Piner Pride is Baaaaaaack

Saturday was the 27th annual Viking Opener cross country meet at Spring Lake and if there was one thing you had to take notice of it was that Piner high school is definitely back as a Redwood Empire power house. And it’s not with the all too common, hey, look at me attitude we all too often see these days, but is grounded in quiet leadership, hard work and a team commitment to changing Piner's reputation back to a team to aspire to be like. Luis Luna is the current leader of the team and his example is being passed down through the ranks to his teammates. Luna was nearly twenty seconds faster than anyone else on the day over the two mile course in 9:46. The current course has been used since 1987 and Luna’s time has only been bettered by 2009 State division III champion Erik Olson of Novato HS when he won in 9:40. “My goal today was just to run 10 flat because I have not done much speed work.” said Luna. But then a Tam runner, (Andrew Henn), took out the pace at 4:57 for the first mile. “I thought if I let him go I might not catch him again,” said Luna, “so I stayed with him and then pulled away and used the final downhill to let it all out.” " Up on the dam I heard the time at 9:04 and knew this is going to be good," said Luna, "I'm super happy with the time." Newman’s Alexi Taylor was second in 10:07 with Cloverdale’s Joe Carrillo 3rd (10:19). Henn finished 4th in 10:23 with Piner's Zekaryas Mebrahtu 5th (10:24). Montgomery's Jose Mendoza was next at 10:32, followed by Santa Rosa's Jordan Guerrero (10:35), Piner's Jason Saler (10:37) and Santa Rosa's Michael Tomasi (10:42). With Luna’s teammates accustom to running in his shadow, he talked with them before hand, because at this meet they were all in different races because of the grade level format. “I tried to prep them mentally on what to do.” said Luna “I told, sophomore Efren Reyes, who I knew could win it, to take it out hard the first mile and after that just go and run with guts. Luna talked about his reflections on moving through his high school years of running. "I remember running in middle school and it was not complicated at all. Then as a freshman, it was like I was just learning everything about running," said Luna. "It was just a fun year. My sophomore year then added better competition and even more the next year. Now as a senior I get to pass on what I have learned. I'm definitly feeling like a father figure." The talk paid off pretty well because Reyes won the Frosh/Soph race by a huge 26 seconds in 10:27. “It felt weird to be in the lead,” said Reyes. Maria Carrillo’s Dante Hay was 2nd in 10:53 and Santa Rosa's Aden Holmes in 3rd (10:54). Piners new pride was possibly best demonstrated in the junior boys race as Jaime Silva won over a strong field. “I was nervous before the race because I knew there would be four of us battling,” said Silva, who as soon as he finished just a second ahead of Ukiah’s Paul Holden turned around and started congratulating all the other finishers. This was unplanned, but as his teammates finished they lined up right behind him and started doing the same thing. Piner's coach Louie Rosales says he has been talking to his troups all the time about bringing about a new reputation for the Piner team after about a decade of them being at the bottom of the pack. "We are going out of our way to set a positive opinion in people about Piner cross country." said Rosales. He loves the group he has and the fact that they let their performances speak for themselves. "It's nice when your best guy, (Luna), is also your best leader." said Roasales. "You can have positive leaders or negative and Luna's definitly a positive, It's a distraction to the athlete himself and his team when he's all look at me attitude. Luna leads the rest by being the hardest worker and most dedicated." said Roasales. Piner was the school that set the standard for how dominate a team could be in the 1970’s under the leadership of Jimmy Underhill. The Prospectors won fourteen pennants from 1968-1985 in the Sonoma County League. Moving to NBL in 1986 that all ended and they had not even placed as runnerup from then until 2009 when they tied for best score at league finals before winning their first pennant in over 25 years last year. And just how fast were the Prospectors today? Well combining the times of their five fastest, their team time would be 51:27. The next fastest team in the history of this meet was 51:53 by the 1999 Eureka team that won Div. II State that year. Piner is currently ranked 10th in the state for division III but after today's runs they most likily will move up a number of spots. By Jim Crowhurst