Kicks and balances: Granite Bay freshman wins a state title

Maggie Bell captures Division II race juggling cross country with soccer
By: Bill Poindexter, Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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Carla Kehoe knew about Maggie Bell before the freshman first stepped on the campus at Granite Bay High School.

Having watched Bell run “a few times,” Granite Bay’s cross country coach knew she had speed but didn’t see a guaranteed lock as a state champion — at least not then. Even when Bell announced her arrival on the high school scene by winning the Del Oro Invite on Aug. 30, she didn’t have state champion written all over her.

But she does now. Bell captured the Division II girls race Saturday at the CIF State Cross Country Championships, completing the 5,000-meter course in 17 minutes, 29 seconds for a four-second victory. Her time was fourth-quickest overall among 947 girls running in five divisions at Woodward Park in Fresno.

Nearly three months later, Kehoe wasn’t surprised to see Bell win a state title.

“No, not really,” Kehoe said Monday. “We knew she would be up in the front somewhere. She’s a competitor so if she was anywhere near the front, she would get the job done. She likes to be in the front.

“She has an amazing kick. She’s the whole package.”

Bell’s victory came nine years after Granite Bay graduate Caitlin Chock won her second of back-to-back titles. Bell is consistent in her training, but Kehoe said adjustments needed to be made occasionally because Bell also plays competitive soccer and sometimes would go right from cross country practice to soccer practice or games.

“We put her in some good races, but we didn’t over-race anyone on the team. That’s a key,” Kehoe said of Bell, who also won Stanford Invite and Sac-Joaquin Section Division II titles. “She feels very comfortable training, not overdoing it, and balancing the soccer. We weaved in her soccer practices so she would not be over-trained.”

Bell isn’t done yet. She was invited to run in the ninth annual Nike Cross Nationals on Saturday in Portland, Ore.

Granite Bay senior Trent Brendel isn’t quite finished either. Brendel finished 10th in the Division II boys race to qualify for the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships West Regional on Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.

Brendel, who was timed in 15:30, became the first Granite Bay male to medal at the state meet. Roseville sophomore Neilson Powless was 23rd in 15:54.

Bell’s victory, and a 35th-place finish by junior Katie Mersereau (19:09), helped Granite Bay’s girls finish 14th in the team standings.

Woodcreek’s boys and girls teams each finished 19th in the Division I standings. Both competed in the state meet for the ninth time.

The Timberwolves boys were led by Jon Horvath (16:14) in 59th place in a field of 200. Leading the Woodcreek girls were senior Karina Nunes in 37th (18:50) and freshman Lauren Mason in 50th (19:03) out of 196 runners.

Contact Bill Poindexter at Follow him on Twitter at BillP_RsvPT.