WATSONVILLE—When the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League was given the green light to allow the cross country season to proceed, most coaches and students figured they’d get to at least one or two meets, at the most.
Six weeks later and with no reported Covid-19 outbreaks, the league managed to host its league championship on Friday afternoon.
The race also happened to be the last one for several high school seniors including for Aptos High’s Susana Estrada and Kirsten Martin. That was all the motivation they needed to get a top-10 finish.
Estrada placed fifth in 18 minutes, 43 seconds, just slightly ahead of her teammate Martin (18:44) in sixth at the 2.95-mile course at Pinto Lake Park.
The top-10 finishes also helped the Mariners secure the team title with 28 points, followed by Scott Valley (37), Soquel (63), San Lorenzo Valley (127) and Harbor (133).
“We definitely knew it was a challenge,” Estrada said. “We knew [Scotts Valley] would be our greatest competition, so we knew we had to race our best.”
Scotts Valley freshman Ashlyn Boothby won the race in 17:31 seconds followed by her sister, Amber, a sophomore, who placed second (17:59). But it was the Mariners, who had five of their runners place in the top 10, that captured the team title.
The updated Covid-19 guidelines for youth sports forced league officials to split the runners into two heats, with the faster runners going in the second group.
Estrada, who ran her best race of the season, said she was not surprised with winning the team championship because she knew how hard they worked to achieve that goal. But it didn’t come without a battle in the grand finale, she said.
Martin believed that this year’s team was loaded with a lot of competitive runners. Plus, the coaching staff was supportive of them through all the ongoing changes during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I think our workouts really helped us so we deserve to definitely be in the spots that we are,” she said.
Santa Cruz senior Isabel Sanchez (18:04) placed third just ahead of Watsonville senior Layla Ruiz (18:06), who ran in her final cross country race in a Wildcatz uniform.
“I gave it my all today and it’s very emotional because it’s the last race of my senior year,” Ruiz said.
Last season, Ruiz won the Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission Division race. She had posted the fastest finish in all four divisions of that league for two straight years.
This year, there are no Central Coast Section or state championships due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Still, she was satisfied with the way the season turned out, especially because they were able to have something to look forward to throughout the year.
“I’m just glad it happened,” she said.
Ruiz said that prior to lining up she knew this league final was different from all the others because this was her final go.
“It was just me enjoying myself, doing my best and just having fun,” Ruiz said. “Just racing, just enjoying and taking every moment in.”
The SCCAL finals marked the end of the cross country season, but many of these same runners will be back out for the first track and field dual meets scheduled next week.
“Track is a whole ‘nother ball game,” Ruiz said.
1. Aptos, 28
2. Scotts Valley, 37
3. Soquel, 63
4. SLV, 127
5. Harbor, 133
1. Ashlyn Boothby (Scotts Valley), Fr., 17:31
2. Amber Boothby (Scotts Valley), So., 17:59
3. Isabel Sanchez (Santa Cruz), Sr., 18:04
4. Layla Ruiz (Watsonville), Sr., 18:06
5. Susana Estrada (Aptos), Sr., 18:43
6. Kirsten Martin (Aptos), Sr., 18:44
7. Emma McCain (Soquel), Sr., 19:19
8. Summer Jacob (Aptos), So., 19:36
9. Annie Eikemeyer (Aptos), Jr., 19:43
10. Rachel Hoops (Aptos), Fr., 20:00