Woodcreek repeats, Oakmont arrives in D2 girls cross country

Garcia leaves field far behind, GB's Holt takes second
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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While the steadiness of the girls from Woodcreek High earned the Division II team title once again, the young ladies from Oakmont were the story of the day. Needing to climb into the top three to earn a spot in the state cross country finals, the Lady Vikings saved their best performance for the section meet stage Saturday at Willow Hills in Folsom. “It was an amazing day for our girls program,” said Oakmont coach Ryan Nugent. “Subsections showed us exactly what it was going to take to go to state. I sat down with the girls and went over the results and showed them where we could make up the difference in order to finish in the top three. I think they all thought I was crazy, but by the end of the week I could tell they were starting to believe. That belief made it possible for us to do what they had thought impossible.” Freshman phenom Karlie Garcia put her stamp on the race and on the season, winning the individual Division II section title by more than a minute over last year’s champion, Granite Bay junior Brooke Holt. Garcia ran an 18:11, while Holt was second in 19:25. “As for Karlie Garcia, she is the real deal,” said Woodcreek coach Terri McKillop. “One of the fastest all-around times on that course, very impressive for not only a freshmen but as her first time racing the course.” The first-year Viking’s time was nearly a minute faster than any other girl in any of the division finals and put her up with some of the great names in the memories of local cross country followers. “Karlie Garcia was amazing,” Nugent said. “She won the section title by over a minute, and when you compare all the races ran that day she was the fastest girl in the entire section by 49 seconds. One coach jokingly asked me if she had cut the course. She is the first Oakmont runner to ever be section champ in cross country. Her time is the fastest since Laurynne Chetelat (18:02) of Davis High won the section title and then went on to win the state title in 2007.” Oakmont senior Kristine Lozoya finished fourth and sophomore Nyralee Chhotu was sixth as the trio paced the Viking team to the third-place result that will take them collectively to Woodward Park in Fresno for the state final in two weeks. “I am very proud to see her bounce back and finish her senior year at this level,” Nugent said. “She's overcome a lot, but she fought through and deserves this kind of recognition, and a return trip to Fresno. Nyralee is perhaps the most improved girl in the entire section. Last year she finished 40th place at sections. She's worked so hard, the only thing keeping her from becoming this kind of runner was whether or not I could convince her that she was this good. I think she believes now.” A big help to the Oakmont cause was the impressive improvement of a pair of younger runners to round out its team scoring. Sophomores Georgia Cambra and Cheyenne Amaro made huge improvements over their results at last week’s subsection meet. “The biggest difference came from our last half of our squad,” Nugent said. “We knew our top three would run well, and they really did, but it was our fourth through seventh runners who had to step it up if we were going to qualify, and boy did they. Sophomore Georgia Cambra improved from 59th to 38th place and almost single-handedly made up the points we needed to go to state. Sophomore Cheyenne Amaro went from 53rd to 41st, and clinched our trip to Fresno.” Holt’s second place finish will send her to Fresno as an individual, but her team finished fifth and outside the top three required to move on en masse. The junior will be joined by her junior teammate Christine Zavesky, who earned the fifth and final individual spot at state with an 11th place finish. “Brooke and Tina have been preparing for the state meet,” said Granite Bay coach Angie Pozzi. “We went into the section meet with the thought they would move beyond this meet. Again it just wasn't their day. The other girls ran super races and I am excited for Karlie. Karlie has been tough all season and pushing for that number one spot.” Folsom’s Blanka Hodur crossed fifth to claim another of those coveted spots, but Rocklin junior Jessica Skalet was eight seconds behind Zavesky in 12th, which leaves her outside qualifying range. The depth of the Woodcreek girls’ team was on full display once again this year. The defending section champions combined to edge St. Francis for another team crown. Courtney Crosta paced the effort with a third-place run, but it was the placing of all five scored runners in the top 25 that delivered for the Timberwolves. “The girls barely pulled it out on Saturday which made the race extremely exciting for all watching,” McKillop said. “Courtney Crosta passed three girls in the last 400 to place third and Stephanie Romo, who was injured all week, held on to take 10th.” That result was made even more impressive when considering that one of Woodcreek’s top runners, Sami Gomez, was unable to finish the race. Gomez usually runs third for the Timberwolves and her inability to finish left her teammates with some work to do. Ciara Donnelley, Ashley DeVriend and Jennifer Romo were there to answer the call. “The Woodcreek girls stepped up the last 800 to keep our hopes alive for the championship,” McKillop said. “Ciara (Donnelley) had a huge finish and Ashley DeVriend, who has been out injured a good portion of the season, had a phenomenal race to keep us in the mix.” Roseville sophomore Shayna Powless (17th) and Rocklin freshman Heidi Greenwood (31st) will also miss out on a trip to the state meet. St. Francis, who finished second and the surprising third-place Vikings from Oakmont will join the Woodcreek girls in the state team finals. Those teams, along with the five individual runners that will join them move on to the state meet in two weeks, with hopes of even greater things to follow. “Last week we were 34 points away from the last qualifying spot for state,” Nugent said about his Oakmont team. “This week we were ahead of Vacaville, who finished fourth by 24 points. Nobody saw that coming. This is the fourth girls’ team that we've qualified for state, but the first team in seven years. We've had several girls qualify for state as individuals, but it's very special to get to bring the entire team.” The SFL and Division II are very competitive group,” Pozzi said. “A runner can't expect to have a spot, they have to fight for it every week all season long. I am excited for the state meet. Brooke and Tina have been training and preparing for this opportunity to run against the top of the state. It should be a good showdown. I am keeping my fingers crossed everyone stays healthy.”