WATSONVILLE—The Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League boys cross country championships have traditionally produced several epic finishes.
This season was no different.
Aptos High senior Ben Laughlin and Scotts Valley junior Jeremy Kain made last week’s race another one to remember, as they battled until the very end on the 2.95-mile course at Pinto Lake County Park.
Kain won the race in a blazing 14 minutes, 49 seconds, edging Laughlin by one second for the league title on March 26.
Like most athletes, Laughlin said he wished for a first-place finish but overall he was ecstatic about the results.
“If I had to lose to someone it’d be Jeremy [Kain],” he said.
Laughlin’s goal prior to going into the race was to finish in 15:09. He never thought he’d be able to make up so much time.
The two were neck and neck until the final 400 meters, which is where Kain began pulling away from Laughlin.
“We both went for it and as soon as I felt him come up on me I was like, ‘I gotta just go. You’ve worked so hard Jeremy, you can’t let him take it from you,’” Kain said.
Kain, who was the returning SCCAL champion, mentioned that he felt “normal” for once after being around so many different runners from just about all the schools within the county.
Scotts Valley senior Patrick Goodrich placed third (15:03), followed by Aptos seniors Aidan Tomasini (15:17) and John Eikemeyer (15:25).
“Everyone brought it to the table today and we did what we needed to do and that was win,” Kain said. “It was a lot of fun.”
The Falcons took home the team title with 29 points, edging the Mariners (31) by just two points. Soquel High finished with 117, followed by Santa Cruz High (122) and San Lorenzo Valley High (128).
The biggest difference this year, of course, was the updated Covid-19 guidance for youth sports. The new guidelines forced league officials to split the runners into two heats, with the faster runners going in the second group.
The runners also had to social distance themselves before sprinting off from the starting line.
The warm temperatures played a huge factor for a lot of runners. But that wasn’t the case for Laughlin, as he still managed to run a sub 15-minute race.
“I run my best times in the heat, I always have,” he said. “I woke up this morning and it was looking like a warm day, I was excited.”
Laughlin did run into some trouble with the course. He said he did slip a lot throughout the race and he was gripping for everything he could get his hands on. He was very impressed with the way Kain finished the race using the same pair of Nike Air Zoom Alphafly shoes that he owns.
“I don’t know how much his carbon plates really helped him but he ran amazing for the grip and traction he had on his shoes,” he said.
Laughlin said it was a wonderful experience to be able to race against everyone else in the league. He’s said he was especially grateful for the SCCAL for being able to put together the event.
In March 2020, Laughlin thought when the pandemic first started that it was going to blow over in a week or two. But then the track season was canceled and the state began to issue stay-at-home orders.
“Several months ago I was like, ‘There’s no way we’re going to have a season.’ It is over,” he said.
In February, most coaches and students figured they’d get to at least one or two meets at the most this season. However, six weeks later and with no reported Covid-19 outbreaks, the league was able to host a championship race for his senior year.
“It’s just a really special feeling to know for one: that your coaches will fight for you like that; and two: just to let [the finals] happen even though we are in a pandemic and who knows what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s just a special feeling to be out here.”
1. Scotts Valley, 29
2. Aptos, 31
3. Soquel, 117
4. Santa Cruz, 122
5. SLV, 128
1. Jeremy Kain (Scotts Valley), Jr., 14:49
2. Ben Laughlin (Aptos), Sr., 14:50
3. Patrick Goodrich (Scotts Valley), Sr., 15:03
4. Aidan Tomasini (Aptos), Sr., 15:17
5. John G. Eikemeyer (Aptos), Sr., 15:25
6. Julian Vargas (St. Francis), Jr., 15:54
7. Jack Brownfield (Scotts Valley), So., 15:55
8. Eli Ainsowrith (Soquel), Sr., 16:06
9. Trent Nosky (Aptos), So., 16:17
10. Ryder Brabo (Scotts Valley), Jr., 16:28