Roseville-area cross country teams are fully loaded and ready to run
One word can describe high school cross country teams in Roseville and Granite Bay this fall: Loaded.
Woodcreek qualified its boys and girls teams for the CIF Championships in Fresno last November and returns nearly intact, including Sierra Foothill League champ Karina Nunes and a deep boys squad that last year featured a second group of seven runners nearly as strong as its top seven.
Many of Granite Bay’s varsity boys runners were freshmen last year, and freshman Maggie Bell rang in her high school debut by winning the Del Oro Invite on Aug. 30.
Oakmont also has two strong freshmen on the boys side in Logan Taggart and Tanner Moore, son of football coach Tim Moore, and the Vikings haven’t even turned loose senior star Karlie Garcia yet.
Roseville has freshman Emma Sessano, who “came out of nowhere,” according to coach Lisa Vaccaro; sophomore Neilson Powless, a transfer who finished 12th in the state in Division V for Victory Christian last season; and sophomore Matt Sangria, who’s back after breaking a foot in 2011.
“We finally have that depth we’ve been missing,” Vaccaro said. “It helps to have the depth.”
Woodcreek’s boys came up one point short of champion Placer at the Del Oro Invite, but coach Terri McKillop noted the Timberwolves run “age pure” in the season opener, and JV winner Luis Romo and seventh-place Adam Clarke are among Woodcreek’s varsity top seven, along with returnees Jon Horvath, Sam Devereux and Taylor Guinnip.
“The boys are real strong,” McKillop said.
Woodcreek had only five girls return to the Timberwolves, but a deluge of new runners boosted the roster to 21.
Freshmen Lauren Mason and Teresa Zortman finished 1-2 in the JV race at Del Oro and join Nunes, senior Brooke O’Brien and junior Rosemary Dipentino.
Senior Trent Brendel was the first of three runners to break the course record in the varsity boys race at the Del Oro Invite, clocking 12 minutes, 45 seconds over a 4,000-meter course (about 2½ miles) that toured the varsity baseball field, a soccer field and woods before finishing in the north end zone of the football stadium.
“I wanted it really bad, so I just took it,” said Brendel, who finished third in the event as a freshman and second the last two years.
The reigning SFL champion has a supporting cast this fall of sophomores Paul Zeiss, Sam Neptune and Ben Pavlik, among others. Co-coach Kevin Pool sees considerable potential with the Grizzlies.
“We need to pull our top five a little closer, but it was the first meet,” he said.
Katie Mersereau, the 2011 Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champ, was fifth at Del Oro. Bell, who was on Granite Bay’s radar while at Olympus Junior High School, pulled away from Oakmont stalwart Marisa Carino for a 38-second margin of victory, and Granite Bay cleared host Del Oro by nine points to score the varsity girls team title.
Karlie Garcia is coming off a junior season that saw her win her second Division III section title, finish second in the state in Division III by one second, win the Foot Locker West Regional and finish fifth in the National Finals.
Still training, Oakmont coach Ryan Nugent said Garcia “looks stronger than ever.”
Junior Marisa Carino trained differently this summer, and while Nugent said she’s a little behind, she should be stronger at the end of the season.
“When we’re fully assembled, I like our chances of being competitive,” said Nugent, who also has sophomore Kylie Michaels returning.
Among the boys, Taggart, Moore and Ian Miller are challenging the upperclassmen for varsity spots.
“We’re going to be good. We’re just not there yet,” Nugent said.
Coach Lisa Vaccaro said she has “three amazing sophomores” in Neilson Powless, Matt Sangria and Arturo Sotomayor. Powless’ 12:50 time in finishing second to Granite Bay’s Trent Brendel at Del Oro also broke the course record.
Senior Logan Stahl and junior Anthony Sanchez bulk up the Tigers’ roster.
“They’re always right there with each other,” Vaccaro said.
Along with freshman Emma Sessano, junior Jennifer Gleason is running cross country for the first time, and junior Janelle Stepper, now in her second season, has trimmed her personal best by four minutes.
Junior Morgan Simpson, a 400 and 800 runner in track and field, also is a good distance runner.