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November 28, 2022

MVC’s James Ponzio runs away with Gabilan cross country title

NMC, Watsonville finish strong to qualify for CCS finals

Monte Vista Christian senior James Ponzio won the Gabilan Division race at the Pacific Coast Athletic League Cross Country Championships on Oct. 29.

The Mustangs standout set a course record in the 3.1-mile race at Palo Corona Regional Park in Carmel in 16 minutes, 46.90 seconds.

“He was on his ‘A’ game,” MVC coach Michael Lanham said. “There may have been mistakes in his running but I certainly didn’t see them…from my view this was fairly flawless.”  

With the win, Ponzio earned a berth to the Central Coast Section Cross Country Championships at Crystal Springs in Belmont on Nov. 12. The first race is slated for 10am.

Ponzio, who has won three Gabilan Center Meets this year, captured his second league title after winning the Mission Division title in 2021.

“I’m very proud of him,” Lanham said.

Carmel High won the boys’ Gabilan Division finals, however, Alisal High won the overall team title.

The Padres finished second and fourth in two separate Center Meets earlier this year, allowing the Trojans to win the championship.

Both teams will advance to the CCS finals along with the top seven overall finishing teams from the four divisions, based strictly on team times.

North Monterey County High senior Miguel Alvarado (18:08.10) took ninth to help the Condors place third as a team with 69 points to advance to next week’s CCS finals.

Fellow senior teammate Irineo Navarro (18:21.10) took 12th, followed by junior Alvaro Ruelas (18:22.20; 13th), Jesus Ayala-Saldivar (18:31.70; 17th), Gael Godinez (18:32.90; 18th), Alan Lopez Rodriguez (19:11.30; 29th) and Sebastian Gonzalez (20:44.90; 39th). 

NMC coach Francisco Cornejo said it took a while for the boys’ team to reach its full potential, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic set them back.

The Condors won the Mission Division last year with the same team minus three players due to graduation. 

“This year was more of a rebuilding year for us,” Cornejo said. “We’re regrouping again and I knew we were going to be competitive in the league, but in order for us to do that we definitely had to build a team and make it more of an actual team.” 

Cornejo mentioned they don’t have a strong runner that can jump to the front but the pack itself has a good mixture of talent.

He said the whole idea was for the Condors to be competitive in a tough Gabilan Division and attempt to win it. 

It didn’t happen but Cornjeo said the overall idea was to qualify for CCS, which they did. 

The boys’ team might be ranked No. 5 in the Division IV group, yet, Cornejo praised them for progressing the past two weeks.

“They’ll definitely have a shot to make it to state this year,” he said.

Mission 

Watsonville High sophomore Rodrigo Barranco (18:13.30) took seventh in the Mission Division race to help the Wildcatz place second as a team to qualify for the CCS finals.

Fellow junior teammate Giancarlo Mendo (19:20.60) placed 19th and freshman Diego Guillen (19:29.90) took 24th.

“I was kind of having an off-day,” Mendo said. “I feel like I could’ve done better but all of the guys, they did pretty good.”

Pacific Collegiate School’s Spencer Koontz won the league title in 17:10.

King City won the race with a score of 62, followed by Watsonville (110) in second and Soledad (116) in third.

“The goal was to make it to CCS this year and we’re just trying to see how it is so we can come back next year 20 times stronger,” Mendo said. 

Mendo, a junior, said they’re doing uphill running drills because the Crystal Springs course will have its fair share of slopes and rises throughout the race. 

He’s also been trying to get over his fear of being scared during the race, trying to overcome fatigue in the middle of a race. 

“I’d say by just getting way better mentally, being stronger mentally mid-race,” Mendo said. “Saying that you can do it.” 

The Wildcatz’s boys’ team will travel along with the girls’ squad to next week’s CCS finals. 

Mendo said having both programs qualify shows all of the hard work they put in during the offseason. 

“It took a lot of commitment to show up to practice every day during the summer and also a lot of consistency,” he said.   

Santa Lucia

St. Francis senior Santiago Ramirez (18:28) won the Santa Lucia Division Division race. 

Van Ridgway (21:36.10) took ninth and Alex Ramirez (22:53.50) placed 12th to help the Sharks finish third with 52 team points.

Kirby (37) won the team title followed by Oakwood (38) in second place.

CCS Boys Cross Country Championship

Where: Crystal Springs Cross Country Course 

Address: 2567 Hallmark Drive, Belmont 94002

When: Nov. 12

  • Division IV, 10:35am
  • Division V, 11:45am
  • Division I, 12:55pm
  • Division II, 2:05pm
  • Division III, 3:15pm
Juan Reyes
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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