San Lorenzo Valley High senior Alex Castro-Neri competed in track field for the first time this year. His performance at the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League track and field championships on April 24 made that hard to believe.
Castro-Neri notched three first-place finishes in the league’s grandest stage at Harbor High. He won the 200-meter dash in 23.36 seconds and he ran the anchor leg to help the Cougars’ 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams take home the gold.
Castro-Neri, who plans to compete at Hartnell College next year, nearly won a fourth race, but took second in the 400 (51.45) just behind Monte Vista Christian School’s Justin Lomeli (51.05).
“My legs just gave up in the last 100 [meters],” he said. “In the first 300 [meters] I was doing really good but I hit the wind when my leg felt stiff.”
Castro-Neri helped the Cougars place third in the team standings with 66 points just behind Aptos High (90) and this year’s SCCAL team champion MVC with 116 points. Watsonville High (65) placed fourth and both Santa Cruz High (51) and Scotts Valley High (51) tied for fifth.
It was just the second time in Castro-Neri’s short career that he’s competed in the 400. Last year, he was involved in a dirt bike accident that left him sidelined for a month.
Then the track and field season was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Castro-Neri said his mindset was to win these races and he felt that he did an amazing job despite not sweeping his events.
“Unfortunately in the 400 [meters] I couldn’t [win], but I feel happy because I got second place and I feel happy for the guy [Lomeli] who won it because he trained hard for that,” he said.
MVC also received wins from seniors Andrew Bachman in the 800 (1:58.55), Derek Brown in the discus (132-3) and Daniel Castillo in the 110-meter hurdles (17.50), who earned the Bob Enzweiler Award as the highest point-earner with 24.
Jeremy Kain of Scotts Valley won the 1,600 in 4:20.89 and also won the 3,200 in 9:29.47. Those impressive victories come just a month after he repeated as the SCCAL champion in cross country.
Seigle wins twice for SLV: San Lorenzo Valley High sophomore Kaitlin Seigle won both the 400 (1:02.96) and 800 (2:22.72) with some style, running in sunglasses and showing some school pride by sporting a pair of Cougar paw earrings.
She admitted to being nervous going into league trials on April 22. She qualified for the final round but she realized that something was missing from her routine that afternoon.
“Today I was really focused on warming up,” she said. “Just clearing my head and being ready to run.”
The main goal for Seigle is to always win the race, but April 24’s finals were also about enjoying the moment in a season full of surprises and delays due to the pandemic.
“I just decided to go out and have fun today,” she said. “I just had to adjust my focus.”
Fellow SLV sophomore Katharina Guth also produced two wins, earning titles in the discus (94-4) and shot put (27-6). Cougars’ junior Amaya Gordon won the 200 (27.29).
Aptos High junior Elizabeth Churchill won the 110 hurdles (16.63) and was the lone Mariner to win an event. However, she managed to record several second- and third-place finishes to help them win the team title with 129 points.
They were followed by SLV (109), Soquel (78) High, Monte Vista Christian School (56) and Scotts Valley High (42) in a field of 10 teams.
MVC’s Shayna Lebovitz won the 300 hurdles in (48.92), the high jump (5-0), the long jump (16-1.25) and the triple jump (32-8), and earned the Bob Enzweiler Award for being the athlete who produced the highest point total.
Scotts Valley sisters Ashlyn and Amber Boothby won the 1,600 (5:05.55) and 3,200 (5:05.55), respectively.
The league season was just four weeks long, which included three regular season meets and this past weekend’s championship. Seigle was satisfied when she heard the news about six weeks ago that there was going to be a season.
“I’m just so grateful for the support that my parents and my coaches have given me,” she said.