Chris Morzenti used his finishing kick Thursday in Cottonwood to become Mount Shasta High School's first Northern Section cross country champion since 2005. He and teammates Ryan Hering, Jaden Anderson and Marissa Bonivert all qualified for the California State Championships.

Senior Chris Morzenti became Mount Shasta High School’s first Northern Section cross country champion since 2005 Thursday afternoon in Cottonwood, and he is one of four Bears who qualified for the 2015 state championships.

Morzenti out-kicked Chico’s Jack Emanuel at the end and finished in 15:59.67, his second fastest time on the West Valley High School course.

Also qualifying for state were Mount Shasta juniors Ryan Hering and Jaden Anderson and freshman Marissa Bonivert.

Hering placed 11th in 17:09.35 and Anderson was 18th in 17:29.40. They helped the Mount Shasta boys place fourth among schools of all size in the team standings, the school’s third best section finish in the last 30 years.

Bonivert placed 17th in the varsity girls race in 21:04.72.

Morzenti and Anderson qualified for state for the second year in a row, and Mount Shasta will be sending at least one runner to the California State Championships for the 16th consecutive year.

The Bears’ attempt to qualify as a team to the state meet fell a little short. They finished 10 points behind Division 5 rival University Prep, which placed third overall behind Division 4 champion West Valley and Division 3 champion Shasta.

Mount Shasta coach Steve Nesheim wrote in his weekly Coach’s Corner that an ill-timed flu bug left the girls team incomplete for the first time at the section championships since 2002.

Morzenti placed first for the sixth time in eight races this season and became the first Bear to win the section title since Austin Fritzke.

As described by Nesheim, Morzenti had to run a fast first mile Thursday to keep up with Emanuel.

After Emanuel faded on the hill, Trinity’s Ben Harper and Morzenti took the lead, but Emanuel caught them with about 800 meters to go.

When Harper suddenly fell way off the pace, Morzenti at first “sat behind Emanuel,” then out-kicked him to the finish.

Nesheim said strong first miles were key parts of the race for Bonivert and Hering, while Anderson ran “a significantly better hill.”

Hering, senior Jarrod Althaus-Cressman, junior Chris Cheula and sophomore Wayde Burns all improved their previous best times on the West Valley course, and Althaus-Cressman, Cheula and Burns all had their best paces ever.

Althaus-Cressman placed 24th in 17:44.42, Cheula was 62nd in 18:56.20, and Burns finished in 21:39.

Nesheim reported that Cheula improved every split and “was passing bodies left and right trying to reduce our overall score.”

For the girls, senior Abby Manley placed 60th in 23:26, sophomore MeiLin Domanski was 89th in 25:36, and junior Samantha Benedict had her best time on the course and best pace to finish 93rd in 25:44.

Yreka won the overall girls team championship, and Celeste Wilson of Chico won the girls race in 18:52.

Four Mount Shasta runners competed in 2.2 mile Open Girls race. Junior Wrenna Williams (20:49), senior Anna Thornton (22:35), and junior Rhianna Borra-Croft (24:40) all had their fastest times on the West Valley course, and Borra-Croft had her fastest pace ever.

Sophomore Sarina Bray finished in 25:51.

“We walked away Thursday being able to say we put all we had into the race,” Nesheim wrote in his report, adding, “I’m very proud of how far we’ve come this season, especially the last two weeks.”

He said the goal for the Bears at the state championships Nov. 28 will be to match or beat their best 3.0 mile West Valley times on the 3.1 mile course at Woodward Park in Fresno.

“Woodward Park is a flatter, faster course that lends itself to better racing than West Valley,” according to Nesheim. “Racers can push the first mile without worrying about a challenging hill in the middle of mile two.”