By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
This was one for the record books. Priory senior Kat Gregory won her third straight title in Division V. Gunn's Sarah Robinson ran one of the fastest sophomore times ever while winning her first in Division I.
In addition, five teams and three individuals all advanced to the CIF State Meet in cross country following Saturday's Central Coast Section Championships on the rolling 2.95-mile layout at Crystal Springs in Belmont.
It was a special day in many regards as hundreds of runners battled for a precious few team and individual berths for the state championships set for Nov. 26 at Woodward Park in Fresno.
For Gregory, it was special three times over as she made the most of her final race at Crystal Springs by running away with the girls' Division V title in 18:23. While it was well off her best of 18:12 on the course, she still won by 40 seconds and helped her team qualify for the state meet.
"I'm honored and I'm very proud," Gregory said about her third straight title, which she achieved despite suffering an ankle sprain two weeks ago. Last year, she couldn't run at the state meet due to a stress fracture, which she ran through while winning CCS.
Gregory won her first cross-country race while winning the CCS title as a sophomore. Thus, it was appropriate that she end her career at Crystal Springs the way she started it.
Coincidently, Gunn's Robinson is following in Gregory's footsteps, in a sense -- winning her first CCS title in her sophomore year. Robinson, however, won her first crown in spectacular fashion as she ran away with the title in a personal best of 17:12.
Robinson's dominating finish -- she won by 56 seconds -- not only is the second-fastest in Gunn history but ranks No. 2 all-time among sophomores at Crystal Springs. In fact, Robinson's time is the fastest by a sophomore in the past 32 years and is tied for the 11th-fastest all-time for all girls.
"My coach (Matt Tompkins) said I could definitely run a PR today," said Robinson, who only two weeks ago was training with the U.S. Soccer U17 National Team. "(But) I didn't think it would be that big of a PR."
Robinson finished third last season as a freshman, but improved by 1:38 on Saturday. She had the second-fastest overall girls' time of the day, trailing only Division II winner Nikki Hiltz (17:05), a junior at Aptos.
"I still don't know how fast she can run," said Tompkins. "She's never been tested."
Robinson's record effort helped the Gunn girls finish a semi-surprising second in Division I and earn a state meet berth. The Titans also were second last year.
"Every girl ran their race of the year," said assistant Ernie Lee. "You can't ask for anything better than that."
Gunn scored 87 points, trailing only Carlmont's 58. Senior Kieran Gallagher was 12th overall in 19:24 after overcoming a recent illness, senior Christine Prior was 13th in 19:26 while senior Melia Dunbar was 35th (20:16) and sophomore Eliana Ribbe was 36th (20:20) to send Gunn to Fresno.
Also earning state meet team berths were Castilleja in girls' Division V, the Priory girls in Division V, the Priory boys in Division V and the Sacred Heart Prep girls in Division IV.
Sacred Heart Prep's title was also for the record books as the Gators, who finished fourth overall, earned their first trip to the state meet in Division IV after making earlier trips in Division V.
"I thought if that if everyone had good races that we could get fourth," said SHP coach Marissa Beck. "If we had great races, we could get third."
The important thing was that the Gators moved on, achieving a goal they set during the summer.
"So this has been the carrot for them to chase this year," Beck said. "It's great for them to achieve it."
Beck was a little surprised by her team's finish because her No. 1 runner, freshman Gillian Belton was so far out in front of her teammates. Belton finished seventh in 19:07 while junior Kathryn Leahy raced home 21st in 20:07.
The biggest finish for SHP, however, was the 25th place by junior Courtney Schrier as the team's No. 3 scorer in 20:40. Last July while finishing up a training run, Schrier was hit by a car while crossing El Camino Real in Atherton. She suffered a broken pelvis among her numerous injuries and was inactive for 2 1/2 months. Saturday's race was only her third of the season.
"She couldn't even walk right away," Beck said of Schrier's debilitating injuries. "She didn't start running until mid-October."
Meghan Holland and Brooke Neider rounded out SHP's scoring.
Castilleja earned another berth for state by taking second in Division V. Junior Fiona Maloney-McCrystle led the Gators with a sixth-place finish of 20:26.
The Priory boys also earned a return trip after a second straight third-place finish. Sophomore Johnny Trudelle paced the Panthers with a second-place finish of 16:58.
The individual qualifiers for the state meet were Gunn senior Andrew Prior in Division I, Pinewood freshman Nicole Colonna in Division V and Paly freshman Katie Foug in Division I.
Prior, who finished 10th last year at Toro Park in Salinas, was third Saturday. His 15:23 time was a personal best.
"My coach (Ernie Lee) said if I ran under 15:30 that I had a chance to make state," said Prior, who earned a second straight trip to Fresno. "I knew I had to run faster than the league meet (15:50). I'm very happy."
Colonna finished fourth overall in 20:07 to earn her first trip while Foug also made it to Fresno in her freshman year while clocking 18:58 for eighth. Junior teammate Chika Kasahara finished two places behind Foug, but missed out as Foug grabbed the final spot.
Menlo senior Daniel Pugliese suffered a similar fate as he took eighth in boys' Division IV in 16:17 and also missed an individual state berth by one place.