five sets in both matches against Harker this spring, rallying from a 2-0 deficit to win the programs first ever CCS title on May 12.
 "This season just wasn't for us,'' senior Aidan Westerman said. "But for the players that came before us and laid the groundwork. Some of us have brothers that came before us."
 The Padres rattled off  a school record 24 consectuive wins this year en route to shattering the single season school mark for wins with 31.
 The reigning three-time Gabilan Division champions went undefeated in league for the third straight year, During its run of 24 straight wins, it swept 18 opponents.
 "I'm more happy for what we achieved this year than what we didn't," said Westerman, who played with a twisted ankle, which occurred in Tuesday's win.
 Five seniors gave up their senior trip to take part in the semifinals, and played their hearts out until the final point.
 "You know what is satisfying?" Ricardez said. "It's the hard work these kids put in from day. We've been at this since Feburary. What a run."
 What Carmel couldn't do is sustain the momentum generated from capturing sets two and three , as it was forced to play catchup in the fourth set after an early 3-0 lead.
 Kills from Cole Dickman and Ben Airola helped the Padres cut a five-point deficit to 22-20 before Harker scored the final three points to send the match to a fifth set.
 "Honestly, all I was thinking about in that fifth set was playing my heart out," Westerman said. "I've been with some of these guys for four years. This is like my family."
 Carmel never got going in the final set, spotting the Eagles four quick points.
 "The first four points were unforced errors on our part,'' Ricardez said.
 The Eagles (25-6) built an 8-1 cushion behind left-handed swinging Jarrett Anderson, who was a beast on the outside, and at times unstoppable.
 Matching Harker for points was going to work in a 15-8 loss.
 "Give Harker some credit," Ricardez said. "No shame in losing to that team."
 Much like the first match with Harker in the CCS finals, the Padres dropped the first set. Yet, the adjustments in the second set paid immediate dividends in a 25-21 win.
 "We knew Harker would come in with something to prove," Ricardez said. "We adjusted and had the momentum. But to their credit, they adjusted."
  Dickman was a menace in the middle for the Padres, blocking shots and putting down kills along with Keegan Forrester off of sets from Charlie DeLapa.
 Joaquin Buenrostro and Ben Ariola both came up big at the serving line in the second set, igniting an 8-3 and 8-1 run while Chase McCrystal came off the bench to provide two big kills.
 "I reminded the kids before we shook hands with Harker after the match that they will remember this season for the rest of their lifes," Ricardez said. "I may coach 30 years. But I'll never forget this."


By John Devine
  The work begins the minute Laurel Wong pulls up into the parking lot. Strapped on the vehicle is a 15-foot long canvas that looks more like a torpedo.
  Inside it is the Santa Catalina pole vaulters craft -- 10 fiberglass poles, all of which will be used over the course of an event, that elevates her to new heights.
  An arguement can be made that the real work comes in just getting the poles to the track. Yet, once 5-foot-2 Wong stakes out her plot of land, she goes into zone.
 "I've been coaching the pole vault for 42 years,'' said Joe Miyoshi, who works with Wong two days a week at Soquel High. "I have never had anyone this mentally tough on the runway."
 Wong will go into Friday's CIF State Track and Field Championships ranked No. 1 in with a Central Coast Section winning mark of 13-feet.
 The junior has cleared 13 feet or higher this years six times, breaking her own school and Monterey County record earlier this year with a mark of 13-3.
 Wong, who was fifth in the state last year with a mark of 12-6, is making her third appearances in the prestigious event.
 "I'm a little more prepared," Wong said. "Is there pressure? Yes and no. I know four other girls have cleared 13-feet. I don't know how consistent they are. We're separated by three inches."
 All six clearances of 13 feet or higher for Wong have come in pressured sized. Last week she had a near miss at the CCS finals at 13-4.
 "My second attempt felt real good," Wong said. "I had nice hip height. But I held on a split second too long. I do believe 13-4 or 13-6 are doable."
 So does Miyoshi, who pointed out that Wong has yet to compete in a meet this year with conditions ideal for a pole vaulter.
 "Even though she's had good results,  she's never had a good weather day this year," Miyoshi said. " The Division I coaches have been impressed with how good she's done is in adverse conditions."
 At least week's CCS finals, a wind was coming in on the pole vaulters, causing
 "I was clean up  until that point with no misses," Wong said. "I know a lot of people get discouraged. Sometimes it can get in your head. I just looked at it as you've got one attempt to get it right."
 Conditions are part of the reason Wong will come in with more poles than most other vaulters. She will go through four or five just warmups.
 The higher she climbs, the more poles Wong will break out during the competition. Her speed down the runway, or how she's getting into the pit, also plays a role in her decision making.
 "She's set personal records before on five different poles," said Miyoshi, who also coaches Gilroy's Logan Flores, the boys CCS champion. "I just want to see what she can do in good conditions."
 That shouldn't be a problem Saturday evening as temperatures are expected to be in mid-80's by the time Wong steps on the Buchancan High in Clovis.
"I like vaulting in hot weather," Wong said. "But sometimes you get fatigued easily when the sun is beating down on you. Last year we vaulted in the evening and it cooled down."
 While Wong has had the top mark in state since February, she's going in with the thought that she will have to set a personal best to bring home a state title.
 The last two year's 14 feet and 14-2 have won a state championship. But in 2015, the winning height was 13-3.
 "It's crossed my mind that I will need a PR to win this meet," Wong said. "If more than two clear 13 feet, the bar will go up to 13-6. I know misses will be important in this meet."
 Meaning Wong feels she needs to clean on the earlier heights, as opening height will start at 11-6 for the 27 vaulters expected to compete.
 "That's my normal opening height. So it won't be a big deal." Wong said. "I remember as a freshman the opening height was two inches believe my personal best. That was stressful."
 Wong was oblivious to the pressure of competing in the state meet as a freshman in 2016. Prior to enrolling at Santa Catalina, she has never picked up a pole.
 A Level 9 gymnast, Wong changed directions after breaking her wrist in the eighth grade, putting an end to the sport.
 "I wanted to do something," Wong said. "I liked track. I just didn't know what even I wanted to do. So I got in the pole vault because my friend Avery Blanco was doing it."
 With Miyoshi in Santa Cruz, Wong, who lives in Salinas, was lucky to make a practice once a week her first two seasons.
 "I wasn't that dedicated," Wong said. "I couldn't drive. So I really didn't get a lot of practice time. But it was fun."
 In her first meet as a freshman, Wong cleared 10-9, which was the winning height in the CCS finals in 1998.
 "Honestly I wasn't aware if that was good or not," Wong said. "Even when I cleared 11-9 and got to state as a freshman, I didn't think much of it. Six athletes went from the CCS."
 Yet, by the middle of her sophomore year, it all began to sink in that perhaps this was an event that could lead to bigger things for the 17-year-old.
 "She became a boggy right away as a freshman in terms of getting on the radar,'' Miyoshi said. "She figure she was still learning. She couldn't have picked a better role model to follow than Erica.
 Miyoshi was speaking about former Pacific Collegiate pole vault Erika Malaspina, a proidgy of his who is now pole vaulting at Stanford.
 "The bar would be set if she can duplicate Erika did," Miyoshi said. "She's actually ahead of where Erika was at this point in her career."
 Perhaps what has helped Wong is she's an athlete. She's leaped 17-9 in the long jump, run the 100 meters in 12.85 and ran a leg on the Santa Catalina's league champion 400 relay team.
 "I see myself as an athlete," said Wong, who also play field hockey in the fall. "I'm not a huge fan of running. I enjoy the long jump. I'm much better at flying through the air than running the ground."
 Still, Wong  understand the importance of getting faster only enhances her effort to soar higher in the pole vault.
 "If she wants to clear 14 feet, she has to run under 13 seconds, which she did," Miyoshi said. "Now that we have a templete of what we're working with, the off-season emphasis be on mechanics."
 Miyoshi calls Wong a hybrid in the technique he has her using. In fact, to his knowledge, only one other individual uses the same technique and he's a world class male vaulter.
 "There comes a point in the pole vault world where there are three basis techniques to work with," Miyoshi said. "Laurel took advantage of her gymnast talents. She's the only girl I know that uses this type of technique."
 Colleges have begun to reach out to Wong, who has not lost a meet all season.
 "Pole vaulting is something I definitely want to pursue in my career," Wong said. "I'm not ready to give it up. But I value academics. So I'm looking for a college that will provide both."
 Miyoshi, who considered retiring four years ago, now beams at the fact that he's got Wong for at least one more year.
 "She can get more explosive," Miyoshi said. "Maybe we'll experiement with her hand grips in the off-season. I have to punch myself and say I have Laurel for another year. It's good excuse not to


Richardson making the most of an opportunity this spring at Stanford
By John Devine
  For two years quarterback Jack Richardson has gotten his share of repetitions behind center in a Stanford uniform.
 It just hasn't been with the Cardinal offense.
 The 6-foot-4 Palma graduate has spent the better part of his first two years on 'The Farm' playing quarterback for the Cardinal scout team.
 "That's been a huge part of my development here,'" Richardson said. "What I've gotten out of it is practicing and anticipating plays while getting chemistry with the guys that are up and coming."
 With injuries to Stanford's projected first two quarterbacks next fall, Richardson has been handed the offense in the spring, taking all the first teams rep.
 "It's awesome," Richardson said. "I'm having an absolute blast getting reps with the first unit. Reps are so valuable. It forces you to learn very quickly."
 As it stands now, the redshirt sophomore will likely get all the repetitions during spring ball for the Cardinal, including the annual Spring Game in April.
 "No doubt, it's an opportunity to prove myself," said Richardson, who was a recruited walk on after throwing for over 2,300 yards at Palma in 2105. "I'm the only quarterback."
 Lining up with the first unit has also enabled Richardson to get more hands on coaching from the likes of head coach David Shaw and quarterbacks coach Tavita Pritchard.
 "It's invaluable," Richardson said. "When you have an opportunity in front of you, you have to take advantage of it. I'm very aware this is a big opportunity to prove myself and improve myself."
 Richardson, who just turned 20, spent the last few months diving into the playbook. He's done some volunteer 7-on-7 drills with his receivers.
 "The more consistent you get, the more trust you build with your receivers and coaches," Richardson said. "It comes down to preparation, understanding your situations on the field."
 Richardson made use of his time as the scout team quarterback, learning opposing teams' offensive schemes, making adjustments on the fly against the Cardinal defense.
 "Those reps I was getting was coming against our starting defense," Richardson said. "Guys that are getting drafted or will. It was such a valuable experience."
 Ironically the center for Richardson on the Stanford scout team last fall was Palma redshirt freshmen Drew Dalman, creating an instinct connection.
 "He was my center in high school," said Richardson, whose mother is in the Stanford Hall of Fame as a volleyball player, while his dad played football at Stanford.
 Richardson isn't oblivious to the odds of a walk on stepping into the limelight of a nationally ranked major program. But it's not impossible.
 Hiesman Trophy winning quarterback Baker Mayfield walked on at Texas Tech before transferring to Oklahoma, where is he now protected to be a top 10 pick in the NFL draft.
 "They're guys across the country that have walked on and made a name for themselves," Richardson said.
 Richardson took the Chieftains to a pair of league titles, throwing for a school record 39 touchdowns in two seasons, going 19-5 as a starter.
 "His strength in high school was his arm," Palma coach Jeff Carnazzo said. "He can make any throw you want him to make. His passion and work ethic are second to none."
 Richardson has spent the off-season working on his flexibility, building muscle on his 205-pound frame, and being better prepared for film sessions.
 "Realizing the situation a few months ago, I've had to take it day-by-day," Richardson said. "What can I do to make myself better? Focus on one step at a time. The goal right now is to have a good spring."
 As of now, there are no other options for Stanford behind center for the spring. It's unlikely that the other two quarterbacks on the roster, David Mills or KJ Costello, will be ready before the fall.
 "Jack had uncommon leadership ability in high school," Carnazzo said. "He's not afraid to get in the huddle and say something if needed. You don't know how hard that is to find in high school."
 Richardson did get a few snaps under center in a game last season, coming in and playing against Rice in the season opener in Australia.
 "I told my dad after the game, what I remembered was being in the flow," Richardson said. "After a year of being on the sidelines and not feeling that, it was great to get a rush out there."
 Richardson believes his strength is his resiliency. Short term memory as a quarterback is vital when things don't go as planed.
 "I say that because one of the keys with this learning process is there will be plays that don't go your way," Richardson said. "You have to analyze what went wrong quickly and flush it. You have to keep prepping, fighting."
 In two years at Stanford, Richardson has improved is knowledge of the playbook. He's made strides with his confidence and has shown off his arm. He's been praised by Shaw in the spring.
 Richardson's short term goals are simple. He wants to be on the traveling squad this fall for Stanford, who shared the conference title last year at 7-2, finishing 9-5 overall.
 "I have some strengths in my game," Richardson said "I have done a good job in these practices, in terms of managing the huddle, helping guys bounce back from bad plays. But honestly, I need to get better at everything. I have too."

Cunningham provides strong message at assembly
By John Devine
 If eyes really could pop out, hundreds of them would have been sprawled on the floor of the Bay View Academy assembly room in Monterey.
 Nick Cunningham, a three-time Winter Olympian with Monterey roots, who for most of the 250 or so kids in attendance had only seen on TV, walked onto campus.
 Before the bobsledder left the room after roughly speaking for an hour, he high-fived every kid and teacher, posed for pictures and signed anything from a dollar bill, to a shirt collar and backpacks.
 "That's what I'm talking about,'' Cunningham told grades 5th-8th as each kid saw a bigger than life image before their eyes.
 His impact went well beyond being an Olympian
 "It's surreal to see an Olympian at our school,'' 13-year-old Ellie Millette said. "I liked listening to his passion and journey. It was cool to see him person.''
 Eight days after competing in the four-man bobsled at the Winter Olympic in South Korea, the 32-year-old Cunningham was home sharing his past and present with the kids.
 "I was just like you guys at your age with a vision,'' Cunningham said. "It wasn't bobsledding. I grew up surfing. I had so many things in my life that I wanted to do. So I set up a pyramid."
 Cunningham, who hopes to get involved in NACAR driving this year, has always had a passion for speed. Which was one reason he ran track at Monterey High.
 "That and there was a girl I liked on the track team,'' Cunningham told the assembly. "I remember a shoe store saleman sold me distance spikes because he didn't think I could be a sprinter."
 Two years later Cunningham went back to that same store to buy some sprint shoes, reminding the owner that he just competed in the CIF state meet in the 100 and 200 meter sprints.
 "My point is don't let anyone dictate what you want to accomplish,'' Cunningham said. "Do not be afraid to fail. I've failed a lot of times. When you succeed, it makes it so much sweeter.''
 Not only did track provide a college scholarship, but ultimately led him down the path to where he is today as a three-time Winter Olympian.
 Cunningham shared his story of driving down a windy road after a track meet in Santa Barbara with his parents, when his mother jokingly said this feels like a bobsled course. You should try it.
 Two weeks after his collegiate track career at Boise State ended, Cunningham was in Lake Placid, New York, trying out for the United States bobsled team.
 "My decision at your guys age led to this dream,'' Cunningham said. "Everyone was a baseball player in my family. I choose track. Track is why I'm here talking to you today.''
 Cunningham had a group tided to his every word. With it came laughter and more questions than he had time to answer.
 "I'm a Monterey person just you guys,'' Cunningham said. "This is home. Don't think I'm a guy from the snow. I'm talking to you as a local."
 Cunningham didn't have an Olympic medal to show off, although he's won over 30 World Cup and America Cup medals during his nine year bobsled career.
 "Maybe we'll try again in four years,'' Cunningham said. "I've wanted to chase a dream since I was your age. I just didn't know how to get there."
 That dream was being an Olympian. Cunningham just thought it would be the Summer Olympics as a sprinter. Instead he's piloting a bobsled 95 mph in the winter to satisfy that dream.
 "Look at me,'' Cunningham said. "You don't see my name on this jacket. But you see USA all over it. I'm competing for my country, not for myself. Success is like a heart monitor. It's up and down."
 Squecling those competitive juices isn't out of Cunningham's system. He acknowledged he is scared to death about pro athlete depression, when his athletic career does come to an end.
 "I'm doing the opposite and putting as much on the table as possible,'' Cunningham said. "I'm trying to fill a void, whether it is speaking to schools or getting into a race car."
 Questions ranged from what kind of soap Cunningham uses to the food he eats. One person asked he liked cats or dogs. Another wanted to know if he shaves his head.
 "Not that (shaved head) is genetics,'' Cunningham smiled. "I like dogs. As for eating, you don't want to try new foods before a big event. So we ate chesseburgers and pizza in South Korea.
 The sacrifices Cunningham has made are endless. He told the assembly five months out of the year he is living in a suitcase, going from one event to another.
 "I learned not to let social media be a distraction,'' 10-year-old Ari Telfore said. "Don't be afraid to follow your dreams."
 One of the last questions Cunningham was asked is if ever doubted himself.
 "Just three weeks ago,'' Cunningham said. "I had one of the worse races in my life at the Olympics. But you have to realize you control yourself. At the end of the day, no one knows me better than myself. I'm challenging all of you to chase you dreams and be successful. Don't be afraid of failure."

 By John Devine
 Salinas >> A celebration three years in the making became a reality.
 The prize was something bigger than 11 seniors on Alisal boys soccer team ever envisioned when this quest began as sophomore in 2016.
 "Amazing,"Alisal midfielder Carlos Pacheco.
 Fighting back tears after Saturdays' 3-1 win over Richmond for the Northern California Division II title, Pacheco looked around in a daze.
 "It's barely hitting me what we just accomplished," Pacheco said
 Pacheco wasn't the only senior with tears streaming down their faces.
 "I'm so happy," Juan Ochoa said. "This is all I ever wanted to achieve."
 That being something historic, that years from now, he and his teammates and coaches will be able to look back and boast about being the first program to win a Northern California title
 "I'm said that the season is over and I will never play for Alisal again,'' Pacheco said. "But when I come back someday, I'll know that plaque is something we achieved as one."
Eight days ago the Trojans had walked off the field, failing to bring home a Central Coast Section Open Division title.
 It took some massaging from head coach Mark Cisernos to get the juices flowing that there was an even bigger prize out there.
 "We had to work on their minds,'' Cisneros said. "Losing in the CCS semifinals felt like the plug had been pulled from us. I reminded them the season isn't over."
 Extended an invitation to the inaugural tournament, the excitement still wasn't quite there until after the first game.
 "I don't think they realized the importance of it,'' Cisneros said. "After that first game, it hit them that this is big."
 The Trojans (19-2-4) got the fire back in posting 3-2 and 3-1 wins in the first two round to reach the finals.
 The emotion in several of the players spilled out, Ochoa covered his face with his uniform Cisneros broke after players began embracing their coach.
 "I so proud of all you,'' Cisneros said. "You made history. When you back someday, you'll be able to tell your wife or kids I was on that team. You brought a lot of smiles to this community."
 Having scrimmaged Richmond earlier this season, the Trojans were familiar with their style, which in the mind of Cisneros, was similar to his squad.
 Like Alisal, the Oilers had dropped just two games all season, one being their North Coast Section title game.
 "What was critical for us is we stayed mentally focused for 80 minutes,'' Cisneros said.
 And when Ochoa sliced one through the net 15 minutes into the game, the Trojans had a 1-0 lead, albeit short-lived when Octavio Munoz for Richmond four minutes later.
 The Oilers matched Alisal's quickness. A lack of possessions in the middle was keeping them from penetrating towards the box.
 That is until Angel Amezuca remained hot in the tournament with his fourth goal at the 25 minute mark, giving the Trojans a 2-1 halftime lead.
 Now it was time for the defense to rise to occasion as Ochoa and Abraham Montano formed a wall to limited Richmond's attempts on goal.
 When it did, Luis Canseco met the challenge, stopping five shots, leaping to knock a shot over the crossbar at the 65 minute mark.
 Canseco didn't give up a goal in league play in helping the Trojans to a Gabilan Division title.
 The stop seemed to ignite Alisal as Amezcua got an open look from 20 yards out and kicked a ball that slowly trickled through the net to give them a 3-1 cushion.
 Amezuca, the Gabilan Division Player of the Year in his first season playing for Alisal, finished the year with 21 goals.
 At that point, the Trojans could feel an historic season becoming a reality. When Cisneros learned that there were four minutes left, he managed to get every player into the game.
 "I'm just so happy for these kids,'' said Cisneros, who was soak in wet from a gatoraide shower, as well as a steady rain that fell throughout the game. "This is special."

Kyle Czaplak.Kyle Czaplak
 By John Devine
 One at bat in a 31-0 baseball season for arguably the best player on the roster. It came in the final game of a championship spring for Kyle Czaplak five years ago at Pacific Grove High.
 Czaplak, a four-year starting shortstop, worked the pitcher for a walk, which was all he could do at time, removed for a pinch runner upon reaching first base.
 Surgery on both hips to repair cartilage shut down his senior season -- a season he knew had the potential to be special for the Breakers.
 "It was hard to swallow going 31-0 and getting one at bat," Czaplak said. "Sure, there were times I questioned my decision. But I don't know if I have regrets."
 The belief was his future was in front of him, with a scholarship to Santa Clara awaiting him. And it was. It's just was not the path the current CSU Monterey Bay shortstop envisioned five years later.
 Two years removed from the game, Czaplak has helped the Otters to a No. 14 national ranking with a .340 batting average in the heart of the order, while filling a void at shortstop with his glove.
 "Every journey in this ride has given me a prospective," Czaplak said. "If I could do it again, would I have pushed the surgery back? Maybe. I'm just so appreciative to be back doing what I love.''
 Czaplak's path back to the sport after a two year layoff following two unproductive seasons at Santa Clara was never guaranteed. Would the hips hold up? Would anyone even give him a chance?
 "I knew deep down I wanted to play again," Czaplak said. "I just was not sure how to go about it. I reached out to a few schools that I had previously been in contact with."
 Little materialized for the 23-year-old. Even he was not sure how his hips or right shoulder would respond until he begin grinding on a daily basis.
 "It wasn't like I was sitting on the couch and decided lets give it a shot," Czaplak said. "I felt I was as well prepared as I could be. You never know how the body will hold up going through the grind."
 It's been a pleasant surprise for Czaplak, who says he hasn't felt this good since he was a 14-year-old freshman on the Breakers varsity baseball team.
 "I didn't expect to get a guy hitting .340," CSUMB coach Walt White said. "It was an opportunity for him to get back into baseball. We gave him a glimmer of hope. He's knocked the door down."
 Czaplak's presence in the lineup as a left-handed bat has enabled White to split power hitters Jacob Tonascia and Hayden Duer. The result has the pair chasing the school home run record.
 "In the fall, there were a couple of guys ahead of him," White said. "Not playing for two years and fighting through injuries, most people would have said 'I'm done'. Kyle wasn't ready to let it go."
 Czaplak's reasons for reaching out to White stemmed from a meeting with assistant coach Derek Bell, who helped coach a youth team with Czaplak over the summer.
 "He kicked around the idea," Czaplak said. "We got to talking. He started hitting me ground balls. The passion never left. He introduced me to coach White."
 Czaplak was already attending CSUMB, pursuing another degree in physical therapy. At the same time, he was training at The Alpha Project in Salinas with Paul Cater.
 Cater, who works as a trainer in the Baltimore Orioles system in spring training, helped Czaplak regain his motion and range.
 "He got me back on track," Czaplak said. "I owe a lot to them. These are exercises that I'm doing today to keep me on the field on a daily basis."
 Czaplak has started 26 of the Otters 30 games this year. He is fourth on the team in hits and third in runs batted in with 22.
 "Being away from the game for so long took time to re acclimate," Czaplak said. "Every pitch is a learning experience. I've learned a lot about my body over the years. Staying on top of things, I can not take a day off. I can't take it for granted. I know how easily it can be taken away from you."
 While Czaplak has been a pleasant addition in the batting order, he has also formed a solid double-play combination with second baseman Myles Hager, who is his roommate on road trips.
  "I knew nothing about him when he arrived,'' Hager said. "We even have a class together. He didn't say much. I had press him to talk about the injuries. He just puts his head down and works hard."
 Of course, if the conversation is about baseball, Czaplak has been known to stay up into the night on road trips and discus at bats with Hager and defensive situations.
 "He wants to talk baseball as much as anyone I've played with," Hager said. "On the road, he'll bring up an at bat in the hotel room. We give each other feed back. He never turns off the game."
 Czaplak's decision to have both his hips surgically repaired his senior year at Pacific Grove came because he wanted to be at full strength upon his arrival at Santa Clara.
  Yet, the range of motion Czaplak began to loss his junior year in high school didn't return as hoped after the procedures. He struggled to regain his rhythm at the plate and in the field.
 In fact, he had a second surgery on his right hip after his sophomore season at Santa Clara, and had shoulder surgery as well, forcing Czaplak to redshirt his junior year.
 He never put on the uniform again. Coaches at Santa Clara informed Czaplak they were going in a different direction, offering him the option to go somewhere else.
 "You're not putting up the numbers you're expected to," Czaplak said. "You're only going to get so many chances. I was OK with that. I got my school paid for and got my degree."
 Still, the passion for the game lingered in the back of his mind. The second procedure brought back his range of motion. His shoulder felt strong again.
 "A normal thought process is there was doubt that I'd never play again," Czaplak said. "What floated around my mind is no would give me another shot. I stayed prepared just in case."
 Now paper work is being filed so Czaplak can return next spring if he chooses to play for what would be his senior season as a collegiate.
 "The focus is on this year,'' Czaplak said. "I'm trying to help take this team as far as we can. If there is something left in the tank. I could see myself playing next year. I'm having the time of my life."
 And for the first time since he was 14, Czaplak is running around pain free, not worried if the body will hold up.
 "He has to do things differently than an 18-year-old," White said. "He has his own stretching routine and workout program to keep him healthy. It's not just his play that's inspiring. It's how he treats his teammates. He's a natural leader."
 What Czaplak wants more than anything is a championship, the opportunity to be on the field when a team celebrates a title.
 The Otters, who are off to the best start in school history, come into this weekend's home series with CSU-Dominguez Hills 23-7 overall
 "We're growing as a team,'' Czaplak said. "The confidence is there. But we haven't played our best game yet. The rankings don't mean anything if you come up short at the end of the year. I've never been on a team that is this connected. We all come from different journeys. That's what makes us special."


 By John Devine
  The euphoria that Hansi Rigney felt crossing the finish line in her 105 marathon was accompanied with numbness and pure misery.
 As gratifying as winning her age division for the second straight year at Monday's Boston Marathon was, the conditions were as challenging as any race the 76-year-old has run.
 "The pictures don't paint a true story," Rigney said. "There wasn't a minute where it didn't rain. The wind was blowing, with gusting head winds. It was 35 degrees and puddles of water."
 Rigney knows the elements for Boston in April can be lethal. She's run the world renown marathon in 85 degree heat, and with snow on the ground from the night before.
 "It's been cold before,'' Rigney said. "But this was a record. I can take the heat much better. The wind and rain hitting against us felt like little pellets. It was miserable."
 And while all marathons are a physical test of courage, this 26-mile, 385-yard adventure challenged the Carmel resident's mental capacity.
 "My body didn't feel right,'' Rigney said. "I couldn't feel my feet. My legs went numb. I couldn't feel my tongue. The conditions never got better. I really didn't think I was going to finish."
 In fact, Rigney was forced to walk portions of the final six miles when her body cramped up and she felt dizzy
 "I never walked before,'' Rigney said. "I felt like was going to collapse. My legs weren't lifting. I was not in control of my body. It became mind over matter."
 Despite all the setbacks and poor conditions, Rigney still broke five hours, finishing in 4:55.17, her slowest of the 14 she has run at Boston.
 "Given the conditions, it was a good finish,'' said Rigney, a former world class speed walker. "I was on target to run 4:33. But the last six miles was a struggle. The last six are always the hardest."
 Rigney, who expects to compete next Sunday in the Big Sur Marathon, had pills to help with the cramping. But her salt tablets had melted from the rain.
 "I had to change my pace and figure out how in the world am I going to finish this,'' Rigney said. "I don't want to exaggerate how hard this was. But there were times I couldn't see straight.
 Fear of fainting forced Rigney to walk for stretches over the last few miles. When she regained her vision, she reset her goals and push along.
 "I remember thinking my kids are tracking my progress,'' Rigney said. "I don't want to collapse and be taken off on a stretcher to the medical tent. I didn't want to embarrass them."
 The feeling of crossing the finish line never felt more rewarding for Rigney, who needed to lean on her husband after the race because of her balance.
 "I felt dizzy,'' Rigney said. "My tonque was still numb. I couldn't even eat a banana. But there is taht feeling of euphoria when you finish a marathon."
 Quick to recover, Rigney and her husband went to the hotel for the award ceremony, not knowing if she evened placed, let alone defend her title.
 "I remember them calling the runner-up's name,'' Rigney said. "Then I didn't recognize the next name the way it was pronounced. It was until he said Carmel, California that I said 'Oh my gosh, that's me. It was a nice surprise."
 Normally crowds double the size cover the 26 mile course, turning the event into a city holiday of sorts.
 While those that braved the elements provided an incentive with their support, distractions were not a good thing for Rigney on this day.
 "I was so focused on myself and my body,'' Rigney said. "It always fun to have people call our your number. But our numbers gone from the rain. My only focus was on the need to finish."
 The conditions were so bad that the Boston Red Sox canceled their annual game on Patriots Day, the first time that has occurred in the history of the event.
 "You can always believe the forecast,'' Rigney said. "And things can change quickly, for better or worse. It got worse. The rain came down even harder as the day went on."
 A five-time champion in her age division for Boston, Rigney has already turned the page and has her focus set on Big Sur.
 "Boston is a tradition,'' Rigney said. "Its the most prestigious marathon. It's the oldest in the United States. Big Sur is in my back yards. The conditions are bound to be better than Boston."
 If Rigney had her way, she'd prefer the races be six days a part instead of 13.
 "I actually feel six days between the two is easier than 13,'' Rigney said. "You just take a couple of short runs and go. When you have 13 days, you do more."
 Of course, not getting back to her home until Wednesday because of flight delays means Rigney hasn't had much sleep since Sunday.
 "I didn't sleep well Monday night because I was sore,'' Rigney said. "And last night we were stuck in Los Angeles. So I tired to sleep on the floor at the airport. But it was hard."
 Rigney, who didn't run her first marathon until her mid 50s, has her sites et on five this year, as she will run one in Berlin, Chicago and Sacramento, where set the course record by 10 minutes last year in her age division.
Aspirations to become the oldest runner to complete Boston means Rigney has some more miles to put over the next decade after 85-year-old Katherine Beiers of Santa Cruz completed the event.


By John Devine
 As a quarterback, Brian Reader always looked for an edge. So when he returned home during the holidays, he'd waltz into Palma coach Jeff Carnazzo office to talk football.
 All of a sudden Reader was standing in front of a chalkboard and scripting plays for Carnazzo like a seasoned coach.
 "You usually do not see that from a player," Carnazzo said. "He made it a point to talk football. I'm thinking this kid is a coach. We adopted some of things he showed me."
 When a three-year stint in the Arena Football League ended, coaching came calling for Reader, who was promoted to a running backs coach/recruiting coordinator at the University of Idaho.
 "It's a step in the right direction for me," Reader said. "Last year was a great experience for me. But this is what I want to do."
 Last season the 29-year-old Reader became the Director of Football Operations for Idaho, where he learned the facets of a football program away from the field.
 "I was fortunate to learn the other side of the game," Reader said. "The behind the scenes, the travel, what the program needed. The fundraising. Not many people get to see that side."
 Yet, when an opportunity presented itself to get back on the field and coach, there was no hesitation for Reader, who spent his first season at Idaho working with the receivers as a graduate assistant.
 "I still have so much to learn about the game," Reader said. "Working with the receivers in 2016 and now the running backs has helped me see the game from a different prospective."
 Reader, who threw for nearly 3,500 yards and 21 touchdowns in 27 games at Idaho, spent three years in the Arena Football League, with hopes of getting the attention of an NFL team.
 "It was not the NFL," Reader said. "But I met some of my best friends today playing in the Arena League. My goal was to get some tape for a resume. Everyone hopes for a Kurt Warner story."
 Before Warner became a Hall of Fame quarterback, taking the St. Louis Rams to two Super Bowls and the Arizona Cardinals to one, he was a quarterback in the Arena League.
 In his final season with the New Orleans Voodoo, Reader tossed 21 touchdown passes in six games before sustaining a season ending knee injury.
 Reader returned to Idaho to do his rehabbing, with hopes of returning for a fourth year in the Arena League, throwing the ball to anyone willing to catch it.
 Yet, with his professional playing career at a crossroads, a conversation with Idaho athletic director Rob Spear gave Reader an option.
 "He just asked me if you can't play, do you want to coach?" Reader said. "I said yes. The opportunity presented itself. People liked me from the past. Thinking back, it's kind of crazy how it all happened."
 During the Arena League's off-season, Reader had returned to Palma to help Carnazzo coach at the  lower levels.
 "He wanted to play as long as he could," Carnazzo said. "I used to tell him to chase that dream for as long as you possibly can. When it ends, you have coaching. His older brothers were all linemen. But Brian was born to play quarterback and coach."
 As it turned out, the significance of the knee injury was enough for Reader to realize his dream was coming to an end. It was time to start a new chapter in his life.
"Just too many injuries," said Reader, who former three-sport standout at Palma, who threw for a then single-season school record 2,338 yards in 2006.
 A meeting with head coach Paul Petrino landed him a non-paying position on the defensive side of the ball in 2016. That lasted for two months before Reader became a receivers coach.
 "I was working directly with the head coach," Reader said. "It was a great experience. I can't tell you how much I was able to learn. I was like a sponge."
 Ironically, Reader and Petrino paths nearly crossed in 2008 at Arkansas when the Palma prodigy was a recruited walk-on and Petrino had just joined his brother as an offensive coordinator.
 Reader, though, had already decided to leave Arkansas after a redshirt season under Houston Nutt, who was fired and replaced by Bobby Petrino.
 "We were probably on campus at the same time," said Reader, who spent the year at Arkansas before transferring to Monterey Peninsula College and guiding them to a 10-0 record.
 While he enjoyed his role as Director of Football Operations, being absent from the coaching ranks made Reader realize coaching was his calling.
 "I always felt I had a good grasp of what we were trying to do as a player," Reader said. "As a coach, you're becoming a teacher. Technique is so huge at this level, how you start and finish each play."
 While Carnazzo looked at Reader as a coach on the field when he was quarterbacking the Chieftains to a 10-2 record, that was the farthest thing from his mind at the time.
 "Coach Carnazzo used to say you'd be a great coach some day," Reader said. "I enjoyed the X's and O's. But back then I was more worried about getting a football scholarship."
 Which came two years later when Reader was among the state leaders in passing yards for MPC, landing a full-ride to the University of Idaho -- which is now become home.
 "There were other routes I could have taken," Reader said. "The decision that was made to walk on at Arkansas helped mold me who I am today. I'm fortunate the way my life has turned out. I met my wife at Idaho."
 Ambitions have now turned to growing his expanded role as a coach,  grooming himself to be a head coach some day.
 "You have to have an achievable goal," Reader said. "I still have so much to learn about the game. My job is to help put a successful offense on the field. Hard work pays off. You have to trust the process."
 Carnazzo doesn't need to look into a crystal ball to predict Reader's future.
 "You start with his passion for the sport," Carnazzo said. "He's a football junkie. He's leadership is really good. At some point, he'll be a head coach at the college level."

By John Devine
Living a dream of playing professional baseball for 18 years, coaching the sport never crossed Jack Santora's mind.
 When he hung up the cleats in Italy two years ago, so went a charmed life for the former Monterey High and UCLA shortstop - or so he thought.
 "I met my wife in Italy," Santora said. "We decided to make a life in America. I got my old job back in Carmel. But it wasn't the life I wanted to live. It felt like I was going to work."
 Teaching the game, though, came so naturally to Santora. So did an unexpected text from former A's infielder Mike Gallego, who asked if he was interested in coaching in the Angels organization.
 "It happened so fast," Santora said. "I did a phone interview with Mike. I had never met him. I went in blindfolded. I just gave him my interpretation of how I played baseball."
 What ever Santora said, it fit with the philosophy of the Angels organization, as they hired him to be a defensive coach in 2017 for their Class A Midwest team in Iowa.
 A year later the 41-year-old is managing the Angel's Arizona Rookie League team, which is littered with prospects ranging between the ages of 16-21.
 "When I read the Angels philosophies on offense and defense, it was exactly what I had told Mike in that interview. I didn't have time to prepare for the interview. I gave him an honest answer."
 Monterey baseball coach Michael Groves saw coaching in Santora's DNA even before his former progidy even knew it.
 "He has positive energy,'' Groves said. "He can relate and communicate with players. He's a positive force when he's around players. We loved having help us when he could."
 Baseball is what Santora knows. It's engulfed his life since he was old enough to pick up a bat and glove. Going to the ballpark each day is a passion he isn't ready to let go of.
 "When you play the game for so long, it's a part of you," Santora said. "Mike Aldrete always told me it's what we do. I have no idea where it's going. But I love what I do and I believe I'm good at it."
 Aldrete, a Monterey High grad, who is the bench coach for the A's and a former major league player, was influential in Santora's decision to get into coaching after his playing career ended.
 "I leaned on Mike Aldrete when I was thinking about coaching," Santora
 Managing at the lower levels is more about teaching and grooming prospects for the future, as well as helping them adapt to being on their own.
 Santora's
 "It's not just managing baseball," Santora said. "It's managing life. We have culture simulation. At this age, your life is built around emotions. I'm teaching the process."
 Santora, who got a taste in managing last fall in the Instructional League, showed enough promise to get promoted last winter to manage the Angels rookie league team.
 "When the organization asked me what my plans were last season, I had a pretty good feeling they liked me," Santora said. "When they asked if I was interested in managing, I said absolutely."
 What Santora has enjoyed is watching the growth of his players in a short time. Two have already been promoted. More are expected to make the jump to Class A.
 "These kids are developing right in front of your eyes," Santora said. "When coordinators come to town, they're telling me 'wow, he looks great'. This is the foundation of the organization."
 Had Santora not put in a call to the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, none of this would have likely happened.
 Originally drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 19th round in 1999, Santora spent eight years in the organization, getting as high as Triple A. He had former teammates in the organization.
 "I played with Andy Green (current Padres manager) in the minors for four years," Santoraer) in the minors for four years," Santora said. "He said call Mike Bell when you're done playing. But they didn't have a job for me."
 But the Angles did. So Bell sent Gallego a text with a recommendation. Three weeks later Santora had a job.
 "When you're good at your craft and someone believes in you and trusts you, baseball will open the door," Santora said. "Baseball is a tight knit community."
 Ironically, had Santora not gone over the Italy and spent a decade playing shortstop for one of the top Italian teams, he likely wouldn't have gotten into coaching.
 The original plan was to spend a year in Italy, tour the country and come home and get what he calls a real job.
 "I was 29 years old when I went to Italy," Santora said. "I still wanted to play. I never looked at a coach growing up and saying I want to do this. As I got older, teaching it kind of evolved."
 Spending a month each of the last five years with Groves brought the thought of coaching to the fore front for Santora.
 "We had him on our lineup card as a special instructor," Groves said. "He's such a fantastic infield and hitting coach. He finds what you're not doing well and improves on it."
 Plans changed for Santora, who turned his one year vision into a 10-year career in Italy, playing on three World Baseball Classic teams, including one with Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza.
 "I went from being in debt to saving money," Santora said. "I loved playing. A summer in Italy. Are you kidding me. I'd go to the beach each morning and pinch myself. What a life."
 Life in the minors isn't quite the same as spending a summer on the beach in  Italy. Santora went that route in the Diamondbacks organization.
 The first time he played in a major league ballpark came while playing for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic.
 Coaching could be that ticket to 'The Show'.
 "You go to work each day and see what happens," Santora said. "The fact that the Angels trust me with their prospects means a lot. I will never took forward. Yes, I have aspirations. Right now you just go with it."

By John Devine

 Anthony Garnett once waited five hours in the office of then USC football coach Pete Carroll to get five minutes of his time.
 He's coached in high school football in Florida, college football in Missouri. Garnett worked football camps in Minnesota, staying with an old classmate while pursuing his masters degree.
 Taking that next step in his career meant taking risks, unafraid to pack up  and drive across country at a moment notice if an opportunity to enhance himself as a coach popped up.
 "I've always been pro active," the former Seaside High and Monterey Peninsula College quarterback said. "One of my mentors once told me you need to find a guy to teach the game at this level."
 Garnett never forgot that advice. So when he ran into Arizona State football coach Herm Edwards at GEO Cuts in Seaside, the 34-year-old reminded his mentor abut that advice during a hair cut.
 "I told coach Herm I'll do what ever it takes,'' Garnett said. "I'll volunteer. He said we'll be in touch. I flew out to see him. I shadowed the strength coach and picked the defensive coordinators brain."
 Before Garnett was set to fly back to Monterey, Edwards offered him a job as a defensive analyst, where he shadows defensive coordinator Danny Gonzalez.
 "I do what every coach Gonzalez needs me to do," Garnett said. "I've attached myself to the hip with him. I break down so much film. I'm in a lot of meetings. I'm learning more than anything."
 For someone who spent his entire playing career on the offensive side of the ball, Garnett is using his knowledge of the game offensively to pick a part defenses when watching film.
 "What I do is put my head into a computer, watch film and make suggestions," Garnett said. "I don't have a lot of interaction with the players."
 And that's fine for Garnett, who has found himself in a position to take steps towards attaining a goal of being a head coach someday.
 "My dream job was to play in the NFL or NBA," Garnett said. "But this has been a goal. Once I got into coaching, I realized this is something I love and I could do for a while."
 More than a decade since he took his last snap from center at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Garnett has been a offensive coordinator, a receivers coach, a defensive coach and special teams coach.
 "Having a former quarterback breaking down defensives on film for us gives us a great advantage," said Edwards, a Monterey High icon, and former NFL player and coach.
 Ironically it was Edwards who encouraged Garnett to remain a quarterback, when he considered an offer from UC Davis to become a free safety while at Seaside.
 "I remember he told me times are changing," Garnett said. "Stay at quarterback. When I came here, coach Herm said you can look through a quarterback eyes in breaking down film."
 Garnett, whose collegiate career at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo came to an end seven games into his senior season after tearing his ACL, has floated around the last 12 years, building a resume.
 One of his stops included a return to MPC as receivers coach for two years, where Garnett worked closely with head coach Mike Rasmussen.
 "He's always had the potential to be a college coach and move up the ladder," Rasmussen said. "This is a great opportunity to expose that and be connected to that level of coaching."
 During his two years as the quarterback at MPC in 2002-2003, Garnett, threw for nearly 5,000 yards, earning a scholarship to Cal Poly, where he led them to their best season a decade his junior year.
 So when Rasmussen offered Garnett a position, he returned home to work with the receivers at MPC between 2014-2016.
 "I couldn't turn it down," Garnett said. "He was my very first quarterback coach. He was comfortable in letting me do what I needed. I was grateful for the experience."
 Rasmussen believes coaching on the defensive side of the ball will be the best experience Garnett can get if he has aspirations of becoming a head coach one day -- at any level.
 "Absolutely," Rasmussen said. "The best thing he can do is work on the other side of the ball. I think Anthony has settled down and realizes this is what he wants to do."
 Each stop along Garnett's coaching journey has provided moments that go beyond coaching. While at American Heritage Academy in Florida, he worked a quarterback. that grew beyond sports
 "I was right out of college," Garnett said. "He trained with me. We developed a friendship. Now I'm his son's godfather. It was blessing spending a year in Ft. Lauderdale.
 Becoming a quarterback coach at Missouri Science and Technology University in 2008 became the driving force for Garnett to pursue a higher goal.
 "I saw snow for the first time," Garnett said. "It jumped started my career. It kind of propelled me to everything that has come full circle. I started taking graduating classes, chasing my Masters."
 Returning to Seaside 15 years after quarterbacking them to a 9-2 record as an offensive coordinator in 2016 convinced Garnett that he wanted to be head coach someday.
 "I wanted to prepare and scheme and what I liked," Garnett said. "Coach Avila gave me a chance to run the offense. But I remember he told me 'I know you're only going to be here a year'."
 Now Garnett has found himself on one of the biggest stages in the Pac 12. While his role a new, he has embraced the challenge and is providing the Sun Devils with a need.
 "No doubt, this is something I've been waiting for," Garnett said. "I feel this is where I'm suppose to be. It's everything I thought it would be. I don't want to led coach Herm down."
 Garnett is shy about insisting this isn't his dream job. But it's an opportunity for him to pursue higher goals in his coaching career.
"I can't wait to get back to the offensive side of the ball one day," Garnett said. "What I've learned in the last two years, you look at things so differently when you're on the defensive side. It has help me tremendously for my offensive brain.
 And while breaking down film of opponents each week can get tedious, Garnett loves his role, as well as the opportunity to improve himself as a coach.
 "Coaching Division I football was a goal," Garnett said. "I'm learning so much. The sky is the limit. This has been so beneficial for, reinforcing a vision. I know what direction I want to go."

By John Devine
 Nick Cunningham has always believed in creating an opportunity, not waiting for one to arise.
 Olympic stardom as a bobsledder didn't occur from an invitation, rather a vision that Cunningham came up with his mother driving down a hill in Santa Barbara.
 Now the Monterey High graduate has put into motion another dream of his. Not surprisingly, it deals with speed -- this time behind four weeks.
 Cunningham has been spending time in Eagle, Idaho with the Patriot Motor Sports Group, a feeding program for NASCAR.
 "I had a go-kart as a kid," Cunningham said. "I grew up a huge NASCAR fan. But I never thought at 33 years old I would be looking to 16 year olds for advice."
 For Cunningham, who will be the Grand Marshall for the Colmo de Rodeo Parade in Salinas on July 15, racing is another platform for him to chase another vision -- and that is to race at high speeds.
 For someone that once ran roughly 23 mph as a sprinter at Boise State, has gone around turns at 90 plus mph on a bobsled, Cunningham is dipping into triple digits on the speedometer.
 "I have loaded my plate with things I want to do while I can," Cunningham said. "I am trying to be 100 percent selfish and make it about me."
 So much so that Cunningham is contemplating competing in both sports. Oh, and there is one more objective on his menu. He wants to be a college sprint coach in track.
 "In a perfect world, I'll jump in the car and race from April until October and bobsled from October until April," Cunningham said.
  So where does coaching fit it?
 That's the issue Cunningham is dealing with today as he continues his training for both bobsledding and race car driving -- unsure yet if he's willing to make another four year Olympic commitment.
 In the meantime, Cunningham has submitted numerous applications to college track vacancies for programs looking for a sprint coach.
 A solid job offer could force him to make a decision on his two other careers.
 "Could I walk away? I don't know," Cunningham said. "I would probably have to sit down and have a Margarita. If Arkansas called me tomorrow to coach track, I'd have to consider it."
 Cunningham felt he had fulfilled his vision of being an Olympian, having competed in three Winter Olympics in bobsledding, even talked about retirement from the sport.
 "I'm weighing the pros and cons," Cunningham said. "I definitely have another quad (four years) in me. Looking
 Yet, he admits he's hooked on auto racing, and improving each day. The expectation is he will compete in his first K-N Pro Series West race in September.
 "I've gotten in a lot of quality laps," Cunningham said. "Getting wheel-to-wheel racing has been very valuable. It's not just a bunch of left turns. I'm trying to earn the respect of my competitors."
 Cunningham has been driving cars on quarter mile and half mile tracks, with race cars that don't have a speedometer for a reason.
 "In reality I don't believe I'll make it to the Cup Series," Cunningham said. "Money is one issue. And age. But I like to flirt between the out-of-control and in-control line."
 Cunningham visions being a multi sport athlete that competes professionally on the Olympic stage and the NASCAR world.
 "If I can bobsled and race, I'll be one of a few athletes that can offer two sports, with NASCAR and Olympic marketability," Cunningham said. "That's national and international TV time."
 One thing Cunningham has never been afraid of is failure. Bobsledding started with a thought during his freshman year running track at the University of Santa Barbara.
 When his track and field career didn't go as planned at Santa Barbara, he refocused and transferred to Boise State, establishing himself as one of the programs top 100 and 200 meter sprinters.
 "If you fail, at least you failed in something you're passionate about," Cunningham said. "If I chase one of my passions and fail, it's not the end of the world. I failed doing what I love."
 Which brings Cunningham back to coaching track. He has always gravitated back to the sport that he feels opened avenues for him to pursue other goals in his life.
 Talk of being a volunteer track coach while pursuing his other two visions is an option, especially since he is no longer in the Army, and has moved back to Monterey, where he's in his comfort zone.
 "This is my training base," Cunningham said. "I have so much more of a support system. Sometimes this feels like a job and it wears on you. Being home serves as motivation to train harder."
 By his own admission, Cunningham's plan changes daily. He's calling July an important month as he looks to his future.
 "This month will be a big month in deciding what direction I go," said Cunningham, who has also put his name in the hat for the sprinters job at San Jose State.
 Cunningham's dad is a San Jose State alumni. He's knows the history of the men's program, once upon a time the most feared men's track programs in the nation before it shut down in 1988.
 "I read Bud Winters books on 'Speed City'," Cunningham said. "I love the history of that program. It was one of the most feared programs. I'd love to jump start it. All I want is an opportunity."
 Yet, that itch to compete at least in the World Bobsledding championships in 2021 has crept back into Cunningham's head.
 The World Championships will be held in Lake Placid, NY, where it all began for Cunningham. Plus he has medaled in every major event ever held there as a driver.
 The passion remains. But so does his desire to jump into a NASCAR and chase another dream, even after crashing on lap 47 of a 50 lap practice race last week.
 "My first thought was how to pay for the damage," Cunningham said. "I drifted out and clipped the wall. I should have held my ground. I was trying to do to much too soon. It won't happen again."
 But without the financial support of the military, Cunningham has to find resources and sponsors to cover the expenses of both sports. Or land his dream job and reshuffle his cards.
 "I keep hearing we're looking for three years of coaching experience," Cunningham said. "I say how about 10 years of  Olympic experience? If can get an interview, I could plead my case."
 For now Cunningham has resumed his training for bobsledding, which resembles what a sprinter -- big surprise -- would do.
 "It's nice to have options," Cunningham said. "I've got a great support system here, being back home. I'm going to end up doing something I love. Nothing wrong with that."


By John Devine
 Nearly half of Ron Johnson's life has been devoted to the Boys and Girls Club of Monterey County.
 That commitment has not gone unnoticed. Nor has connection Johnson has built over the years with the youth of the peninsula.
 In conjunction with programs 50th anniversary, Johnson was named the Boys and Girls Club's new president and CEO after an unanimous vote from the board of directors.
 "I've kind of felt like I've been grooming for this position," Johnson said. "Michael Jackson has been encouraging me to take the CEO spot."
 Johnson, a former Monterey and Monterey Peninsula College football and track standout, succeeds Jackson, who stepped down.
 "Michael will remain as a CEO coach," Johnson said. "He's been in a lot of high level positions. It's a nice person for me to lean on through this transition."
 Johnson, who spent a handful of season playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, has been the associate vice president of the long for several years.
 "I guess you can say I've been the No. guy," said Johnson, who has been with the boys and girls club for 26 years.
 Johnson, who started as a program director shortly after he retired from the NFL, also served as the director of operations.
 "I've always felt my connection was with young people and getting the best out of them," Johnson said. "I like being around that energy. I've tired setting a culture."
 One that Johnson hopes to enhance and expand. When he started, there were 75 kids in the Seaside Boys and Girls Club.
 That number has expanded to a little over 250. He will also oversee the Salinas Boys and Girls Club, which has over 350 members.
 "My greatest satisfaction is seeing these kids learn a skill, gain ability and confidence and knowing they're people of character," Johnson said.
 Johnson will now become the face of the organization. He will head up all the fundraising, which he hopes will soon include a teen center for high schools kids to be a part of.
 "We're also pushing our iniative, which is academic success, a healthy lifestyle and good character," Johnson said. "We want to keep the clubs reputation in a favorable place."
 While Johnson has relished his roles with the club and working with kids, this has been something he has thought back.
 Johnson thought back to when his mother went from being a teacher to an administrator, and how she was hesitate at first to leave the classroom -- a position she cherished.
 "Someone told her you could be effecting 600 lives instead of 30," Johnson recalled. "She realized she could impact more people. I now have the ability to effect more lives and make a bigger impact."
 Johnson, who also runs the annual Johnson-Toney free football camp every June at MPC -- which has been going on for 23 years, wants to dispel the preception that the club is a recreation.
 "We're full service for kids," Johnson said. "We're making sure the kids feel safe and secure. We're always working on their character, a culture were everyone gets along."
 The boys and girls club offers assistance for student with academic needs. Kids don't come to the centers in Seaside and Salinas to just play video games.
 "We're making sure their excerising each day," Johnson said. "We make if fun. They don't realize they're moving on their feet for an hour. We have art, science and math."
 Johnson their are other programs put on by the club that bring kids from south county and north county.
 "That's another 300 kids that come and work with our staff that aren't even members," Johnson said. "We're always working towards our mission."
 One that includes getting more high school kids involved. The club has 2.4 million of a projected six million to build a teen center adjance to the Seaside Boys and Girls Club.
 "The preception is the club is for their little brother or sister," Johnson said. "That's not true. We are going to make it attractive for them. We can offer the options."
 The idea is to get more teanagers involved, with the thought of looking into the future for them.
 "We want to grow out teen population," Johnson said. "We want to get more teen in college or into a working program. There is so much more we feel we can accomplish here."
By John Devine

 Expectations turned to pressure. With it came anxiety. Stress led to disappointment.
 A state women's cross country team title was the objective. Didn't happen. In fact, Hartnell finished ninth.
 "State last fall was very humbling,"  distance ace Arlene Diaz Leal said. "It taught me the importance of dedication, consistency and most important teamwork.''
 Whether the Panthers significant seven are running with a chip on their shoulder, or are looking for redemption, they are certainly running with a purpose and peaking at the right time.
 On the heels of the most dominating effort ever by a women's program in Northern California, the Panthers have their eyes set on a bigger achievement Saturday in the state finals in Fresno.
 "The sophomores understand we did not finish the job last year," Hartnell coach Chris Zepeda said. "We didn't run particularly well. It's a different mindset this year. This group encourages each other, pushes each other."
 Hartnell comes into the meet ranked fourth in the state -- behind three southern California teams that it defeated earlier this year on the same Woodward Park course in Fresno.
 "I use it as a little motivation," Zepeda said. "We have beaten every single one of these teams accept LA Harbor, who we beat last year. But we get no respect."
 The Panthers went into the Fresno Invitational 12 weeks ago, often referred to as a state preview, and defeated an impressive field of teams.
 Of course, Hartnell did it last year as well to create the heighten expectations. The difference this fall is the win was by a wider margin.
 "The meet is always a good starting point," Zepeda said. "You have a good understanding of where your competition is. It's how do we weather the storm the rest of the season."
 Simple.
 The Panthers have never seemed satisfied with their accomplishments, even after scoring 19 points in dominating the Northern California finals 11 days ago.
 "Last year not everyone was committed to the team," Zepeda said. "At Nor Cal's, this group did not let go of each other. We kept yanking on each other with words of encouragement."
 As a result, all seven runners for Hartnell finished in the top 14 -- with the first five cracking the top 10, including Monica Ruelas, who finished second overall.
 "I think they like who they are and the results they are getting now,"  Zepeda said. "We have seven women that are on fire right now."
 Ruelas, who spent most of last year as the Panthers No. 8 runner, was added to the team for the state meet last year.
 "My experience was scary because I thought because I was always an alternate, if I didn't do well, I didn't deserve to go to state," Ruelas said.
 That is not the case this year as the sophomore has blistered course all season, capturing the Coast Conference title with a lifetime best of 18:35 over 3.1 miles.
 "Because my team is so driven for greatness, it only makes the experience better," Ruelas said. "I'm proud of what we've accomplished as a team."
 Unlike last year when the Panthers appeared to have peaked perhaps two weeks to soon, this group is just hitting their stride.
 Freshman Daniela Salazar finished a few strides behind Ruelas in third while the 29-year-old Diaz Leal was fifth.
 "Two of the examples of teamwork came during the Northern California finals, and the development of our sophomores," Diaz Leal said.
 Salazar was a Central Coast Section finalist last year in track for Watsonville in the 800. But the rest of this group are unheralded former prep runners that have turned into college distance aces.
 "What I've learned from this group is trust," Salazar said. "I know I can depend on them. I felt with  guidance from coach Zepeda, we would be able to accomplish things never been done before."
 While Salazar and North Salinas product Isabella Torres were expected to make an impact, Nerina Campos has become one of the teams' biggest surprises.
 Zepeda had talked Campos, and Alvarez grad, into coming out for cross country as a conditioning tool for track. But the freshman has worked her way into the elite seven.
 "I didn't understand the value of teamwork until I got to Hartnell," Campos said. "The sophomores have taught me the importance of having trust in each other to be where we are."
 Torres echoed similar sentiments.
 "The sophomores have instilled pride in working as a team, taught us how much we can accomplish working as one," Torres said. "Being a part of this team has taught me how to be mentally stronger."
 The continued development of sophomores Maria Aceves and Arias has helped Zepeda build a solid seven that are running for the same common goal.
 "This team has remained humble and hungry," Zepeda said. "We haven't had to put out any fires. We are better aware of what we want to accomplish. Sure, part of that is maturity."
 Zepeda refused to let complacency set in, taking this squad to an invitational at the midpoint of the  season at CSU-San Bernardino, mainly comprised for four year programs.
 Hartnell finished ninth -- second among just a handful of junior college programs behind Burbank.
 "What I wanted during that long drive home was for them to think about losing and not liking it," Zepeda said. "And the understanding to work harder in the second half of the season."
 The meet served its point and a reminder that what occurred back in September has little barring on the present.
 "A lot of improvement has come on their own personal effort," Zepeda said. "Those are the type of kids I want, one's that are passionate for the sport and are doing something beyond practice."
 Arias for one, put in extra mileage last winter in preparation for track. Then continued that pattern over the summer to gear up for the cross country season.
 "Watching the girls run state was really eye opening," Arias said. " But I realized together we could do something big. I wanted my foot in the door when it came to state this fall."
 As a unit, the Panthers are the deepest team in the state meet. In fact, eight women earned all Coast Conference honors at the finals three weeks ago. Only seven can run or count.
 "We've brought a different kind of understanding to what the level is that we want to achieve," said Zepeda, whose men's team also qualified for state. 'These girls got on board early. I've never slept better. It's a great work environment."
 As well as Hartnell performed two weeks ago at the Northern California finals, Zepeda believes this group has yet to run its best race at the same time.
 Now would be a good time for that to occur as it attempts to add another historical prize to what has been a magical and record shattering season.
 "Winning meets and having successful runs is all extra," Campos said. "We just love to work hard. This has been the best running season of my life."
 Torres agreed.
 "I have loved my experience here because at the end of the day, it has brought me close to a lot of people who I know will be in my life for a long time," Torres said.


By John Devine
 A voice from the other side shouted 'do we have your attention'?
 In one quick answer. Yes.
 It's not like Carmel hasn't found itself trailing in a game before. Two weeks ago it was starring at a six-point halftime deficit.
 While trailing by 14 late in the second quarter Saturday to Mt. Pleasant was an eye-opener, it never rattled them.
 "You always hear about adjustments," Carmel coach Golden Anderson said. "What's your secret? It's more about just playing as a team and executing. Not one person can save day."
 Perhaps.
 Yet, Dakota Mornhinweg came close, scoring five touchdowns in the second half in 54-21 win over the Cardinals in the Central Coast Section Division V football playoffs at Carmel.
 With the win, a pair of 11-0 programs will meet next Saturday in the semifinals when the top seeded Padres host undefeated Gonzales.
 "It should be a good game," said Anderson, whose program got its first postseason win since 2015.
 The Spartans won their first playoff game in 22 years last Friday with a 54-49 win over Saratoga to become the first team in the programs century long history to win 11 games.
 Mornhinweg, who was kept in check for most of the first half, put a game together in a quarter when his first two touches resulted in touchdowns of 36 and 34 yards.
 "Tristan (McCallister) made a block and I just kicked it to outside," Mornhinweg said. "I don't know if I was even touched on both of those runs. I was looking for the next defender."
 Instead, all the junior tailback saw was the synthetic green field and a silver end zone, as Carmel had two touchdowns on two plays to start the third quarter.
 A seven point deficit became a six-point lead for the Mission Division champions 2:49 into the third quarter.
 Before the quarter was up, the Padres had run off 21 straight points on three Mornhinweg touchdown runs to take command of the game.
 Mornhinweg had 118 rushing yards on just five carries in the third quarter.
 "I was just looking for the quickess way to get to the end zone," said Mornhinweg, who has scored 23 touchdowns this year and has 35 over a 15 game career for Carmel.
 Over the course of 11 games this fall, Carmel has outscored opponents 125-0 in the third quarter.
 "We stopped pressing late in the second quarter," said Anderson, who has coached Carmel to five undefeated regular seasons in 10 years. "Again it's about players responding under pressure."
 The Padres didn't do themselves any favors in the first half, as a pair of turnovers turned into two touchdowns for Mt. Pleasant, who built a 21-7 lead in the second quarter.
 "Mt. Pleasant got after us in the first half," Mornhinweg said.
 Anderson agreed.
 "I didn't think we were playing poorly," Anderson said. "They got the ball on a short field and made some big plays. One of those touchdowns was on fourth down."
 But when Padres scored with 28 seconds left in the second quarter on a Rashaan Ward 3-yard run on a reverse, you could sense a change in direction.
 "We felt if we could keep it close at the half, we thought our conditioning in the second half would help us," Anderson said.
 Perhaps not accustomed to playing afternoon games with the sun beating down on them, six players left the game in the second half for Mt. Pleasant with cramps.
 "We made a couple of bad decisions in the first half," Anderson said. "Once we cleaned that up, we were fine."
 Mornhinweg's runs weren't something Carmel brought out in the second half. It just didn't have the same success in the first half."
 "We just executed it better," Anderson said. "To me the key was executing the kickoff to open the second half. That got us in good field position.
 For all his second half heroics offensively, what took the wind out of the Cardinals sails came when the 5-foot-10 Mornhinweg intercepted a pass and returned 101 yards for a touchdown.
 "We were fine," Mornhinweg said. "We had been in that position (trailing) before, right here at home in fact."
 The 50 plus point outing was the sixth time Carmel has achieved that this fall. It is eight points shy of 500 for the season.
 "We don't set a goal for points," Anderson said. "We're just trying to get better. We get another week to practice an improve upon some things."


By John Devine
 He wasn't suppose to be in this position this late in the race.
 Yet, Isaac Gensel found himself within striking distance of the lead with 600 meters left.
 So why not make the most of it.
 "My coach kept telling me I can out kick anyone," Gensel said. "I don't know if I believed him. But I realized this could be my last race. So I said it's time to go."
 The Monterey distance ace picked up his stride, took control and then sprinted off Sunday with the Central Coast Section Division III cross country championships at Toro Park.
 "It feels pretty unreal right now," Gensel said. "It hasn't sunk in. The time may not show it. But I felt like I ran a phenomenal race. I'm numb right now."
 Gensel wasn't the only CCS champion crowned as Marina's Christopher Plascencia won the Division IV title, outlasting Pacific Grove's Will Stefanou.
 Greenfield won the its second CCS Division III title in three years while King City gained a measure of redemption in knocking off Scotts Valley for the Division IV boys title.
 While athletes complained of their chest burning and throats being sore from the air quality due to the smoke from the Northern California fires, few said it effected their running.
 Times were clearly slower than usually as Plascencia cover the 3.01 mile loop in 16:14.70, nearly 20 seconds slower than his personal best.
 "The air quality did bother me over the first mile," Plascencia said. "My throat was dry. We just had to run through it. My legs actually felt a little fresher."
 In part, because it has been nearly three weeks since runners from the Pacific Coast Athletic League have competed in their respective division championships back on Oct. 27.
 "I don't know if the extra week off helped," Greenfield senior Mauricio Arias said. "But running at Toro Park was advantage for us. We've been running her all year."
 The meet was originally scheduled for Crystals Springs in Belmont eight days ago. Because of poor qualify in the bay area, the CCS moved to the meet to Toro Park.
 Having a CCS event of any kind on Sunday is believed to be first of its kind in the CCS, according to assistant commissioner Steve Filios.
 Gensel, who covered the race in 16:20.20, kept himself within striking distance of Greenfield's Rigo Garcia, who led for more than two miles of the race.
 As he began to reel Garcia in, Gensel began his kick with about 500 meter left, catching his rival off guard when he passed.
 "I thought it was my teammate Mauricio," Garcia said. "He surprised me. He ran well. All I wanted to do is help my team get to state a fourth straight year. I'm happy."
 So was Gensel, who goal from the moment he began running cross country as a freshman was to get to the state championships.
 "When I made my move, I never looked back," Gensel said. "I crossed the final line and collapsed. Four years of had work has finally paid off. I'm excited to see what I can do at state."
 So is Greenfield, who finished 13th last year as a team at the State Division III finals. Garcia, who has been a part of four state qualifying team, has been waiting all year for this moment.
"Last year I was stepped on and my shoe came off," Garcia said. "I felt like I let the team down. I'm going back to fix this."
 The minute Garcia crossed the line, he embraced Gensel and then put four fingers up to celebrate his fourth straight state meet appearance.
 "I told my teammates before the meet we're going to get this," Garcia said. "We've worked so hard for this moment."
 Arias echoed similar sentiments.
 "I'm proud of our overall team effort," said Arias, one of only two seniors on the team. "It's all about believing in ourselves. We've talked about this since August."
 So has King City, who followed up on its Mission Division title with an impressive 45-69 win over Scotts Valley in Division IV.
 All year the Mustangs have run as a pack and this meet was no exception as all five runners cracked the top 20, with three in the top 10.
 "I actually came out a little nervous," said Esteban Deniz, who finished third overall. "It's been three weeks since we've competed. Time was as important as placement."
 That included having their eyes on Scotts Valley, who defeated them earlier this year in a meet at Stanford, only to see the Mustangs return the favor at the Monterey Bay Invitational.
 "We said do not let any gold or burgundy (Scotts Valley's colors) pass you," Deniz said. "Our depth has been our strength. We felt confident going into this."
 The Mustangs will be joined in the State Division IV finals on Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno by Pacific Grove, who finished third overall to earn a team slot.
 Will Stefanou, the Gabilan Division champion, was second to Plascencia for Pacific Grove to extend his season another week for the second straight year.
 Plascencia, who has a handful of scholarship offers for cross country on the table, didn't concerned himself with time.
 "I just wanted to win this race," Plascencia said. "Now I've got five days to get ready for state. We'll see what happens. I'd love to get on the podium."
 Going back to the state meet for the third time in four years is Tommy Padilla, who finished eighth I Division IV, qualifying as an individual for Palma.
 Behind freshman Michael Julian's second place finish in Division V, York is going to the state meet as a team, finishing second to Crystal Springs.
 Julian battled a cramp 800 meters into the race and battled through it until is subsided coming down the hill two plus miles into the race.
 "I had to mentally erase it from my head," said Julian, an elite swimmer. "My goal was to win. But I'm pleased to be going to state with my teammates."
 Colleen Lang will be spending Thanksgiving Weekend in Fresno for the second straight year after qualifying as an individual for Carmel in Division IV.
 The Gabilan Division champion was the fifth and final individual to qualify, finishing eighth overall in 19:52.1.
 "I don't know if the smoke in the air was bothering me or not," Lang said. "I was too busy coughing. I had a healthy adrenaline going. I'm excited to being back, bummed that I'm going alone."
 Behind Angela Leavitt's fifth place, Notre Dame qualified as a team in Division V, finishing third overall.
 Leavitt, who was clocked in 20:08.10, is going back to the state meet for the third straight year for the Spirits.
 Stevenson sophomore Anna Watson will be making a second straight appearance in the state meet in Division V after placing fourth overall in 20:06.6.
 "I felt I got out faster than I normally do," Watson said. "I ran the hill well. I just tried to hang on the last 400 meters. I'm excited to see what it will feel like to run with 1,000 other athletes."




 



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