Mount Shasta boys and girls teams qualify for State cross country championships
A hail storm at Thursday's Northern Section Cross County Finals in Cottonwood may have been heaven-sent for Mount Shasta High School, which qualified both its boys and girls teams to the State Championships.
The Bears boys qualified for the Nov. 24 CIF Final in Fresno by placing first among Division 5 teams Thursday at West Valley High.
With two of their top five slowed by illness, the Bears weren't at the top of their game, but they held off Colusa by 6 points to win the small schools title for the first time since 2008.
"We're very very happy about that," said coach Steve Nesheim. "Nothing but the championship was acceptable."
It was more dramatic for the Mount Shasta girls, who thought their opportunity to compete at the State Championships ended when they finished a strong second in Division 5 to University Prep of Redding.
Going into Thursday's race, Nesheim thought the top two Division 5 boys teams and only the first place girls team would qualify for State.
The Bears knew their top two girls, Ellen Sampson and Julie Ostrowski, had qualified for state as individuals, but it wasn't until the awards ceremony that they learned second place was good enough to get them into the Championships.
Unbeknownst to him, Nesheim said the powers that be "reinterpreted the formula for who goes" to the State Championships.
"It was a surprise to me," Nesheim said the next day. "I'm still in shock. We're a very good team, and getting better every week. It's very nice for the girls, especially the seniors."
Showing the depth of their girls team, the Bears' had six runners cross the finish line at the Section Finals sooner than anyone else, including the largest schools in the section.
All but one Mount Shasta girls runner ran a personal best on the West Valley course.
Nesheim said that still wasn't enough for the Bears to catch University Prep, because all but one of their girls runners also ran personal bests.
In a field that included NSCIF schools of all sizes, Mount Shasta seniors Ellen Sampson and Julie Ostrowski finished 12th and 13th overall in a field of 138 and 3-4 among Division 5 runners.
University Prep had the top two Division 5 finishers (Alyssa Stauffer and Helen Mino Faukner) and four of the top six, including former Mount Shasta resident Megan Hoffman, who placed 15th overall.
Senior Mariah Althaus-Cressman was the third Bear across the line (26th overall), followed by junior Kelsie Titus (32nd), senior Janelle Jaegel (35th), sophomore Tamera Howell (36th), senior Katherine Holst and sophomore Krystal Rubio. Freshman Abby Manley was ill and did not compete Thursday.
Senior Chris Cazneaux ran his best time ever to lead the Mount Shasta boys. He finished fourth among Division 5 runners and 25th overall in a field of 179.
He was followed by freshman Chris Morzenti (38th), senior Michael Cook (60th), junior Sean Hughes (64th), senior Clayton Poore (109th), and junior Tommy Hake (116th).
Nesheim said Cook and Poore "were both sick but gutted it out."
As a team, the Bears finished with 254 points to edge Colusa (260), a Division 5 team they hadn't seen all season.
The boys team included junior Wesley Navarre, senior Cody Lakin, senior Garrett Shea, and senior Keith Ramshaw.
The overall winner in the boys race was Etna senior John Whelan, and it wasn't even close. He finished in 15:29.80, more than a half minute ahead of second place finisher Chris Midkiff of Chico (16:01.24).