Finnane Finishes 2nd; Girls Team Lands Podium Spot at State

Colin Jones, Staff Writer

Toni Finnane capped her remarkable rookie cross country season by finishing 2nd in the division 3 race at the CIF State Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno on November 29.  Her team also earned runner-up honors, 10 points back of Souther California’s Palos Verdes High School.

The varsity boys’ squad finished 9th in the division 3 race, extending their state meet top 10 streak to 11 years.

Finnane was less than a second behind 1st place finisher Chloe Hansel of Las Lomas. Finnane’s time of 17:35 for the 5k distance is second only to 2012 alumnus Carrie Verdon’s time of 17:30 in the school record book.

The runner-up finish for the girls’ team was not what the athletes or coaches had expected heading into the meet. The squad was ranked #9 in the nation, according to DyeStat.com, and were the favorites.  However, 2 of the Cougars’ top 5 did not score in the race.

Senior Brighie Leach, who finished 2nd at state in 2013, was with Finnane and Hansel at the 2-mile mark, but faded to 84th by the end of the race. According to The San Jose Mercury News, Leach was diagnosed in the last month with vocal cord dysfunction, which caused asthma-like symptoms for her in the final mile.

Jenna Miles, who was the Cougars’ 4th scorer at the NCS Championships a week earlier, abandoned the state meet race, also suffering from asthma.

The boys’ team was lead by Parker Lothamer.  Other scorers included Jonathan Semenza and Jared Yabu.

“I’m satisfied with how I did but was expecting to do a little better,” said Yabu, who came in 69th place for the boys. “[But] I’m thankful for the season I’ve had.”

Semenza added, “Everyone else started out really hard.”

Yabu said that the squad was trapped behind a lot of other runners right after the gun. “We did all right, considering the start of the race, and we were able to fight back,” Yabu said.

In spite of falling short of a state title, according to head coach Chuck Woolridge, “This is easily the greatest varsity girls’ cross country squad in school history.” He believes that “the accomplishments of this team over the course of the season eclipse those of any previous squad.”

Following the race, coaches and athletes were distraught. “We won the NCS title the previous week but were not able to duplicate that level of performance at the state championships,” Woolridge said.

The varsity girl’s team has won the state title in 2002, 2010, and 2013.

The boys team’s best finish was in 2008, when they took 2nd place.

Both team earned NCS titles in rainy conditions at Hayward High School on November 22.

Looking ahead to next year, Woolridge admits that he has some big spots in the lineup to fill. “We will be losing 4 critical seniors from the girls’ squad and 2 seniors from the boys’ squad,” said Woolridge.