The Central Coast Section Championships were called off last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
That meant Scotts Valley High cross country stars Jeremy Kain and Ashlyn Boothby, two of the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League’s premier runners, didn’t get a shot at a section title.
Both runners took advantage of their opportunity last week by winning the Division IV boys and girls races in the rugged 2.95-mile Crystal Springs course in Belmont on Nov. 13.
Kain, a senior, became the program’s first boys individual champion and Boothby, a sophomore, became the Falcons’ second girls champion—the first since Vanessa Fraser won the title in 2012.
The boys’ team won its second CCS title and its first since 2013. The girls won their first section team title in D-IV.
“It’s just been an amazing year,” Scotts Valley coach Todd Hoffman said.
What made the wins more special was that former Falcons coach Gretchen Schmitt was at the race to witness the team’s historical feat.
Kain, who will compete at the NCAA Division I level at Duke University next year in the fall, said he broke down in tears once he found out that both the boys and girls won.
“I don’t know why,” he said. “I think it’s pretty surreal given that it’s my senior year, next year I will be going to the East Coast. I feel like everything is coming together and the culture on the team is something that we’ve really never experienced.”
Hoffman said that Schmitt saw videos of interviews with the runners following the SCCAL championships. They mentioned their disdain for Crystal Springs, which features numerous hills and uncomfortable warm conditions from exposure to the sun.
Schmitt made the call to the first year head coach and told him the runners needed to change their mantra about Crystal Springs, telling themselves that they loved the course.
“They had to say it three times a day, ‘I love Crystal Springs,’” Hoffman said. “[Schmitt] left this year but she was with us the whole time.”
Kain Claims Crown
In 2019, the Falcons boys’ team was favored to win CCS but finished runner-up to King City High. Hoffman said the seniors who were on that squad still remember what happened.
They’ve been laser focused despite having the championships canceled in the abbreviated 2021 spring season.
“It’s been their goal since then,” Hoffman said.
Scotts Valley, the four-time SCCAL champion, placed three runners in the top eight to finish with a winning score of 44, sneaking past runner-up Menlo School (45) for the D-IV title. Archbishop Riordan was third with 75 points.
“Everything came together at CCS on a course that we don’t really run,” Kain said.
Kain, the three-time SCCAL individual champion, won in 15 minutes, 26.8 seconds and had the sixth-fastest finish out of the 504 runners who qualified in all five divisions.
Kain edged Menlo School junior Justin Pretre (15:29.7) and freshman Landon Pretre (15:31.9).
Kain said he started out comfortably fast, but made sure to save some gas in the tank in case one of the Pretre brothers caught up to him. At one point, both siblings came around one of the hills right behind Kain and he told himself to keep moving.
Kain pushed hard from start to finish but he said that the Crystal Springs course is still one of the most challenging he’s ever run.
“I wanted to redeem myself this year but I also wanted to make sure we got the team win,” he said.
Senior Ryder Brabo (15:57.9; 5th), junior Aiden Boothby (16:24.4; 8th), senior Austin George (17:07.0; 15th) and junior Jonah Verinsky (17:13.2; 18th) also scored for the Falcons.
Kain said winning the team title gives them momentum and a shot at winning at the CIF State Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno on Nov. 27.
“I think our team is capable of it,” he said. “I think running how we did at Crystal Springs, we’re going to run better at state than we did at Crystal [Springs], which will be awesome.”
San Lorenzo Valley High senior Marco Evans (17:36.4) was 25th.
It was the first time that Boothby ran at Crystal Springs and she had previously heard that it wasn’t an easy course.
“I can verify that they were right,” she said. “It’s not an easy course.”
Boothby and her sister, Amber, finished first and second respectively in the D-IV race to lead Scotts Valley to the section title.
Ashlyn won in 18:15.3—the fourth-fastest time in any division—and Amber finished in 19:07.7, helping the SCCAL champion Falcons finish with a winning score of 35.
“I’m more happy with the team’s achievements rather than my own,” Ashlyn said. “I’m so pleased with seeing everyone’s hard work paying off and also looking forward to state.”
All of their scoring runners placed in the top 20. Junior Rafaela Putnam (20:01.2) took eighth, followed by seniors Megan Wu (20:28.5) in 12th and Greta Feague (21:00.9) in 17th.
Ashlyn said winning the CCS title was a goal they had set for themselves prior to the season.
“We’ve been working so hard and just to finally get that is so incredibly fulfilling. It makes me really happy,” she said.
Scotts Valley finished ahead of Sacred Heart Prep (41) and Carmel High (64).
San Lorenzo Valley junior Haven Finley took 14th in 20:49.1 and qualified for state as an individual and classmate Colleen Murata (20:55.5) took 15th.
Ashlyn said she was running by herself for most of the race and didn’t feel like she had a great race. She said the hills took a toll on her and racing alone was difficult.
“I was just kind of thinking to myself, ‘Well everyone’s hurting right now, so might as well keep going,’” she said.
Boothby said winning the CCS title is a confidence booster and she’s looking forward to seeing what the team can do at Woodward Park.
The last time she checked the rankings the Falcons were sixth in the state but she’s hoping that’ll change by the end of day at CIF State Championships.
“Maybe we’ll try and push for a podium spot,” she said. “I’m so pumped to see what we can do, especially on a course that we’re all better at because none of us really like Crystal Springs.”
And in the end, there’s still no love for Crystal Springs.
What: CIF State Cross Country Championships
Where: Woodward Park, Fresno
When: Nov. 27 at 8:30am