Seemingly lost in the success of East Bay Athletic League football and volleyball teams in the postseason are the EBAL cross country squads.
This normally happens as football and volleyball are the big ticket items, but it is also a huge mistake as our cross country teams have been dominant.
In the North Coast Section meet held Nov. 20 at Hayward High, EBAL teams won four team titles and qualified 10 teams for the CIF State Meet.
“Our league is the strongest in the state,” said Dublin coach Chris Williams of the EBAL. “There is no league with this kind of depth.”
Granada captured both the boys’ and girls’ titles in the D-II races, with the Dublin boys bringing home the D-I title and the Dougherty Valley girls taking the win their D-I race.
And they did so in dominating fashion.
Cross country meets are scored by the finishes of your top five runners, with the team with the lowest combined totals being the winner.
In the two D-I races the winning totals were – Dublin (15) and Dougherty Valley (16). If you do the math, you see the Gaels took the first five places in the race and the DV girls first through fourth, and sixth.
The two schools respectively finished second behind the other, with the Cal boys running third in both races.
In the D-II races Granada boys’ (37 points) and girls (32) also finished with strong scores, in winning both races. Sophomore Jana Barron took the individual title as well as on the girls’ side, with Roland Ruckmann-Barnes finishing second in the boys’ race.
Monte Vista was second in both races behind the Matadors.
Dublin’s sweeping of the first five spots in the boys’ race was historic.
“It had never been done before in NCS,” said Williams of the sweep. “We knew Dougherty Valley had given us a good run earlier in the year and we took this race very seriously.”
Daniel Trampe (Sr.) led the way for the Gaels, winning the race with a 3-mile time of 15:13.8, beating out teammate and fellow senior Sharvin Manjreka (15:26.3). Matthew Morgon, Joshua Turpin, and Cole Turpin rounded out the sweep. For good measure, Nathan Manesh was seventh for the Gaels.
The best and heart wrenching individual story of the day came in the D-I girls’ race. Dublin’s freshman Laaysa Balupari was running her normal solid race when she broke her leg during the late part of the race yet still managed to finish.
“Her leg gave out about 100 yards from the finish,” said Williams. “It happened right in front of us, and we immediately asked if she needed help. She wanted to finish the race, so she crawled across the finish line.”
While a normal finish by Balupari likely would not have been enough to overcome the 16-68 edge Dougherty Valley finished with, it sure would have made it a lot tighter.
The second-place finish by the Dublin girls was huge.
“It was monumental,” said Williams. “This is the first time our girls have made it to state.”
Dougherty Valley nearly accomplished the Dublin boys’ sweep. The Wildcats were led by freshman Sabrina Noriega who clocked a 18:09.6 in winning the race.
Rhea Braganza (18.18.1) was second, with Eva Shen and Kirsten Shen running third and fourth. Liana Lee was sixth for Dougherty.
“Our program has been pretty strong,” said Dougherty coach Lauren Nakaso. “Our girls have been exceptionally strong.”
It has been a great season for the Wildcats that for the most part came into the season as a big question mark for Nakaso after the COVID league of last year.
“I didn’t know what I had coming back this year,” explained Nakaso. “I didn’t have a lot in the spring (later season because of the pandemic) so I wasn’t sure about this fall.”
Noriega, while only a freshman, was expected to be one of the top runners in the league. By the end of her freshman season, she is among the elite runners in the league.
“I knew about her when she was coming in,” said Nakaso. “Her dad has been training her – she has so much potential.”
While the girls’ win was expected, Nakaso knew there was work to do on the boys’ side.
“We were planning on the girls winning - we knew Dublin would win the boys’ race,” said Nakaso. “Our top guy – Andy Richards – really wanted to break up that Dublin top five. We told him to go out and see what happens.”
Richards ended up sixth in the race, less than 10 seconds back of the No. 5 Dublin finisher.
The successful runs by the EBAL schools sent a loaded contingent to the CIF State Championships, run Nov. 27 at Woodward Park in Fresno.
“We’re not going just to be happy to be there,” said Williams. “We are going to represent the EBAL.”
Williams touted the Granada boys as having the best chance of winning a state title and the Mats nearly made Williams a prophet, finishing second in the D-II race.
Leading at the mile and 2.1 mile splits, Granada fell victim to a fast closing San Luis Obispo team that was fifth after the second split.
Ruckmann-Barnes finished second for Granda, crossing the line in 15:22.9, leaving the junior just back of winner Jai Dawson of Dana Hills that won with a 15:19.1. Farin Soriano was 31st (21st in team scoring) at 16:00.3 and was second for the Matadors.
Monte Vista was 10th with 268 points, paced by John Loughery (17/14) and Ethan Miller (18/15).
De La Salle finished out the EBAL teams with 348 points and were led by Oscar Gomez’s fifth place finish.
On the girls’ side of the D-II race, Granada finished sixth with 195 points, well back of winner Mira Vista that ended with an 86 total.
Monte Vista was 11th, paced by big runs from Sally Binder (29/21) and Kinsey Pogue (30/22). San Ramon Valley rounded out the EBAL runners with a 18th place finish.
The Wolves were led by Caitlin Brower (78/62) and Mackenzie Michel (79/63).
In the D-1 girls’ race, Dougherty Valley was fourth with 116 points, finishing behind winner Buchanan who had 51 points.
“All in all, it was a very good season,” said Nakaso. “The girls ran really well - it was the best finish in school history.”
The DV girls were also 6th overall – combines results of all divisions based on time. The Wildcats finished with a combined 505 points (Buchanan was first at 123). Granada, with 780 points, was 20th.
“The EBAL represented,” said Nakaso.
Braganza was the top Wildcat, finishing 23rd overall (19 in team scoring), crossing the line at 18:23.3. Noriega, 18:32.2, finished 30th (24).
Braganza’s time was a school record for Dougherty over the Woodward Park course.
Dublin, obviously still without the talented and courageous Balupari, was 20th. Medha Gowda was the Gaels top runner, finishing 89th at 19:37.7.
On the boys’ side, Dublin was 8th at 271 points. Newbury Park, the heavy favorite to win, took the top honors with an amazing 16 points, taking 1-4 and 6th.
“That was wild,” said Nakaso of the Newbury Park finish.
Dougherty was 18th (424 points), led by Richards 51st (39) finish as he crossed the line in 16:01.2. Most important, the experience set the Wildcats up for next year.
“Our boys said they are ready for next year,” said Nakaso.