BELMONT— The St. Francis High boys’ cross country team is headed to the CIF State Championships after a top-3 finish at the Central Coast Section Championships on Nov. 16.
The Sharks finished in third place with 75 points in the Division V 2.95-mile race at Crystal Springs Course.
Sophomore Julian Vargas finished fifth in 16 minutes, 45.22 seconds and senior Patrick McCarthy took sixth in 16:49.20 for St. Francis.
The York School sophomore Michael Julian won the race in 15:46.35, ahead of Crystal Springs Uplands School seniors Wilser Vazquez (16:11.89) and Jake Symonds (16:15.60), who finished second and third, respectively.
Crystal Springs won the race as a team with 43 points, followed by Woodside Priory (71) and St. Francis.
The Sharks also received strong performances from senior Paul Kane (17:10.32) in 11th and freshmen Diego Ramirez (17:53.60) and Christian Magana (17:53.90), who finished 28th and 29th, respectively.
“This feels great,” Vargas said. “I’ve been wanting to go to state since last year, but I didn’t quite get that far.”
Vargas said he learned a valuable lesson from last year’s CCS championship meet, which was to not take the first mile out too fast.
Last year, Vargas ran the first mile at Toro Park in the low 5-minute range and he faded to the finish. This time Vargas ran a smarter race, keeping a steady yet fast pace throughout the race.
“My strategy was to not go out fast in that first mile,” Vargas said. “Last year I that didn’t work out too well. Today I wanted to attack coming down the straightaway and push the pace in the last two miles.”
The CIF State Championships take place Nov. 30 at Woodward Park in Fresno.
Aptos High junior Ben Laughlin placed fifth in 16:24.02 in the D-III race to earn a state berth and help the Mariners finish fourth as a team with 97 points.
Saratoga High sophomore Harrison Dance won the race in 15:47.41.
Saint Ignatius won with 87 points, followed by Sacred Heart Cathedral (88) and Archbishop Riordan (90).
Watsonville High senior Damian Rivas (16:36) took 33rd out of 132 runners in the D-I race.
Bellarmine College Prep junior Colin Peattie won the race in 15:02.8.
Monte Vista Christian senior Jinghao (David) Wang took 55th in 17:51.20 out of 119 runners in the D-IV race.
Santa Cruz High senior Raymond Brookman won the race in 15:42 ahead of King City High junior Mario Avila (15:47).
Junior Andrew Bachman (18:16) placed 69th, freshman James Ponzio (18:27.57) placed 81st for the Mustangs and junior Justin Lomeli (19:17.09) placed 94th.
King City won the race as a team with 52 points, followed by Scotts Valley High (66) in second and Menlo (102) in third.
At Crystal Springs, Belmont
Top local individuals
D-III: 5. Ben Laughlin (Aptos), 16:24.02; 9.
D-V: 5. Julian Vargas (St. Francis), 16:45.22; 6. Patrick McCarthy (St. Francis), 16:49.20; 11. Paul Kane (St. Francis), 17:10.32
Top local teams
D-III: 4. Aptos, 97.
D-V: 3. St, Francis, 75.
NOTE: St. Francis (D-V) advances to the CIF state meet.
Editor’s note: San Benito Freelance and Gilroy Dispatch sports editor Emanuel Lee contributed to this story.