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Rocklin boys, Woodcreek's Raposa advance to state meet

Steven White takes third at section finals
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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A strong team effort spearheaded by senior Steven White’s third-place run carried the Rocklin High boys cross country team to a spot in the state meet. “Steven White has been amazing,” said Rocklin coach Dan Pereira. “His time at sections is the fastest in school history and I think he can place in the top 10 or 20 runners in the state.” The Thunder finished third in the team competition at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II finals Saturday at Willow Hill in Folsom to qualify for one of the coveted spots in Fresno two weeks from now. The top four teams and top five individuals from outside those teams will move on. “This is the boys sixth state berth in 11 years and we hope to place in the top 10,”Pereira said. Our best state finish was in 2005 when we placed fourth. We also beat Jesuit for the first time in school history at the section meet. It’s a big deal for us. Jesuit has one 21 section titles and nine state titles in cross country.” White finished just three seconds behind section champion Josh Mercado of Del Campo in third, with a time of 16:19. Colin Bruice (15th), Parker Ahlf (21st), Cody Fikes (31st) and Michael McHenry (40th) rounded out a solid team effort that will send the Thunder on to state. “I think the most interesting story besides Steven’s rise as one of the top runners in the section is Michael McHenry, who was our number five guy last Saturday,” Pereira said. “This is his first full year as a runner and he is a junior. I’ve never had a runner come in with no prior running experience and be as successful.” Del Campo was the team champion, with Fairfield second. Those two and fourth-place Jesuit will join Rocklin at Woodward Park in Fresno. Woodcreek finished just outside, seven points behind Jesuit in fifth place. The Timberwolves’ Tyler Raposa, who crossed in fifth place, will move on in one of the individual spots at the state meet, but his team will not be joining him. “The boys lost a close one to qualify for state,” said Woodcreek coach Terri McKillop. “We were battling the flu and other issues and didn't run as strong as we had hoped. Tyler Raposa had been sick all week and ran a great race to qualify as an individual. We were missing our No. 4 guy, Austin Mason, who was still recovering from the flu but as a team we ran awesome overall.” Oakmont’s Edixon Puglisi ran a strong race as well, but his 12th place result left him five seconds off the pace required to advance as one of the five individual runners. “Edixon ran the perfect race, but had the poor fortune of running in the fastest race of the day,” said Oakmont coach Ryan Nugent. “If he had run in any other division he would have qualified for the state meet. He ran the fastest time of any boy we've ever had run on this course, and he's only a sophomore. He has what it takes to be one of the elite runners in the section the next two years.” Woodcreek’s Hunter Tyler (14th) and Brandon Biando (20th), and Granite Bay’s Spencer Thibideau (17th) and Cassidy Bertsch (18th) all failed to turn top-20 races into spots in Fresno. “Hunter Tyler stepped up huge to take 14th place and barely missed out on moving on as an individual,” McKillop said. “He would have qualified in every other division as would our whole team, but Division II is always the toughest to get through.” The best runners in the state will gather at the state meet just after the Thanksgiving holiday, on Nov. 28 at Woodward Park in Fresno, and Pereira is excited at the depth of his Rocklin squad. “I would say the key to our success is that this group put in the work over the summer,” Pereira said. “All good programs start the road to success with the core group of kids committed to building a strong conditioning base. This was the best group in terms of that in the 11 years I have coached.” While success in cross country has been common at Rocklin, this group has come together quickly and gone beyond expectations. “This team was not projected to go to state since we lost our two best runners from last year’s team,” Pereira said. “There is no one key guy on the team but I think two things stood out in terms of our success during the year. This was the deepest varsity boys team I’ve coached. The fact that so many were pushing each other in workouts only helped the eventual top seven runners that move on for the postseason. Our fifth, sixth and seventh runners this year picked each other up when needed. A cross country team is not successful if that fifth runner (the final scoring person in terms of results) doesn’t perform well.”