BELMONT — Ceiba College Prep sophomore Nellie Rubio-Pintor earned a berth to the CIF State Cross Country Championships after a strong outing at the Central Coast Section Championships on Nov. 16.
Rubio-Pintor placed seventh in 20 minutes, 25.88 seconds in the Division V girls’ 2.95 mile race at Crystal Springs Course.
Rubio-Pintor said she was both shocked and excited she had made it to state, having set a goal to finish in the high 19-minute range. She didn’t hit her set mark but was pleased in how she stayed calm and composed throughout the race.
“I was extremely nervous and had to motivate myself and tell myself to keep positive,” she said.
Rubio-Pintor only started running competitively last year, trying out for the team to keep in shape for the winter soccer season. Little did she know that she could excel as a runner.
“I’m excited to see how much more I can do in this sport,” she said.
The CIF State Championships take place Nov. 30 at Woodward Park in Fresno.
Watsonville High standout junior Layla Ruiz ran a superb race only to be left on the outside looking in to the state meet.
Ruiz took sixth in the Division I girls race in 18:33.23, which was a personal-record by 13 seconds and the best time by a female runner in school history at the famed Belmont course.
Despite that performance, Ruiz fell victim to a bizarre finish. The top five individuals in each race who are not part of a state qualifying team earn berths to the state meet.
Every girl in the top five was an individual qualifier.
Los Altos High freshman Lauren Soobrian won the race in 17:58.2, followed by Sequoia High junior Yvonne Brien Miller (18:17.7) in second and Cupertino High senior Oriana Jalal (18:21.8) in third. Los Gatos High senior Annika (18:27.9) and Homestead High freshman Katherine Hegblom (18:32), placed fourth and fifth, respectively.
The Watsonville coaches said Ruiz executed the race plan to perfection and has plenty to be proud of.
Ruiz—who qualified for state in her freshman and sophomore years— was disappointed but she expressed an unwavering confidence that will serve her well going forward.
“I do believe I did the best I could,” she said. “I don’t have any regrets because I did what I had to do. During the race, I felt pretty good and I remained calm. It stings a little bit that I won’t be going to state, but it’s not downhill from here. This is just going to push me to work a little harder and get faster.”
Aptos High junior Susana Estrada finished third in 19:25 to punch her ticket to Fresno.
El Camino High sophomore Noelle Diep won the race in 18:42.57 ahead of St. Ignatius Prep junior Evie Cohen (19:05.84) in second and Estrada, the second-place finisher at the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League Championships.
Soquel High junior Emma McCain (19:32) placed fourth and will join Estrada at state.
Aptos placed third as a team with 75 points, behind St. Ignatius (50) and Sacred Heart Cathedral (67), who placed first and second, respectively.
The top two teams advanced to state from the D-III race, leaving the Mariners out of the mix. Aptos was without Kirsten Martin, the seventh-place finisher at the SCCAL championships.
Other notable finishers for Aptos include freshman Summer Jacobs (19:59) in eighth and senior teammate Kailea Zlatunich (20:11) in 12th.
North Monterey County High junior Andrea Villegas (21:27.04) finished 33rd.
At Crystal Springs, Belmont
Top local individuals
D-I: 6. Layla Ruiz (Watsonville), 18:33.3
D-III: 3. Susana Estrada (Aptos), 19:25.70; 4. Emma McCain (Soquel), 19:32.81; 8. Summer Jacobs (Aptos), 19:59.96; 12. Kailea Zlatunich (Aptos), 20:11.60.
D-V: 7. Nellie Rubio-Pintor (Ceiba), 20:25.88;
Top local teams
D-III: 3. Aptos, 75; 6. Soquel, 159.
Editor’s note: San Benito Freelance and Gilroy Dispatch sports editor Emanuel Lee contributed to this story.