Monte Vista Christian junior Kylie Brunelli, left, and junior Justin McCullick were medalist in their respective Central Coast Section Division V races at Crystal Springs course in Belmont on Nov. 11. Both earned a trip to this weekend's CIF State Championships in Fresno. (Juan Reyes/The Pajaronian)

A group of local runners will compete in the upcoming CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno this weekend. 

Watsonville High junior Katelynn Ruiz punched her ticket to the state finals after she placed seventh in 19 minutes, 13.3 seconds in the Central Coast Section Division I girls race on Nov. 11.

“I just wish I could’ve PR at least by a second,” she said. “I’ll take whatever I can get. I knew there was a lot more competition this year than last year.” 

It’s the second trip to Fresno for Ruiz, who feels more reassured compared to last year’s race. “I’m just gonna try my best,” she said.

Aptos High senior Rachel Hoops (18:52.4) placed second and sophomore Maya Schiro (19:58.7) took eighth in the D-III girls race, while fellow teammate senior Nile Evans (16:32.6) finished 11th to qualify for the state finals. 

“I was hoping to qualify for state and I’ve been feeling really good with all my training lately,” Hoops said. “I was just going to go out and hit that hill as fast as I could and then kind of see what happens from there. I kind of followed my plan and I stuck close second for a while.”

Hoops will also make her second trip to the state finals.

“I’m trying not to get too defeated before I go,” she said. “I’m just gonna go run that race, have fun, be at State and just really kind of embrace it. Not be so worried about what place I get or what time I get, just run the course.”

Monte Vista Christian junior Kylie Brunelli (19:48.2) placed sixth and Mount Madonna freshman Kenzie Culbertson (20:03.4) finished eighth in the D-V girls race, which was good enough to earn a trip to Fresno. 

“I’m really happy,” Brunelli said. “I wasn’t sure if I was gonna make it. So it’s really nice.”

MVC junior Justin McCullick (16:34.4) took sixth and sophomore Conor Gilliam (17:12.4) was 10th, helping the Mustangs boys’ team place third as a team with a score of 76 and advance to the state championships. 

“It’s a totally crazy opportunity,” McCullick said. “I’m so glad that I’m able to represent for Monte Vista Christian. I’m gonna show them really who we are, what we mean.”

Other MVC finishers included junior Bradley Orlando (17:40.2; 16th), sophomore Gavin Beckmen (17:43.5; 19th), sophomore Elisha Keift (17:43.8; 20th), senior Mario Gonzalez (18:53.6; 41st) and freshman Luciano Guerra (19:30.2; 57th).  

“I think we can still perform really well at State. We might not win, but I think we’re gonna give it our all and it’s gonna work out,” McCullick said.

CIF State Cross Country Championships will take place at Woodward Park in Fresno on Saturday starting at 8:30am.

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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