Results from the MCAL girls cross country championship on Wednesday at the Indian Valley College campus weren’t especially shocking but they weren’t exactly predictable either.
Redwood High always seems to be in title talks, and the Giants didn’t disappoint grabbing their second consecutive pennant and third in the past four years with a team total of 48 points. Second-place Tam had 61 and third-place Archie Williams finished with 82.
Redwood, Tam and Archie had tied for first in league duals after the Giants beat Tam, Archie beat the Giants and the Red-tailed Hawks won against the Peregrine Falcons.
Individual honors were also up for grabs, and Archie sophomore Ani Stieg emerged victorious with a winning time of 18 minutes, 50.9 seconds on the 3.1-mile course. Branson’s Hailey Sellers and Tam’s Ellery Barnes were second and third with times of 18:54.9 and 18:55.7, respectively.
As Redwood coach Nykky Graydon gathered her runners together at the finish line, she asked them how they thought they did. They were pretty quiet and unassuming, still thinking 2023 was more of a rebuilding year after graduating nine seniors.
“It’s crazy,” said Graydon. “We graduated really, really good seniors last year — most of them are running in college. We knew this was going to be a hard year and a building year. But we got four freshmen who came out of nowhere and that helped. That was awesome.”
The Giants’ top finisher was senior Erin Stolte, who was fifth in 19.09.9. Marley Nacco and Kate Kozubik were seventh and eighth, respectively.
As Stieg waited for her teammates to cross the finish line, she briefly laid down on the grass but hopped up shortly to greet her friends. When asked how she did, she humbly and quietly replied that she won.
The reactions were filled with comments like: “What?” “Incredible.” “Are you kidding me?”
“I knew it was a longshot,” said Stieg. “I was telling myself — pain is temporary. That’s what we were saying before the race. I just knew I had to to push it.”
Stieg was running behind Barnes before the hill — around the 2-mile mark — and decided to stick with the Tam runner. As Barnes began to pull away on the downhill, Stieg found another gear and took the lead for good.
“I gave it everything I had and I passed her,” said Stieg. “It felt great.”
Marin Catholic finished fourth with 95 points, followed by Branson (111), Terra Linda (159), Novato (175) and San Marin (192).
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