A year after making their first trips to the CIF State Cross Country Championships, senior Manny Guzman and sophomore Mary Deeik will be joined by seven other Vintage High runners at the meet Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno.
Guzman qualified easily as an individual at the CIF North Coast Section Championships on Tuesday at Hayward High, placing fourth out of 138 Division II runners with a time of 15 minutes, 4.1 seconds.
It wasn’t so certain for Guzman’s protégé and teammate, junior Dylan Frye. If a Division II boys’ team doesn’t finish among the top three, they can advance only if they finish among the five fastest runners not on those teams and are in the top 14. Frye was the fifth-fastest individual and placed 14th in 15:40.4.
“I was the last qualifier, and it was pretty exciting,” Frye recalled as he and the most of the other state qualifiers prepared to take a practice run in pouring rain Wednesday morning. “During the last mile or so I was in a group with three or four other guys and they started speeding up. I realized if I really want a shot a qualifying I’ve got to go now, so I started to pull ahead. One of them pulled in front of me and I couldn’t keep up with him, and there was another guy that was on my tail, less than half a second behind me. If he would have gone a little bit faster, he would have made it instead.”
Deeik also advanced easily in Division II, placing third out of 123 girls in 17.36.5.
She also barely managed to have some Crusher company. In Division II, four girls teams moved on to state and Vintage placed fourth. It’s the first time the Crushers have ever had a girls team qualify for the state meet, according to head coach Brian Pruyn. They finished with a score of 137, beating out fifth-place Livermore’s 154.
“It feels exciting that we all get to go this year,” Deeik said. “We all help each other and try to build each other up, and we’re stronger because of that.”
Both Vintage teams represented all four grades, so their program should have good footing for years.
The girls, led by Deeik and veteran senior leader Michaela Kreps (22nd place, 19:20.3), also feature junior Ana Busby (44th, 20:23.9), sophomores Josephine Borsetto (28th, 19:49.5), Tamara Hernandez (40th, 20:22.3) and Yadira Garcia (47th, 20:33.1) and freshman Maggie Chapin (80th, 22:03.9).
“When they announced that our whole girls team made it, I was so happy because I‘ve been working with these girls all season and we made connections and relationships and it’s so exciting how our work has paid off,” Kreps said. “We all deserve to be there, so I’m so glad we all get to be together.”
The nine Crushers were the only Napa Valley runners to qualify for the state meet. American Canyon senior Justin Chang came as close as Kreps to qualifying individually, placing 22nd in the 134-runner Division 3 race in 16:18.9. His Wolves placed 12th out of 19 teams.
The Vintage boys, who finished fifth out of 20 teams in Division II, also featured junior Jonathan Wachowski (23rd, 16:19.6), freshman Liam Alexander (26th, 16:23.2), seniors Anthony Berghout (66th, 17:14.2) and Connor Castelazo (87th, 17:55.8) and freshman Drew Holloran (19:00.2).
Pruyn invites his runners to training starting in mid-summer each year, but Frye said many of the Crushers also trained at high altitude.
“One of my teammates, Dylan Scott, and I went to a running camp in Utah at Brigham Young University, and Michaela, Manny, Jonny and some others went to a running camp near Lake Tahoe. That helped us a lot in getting this far,” Frye said. “This summer has definitely been a lot of long runs, a lot of extra miles that we haven’t been able to put in before. Our coach has told us it’s the offseason that counts. That’s what we really took to heart this summer and the summer before.”
Frye expects to lead the boys next and said Guzman, who owns the record on Vintage’s home course at Alston Park, has been a good role model.
“He’s been able to lead the team in a way that he remains humble,” Frye said. “He’s also a good role model in the way that he pushes us and wants us to become best runners we can be. He makes us all want to become as hard working and fast as he is.”
Guzman said Frye should be a good leader next year.
“Dylan has definitely stepped up,” he said. “You could tell by his determination and persistence, from the beginning of the season, and I loved seeing that. He had a goal and he persisted every single day. I’d tell him to trust the process and trust his gut, and now all of his hard work has paid off.”
For the second year in a row, HealthQuest Fitness Center allowed all local high school runners to train on its treadmills for free due to smoke from the wildfire, and it didn’t seem to set the Crushers back much.
“The fires limited our resources, but we adapted well and it helped us yesterday,” Guzman said. “It was very different on the legs after running on treadmills.”
He’s glad he gets to return to the state meet after placing 79th in 16:37.2 last year at Woodward Park.
“It’s nice having a year under your belt on that prestigious of a course because now you know what are the hard parts and you can come back and conquer that course,” he said. “From my perspective, the most difficult part of the course is the last stretch of it. The first mile definitely goes out blazing fast because all the competition wants to get out of the pack. The second mile you have those hills you have to loop around. The last part is the hardest because you’re just mentally tired from all that terrain and just the competition because of the hard pace you start out at.
“My plan for this season was just to get my name out there and perform to the highest level as I could. I put in as much work as I could this summer so I could make my senior year one to remember. I think I showed it and hopefully I get to proceed with my running at the NCAA level.”
Guzman not only was the team’s top runner but also helped and cheered for his teammates.
“We want to take the program to new heights, get our name out there as a program and show that Napa is known for our sports, too,” he said. “Everyone has the talent, put in the work this summer and showed it every day. I’m really proud of them because they stuck with it when the smoke came and still came to all the practices when we were on the treadmills.”
Borsetto showed she wants to share leadership of the Vintage girls with Deeik for the next two years.
“I love cross country because when you put the work in and see the results, it’s so empowering. I love it,” she said. “I think I’ve come so far partly because so many more girls joined cross country this year and were super motivated, so it made me want to go faster and work harder. I know that Mary and Michaela worked really hard to get where they are, so I thought if I work hard too I can go super fast. They are so inspiring. Both of our coaches, too.”
Kreps said Vintage runners want their school to be known as much for cross country as for other sports.
“I’ve thought about that a lot this season because football is so popular at our school every year. It’s so popular to watch,” she said. “Cross country is hard to watch, but we’ve built ourselves as a team to where we don’t even need outside support as long as we have each other. We work just as hard, if not harder, than any sport at Vintage and it’s hard to do what we do. So it’s exciting that we get to start and end the season together.”
Added assistant coach Shari Costanzo, “The cool thing is when we have girls out, the girls that fill their spots run fast, too. We have a solid, solid team. They all pick each other, up. Yesterday, you could see the determination on their faces when things started to hurt and the hills were hurting. They were so determined to finish together and help each other go faster.”
Ana Palafox and Vadim Pelavin joined the runners in the rain Wednesday, showing the Vintage cross country experience isn’t something that fades fast.
Palafox, a 2017 graduate, helped the Santa Rosa Junior College women’s cross country team win its first state title in 39 years. Late last month, Pruyn and Costanzo went to Hidden Valley Park in Martinez to watch Palafox and the Bear Cubs in the Big 8 Conference title.
“I texted my high school coaches after I finished my race and told them how thankful I was for everything they taught me,” Palafox said. “I knew that what Brian taught me about keeping my goals in my head and not being afraid of going for it was going to help me, and Shari was always telling me to think positive and never give up.”
Pelavin, a 2016 Vintage graduate, has been running club cross country at the University of Oregon. An injury as a freshman set him back, but he hopes to make the Ducks’ NCAA team next fall as a junior. He took advantage of the Thanksgiving break to come home and train with his high school program.
“The guys were definitely the good team (at Vintage) the last two years and the girls seemed real iffy at times, but they pulled together and I’m really glad to see that,” he said. “I wish them luck.”
Napa High’s boys were 12th out of 20 teams, while the girls were 13th out of 17 teams. With the air growing worse as the section meet progressed, Justin-Siena’s Division 4 races and St. Helena’s Division 5 races were canceled. That forced a three-person section committee to choose which teams and individuals in those divisions would go to state, and no Braves or Saints were among them.
Leading the Napa High girls, who also had runners in all four grades, was freshman Ava Dominguez (42nd, 20:23.6). Rounding out the Grizzlies were junior Jada Dunn (63rd, 21:19.4), senior Jane McLoughlin (77th, 21:50.3), junior Molly McGrath (98th, 23.04.1), senior Elena Funseth (102nd, 23:09.2), sophomore Grace Sedgley (25:19.8) and junior Anna Ghisletta (26:55.9).
Napa High’s young boys squad was led by juniors Erik Cosca (56th, 17:05.6) and Marco Rosales (59th, 17:09.3), sophomore David Acuna (54th, 17:12.8) and juniors Matt Helms (74th, 17:32.0) and Elliot Surh (18:29.8).
Running behind Chang for the American Canyon boys were senior Emmanuel John De Leon (75th, 17:50.5), junior Dakota Lim (80th, 18:11.5), senior Wilder Mazariegos (85th, 18:23.4), freshman Yahir Madrigal (95th, 19:01.9) and freshmen Jose Naranjo (20:14.5) and Alfons McCoy (20:15.5).