A team that started the year with no expectation of making CIF earned their way into the Finals on Saturday on the legs of 3 seasoned veterans and three freshman. Senior Michael Gimbel and junior Peaky Yuter finished 14th and 15th in a time of 16:51 with junior Robbie Moreton just 5 seconds behind in 18th place. Those performances set the table for the freshmen with Drew Jack finishing 45th and 5th man Kenny Lee coming in at 78, just ahead of teammate Yuvan Wickramsinghe.
The 80 degree temperature seemed to affect most of the teams except Morro Bay and Banning. While those two teams turned in virtually the same times that they did at the Mt. SAC Invitational in October, the Titans ran a minute slower. By itself, that would have dropped San Marino down to the 9th position, out of the Finals. But Big Bear and L.A. Baptist apparently were even more uncomfortable as their team times dropped 2-4 minutes.
Peaky set a fast pace from the start while Michael and Robbie attempted to keep up. Kenny, Yuvan and junior Daniel Covarrubias started very deliberately while Drew found the middle ground. Yuter, Gimbel and Moreton hit the Switchbacks together and began picking off competitors as the hill took its toll on these other runners. Those three have developed a bit of a pattern with Michael setting the pace up the grades, Peaky shooting past on the downhills and Robbie closing each of those gaps on the flats. Michael edged in front of Peaky on the airstrip and held him off through the Gauntlet. As the pace quickened towards the finish, Robbie stayed within 5 seconds of his teammates. This is the healthy intra-team competition that results in a CIF Finals appearance.
Faster than the other freshmen but unable to keep up with the upper classmen, freshman Drew was forced to set his own pace. He has proven very adept at doing so and once again finished under 18 minutes. The two other freshman, Kenny and Yuvan, ran most of the race together refusing to get suckered into the fast pace. Yuvan has proven to be quite the hill course runner while Kenny seems to prefer the flatter courses like Lacy Park.
So, the men move on to the Finals at Mt. SAC on Saturday. What can we expect? We’ll perform a fuller analysis later in the week but the guys figure to place about 14th or 15th of 16 teams in the Finals. Only the top 7 advance to State. So, this will be the final race for this team. However, “unaffiliated” or open runners can qualify for the State meet. The top 5 runners (among the first 20) who don’t belong to a team advancing to State get to advance on their own as individual runners. Based upon Saturday’s results, the #4 unaffiliated time was 16:34 and the #5 was 16:36. We expect that the pace will be a few seconds faster with cooler weather expected on Saturday. Michael, Peaky and Robbie each have a shot at qualifying as an individual runner for State. 16:32 appears to be the time to run to grab the #5 position. But what would it take for two of them to advance? They both would have to pick off the #4 unaffiliated runner in the race and that figures to be 16:29 or 16:30 with the faster pace. It will be fun to watch the three of them run for State.