Cross country shows out at NCS, girls land spot at state meet


On Saturday, Nov. 18, the cross country team went to Hayward for their North Coast Section (NCS) championships. For the first time in 41 years, the Berkeley High School girls cross country team won NCS, which landed them a spot at state championships. The boys team ended up fourth overall, right behind Dougherty Valley, which put them two places away from qualifying for state championships.

Individually, BHS runners took first in both races. Carina Nottingham, a sophomore, ran the three-mile race in 18 minutes and 24.8 seconds, with second place only a second behind her, and Olaf Dietz, a senior, secured first place with a time of 15 minutes and 31.2 seconds, the next runner almost 10 seconds behind him.

Anna Bretan, an assistant coach for the cross country team, said that rainy weather may have affected their times, but not the quality of their races. “It was not the best conditions to run their fastest time but it didn’t mean that they couldn’t run their best race. I think everybody rolled with it. There was some slipping and sliding, but they still had awesome races,” Bretan said.

Magnolia Hougan, a junior who came in 12th place out of 51 runners, said the team was preparing themselves for a difficult day. “Coming into it we all definitely had the expectation that it was going to be a hard race, like the course conditions (were) going to be tough,” Hougan said.

Ariel Kehat felt that running in Berkeley made him  better prepared for this course. Kehat said, “We’re familiar with running in the rain because we’re all trail runners and we run around Tilden in the dirt and stuff so we’re used to it. But, it was still very different compared to what we’re used to.”

Bretan felt that the results of the race were something that the athletes could be proud of. “We couldn’t have asked for more from them (the girls’ team). The boys’ team had a strong race too. They had really tough competition. We had some very strong individual performances.”

Nottingham came in first place despite not being projected to win. According to Bretan, the victory was surprising because Nottingham was sick that day. “(Nottingham) wasn’t the predicted winner of the race, but she ran a really smart race despite feeling sick and she ended up winning, which was really fun to watch because sometimes you don’t have to be in your best state to still have a stellar race,” Bretan said.

Bretan added that many athletes on the BHS team were sick that day, but  performed very well. “We had a lot of sick athletes,” Bretan said. “They still finished really strong and dug deep … They just all pulled it together as a team.” 

The mood was slightly different on the boys’ team when they learned that they did not qualify for state championships, however, they were excited for their teammates who had made it to states. “I personally was a little bit disappointed because it was a really hard course and day to run and we didn’t end up making it but I was very happy for Olaf and Mason (Mullen) who had basically won,” Kehat said.

State championships this year were held in Fresno, with the girls’ team attending as well as seniors Deitz, Mullen, and Oliver Nickelsen. Going into states, Bretan said that she wanted the focus to be on treating the race as a celebration without sacrificing performance. “I had the main expectation that the kids had fun at states. It was just an honor to be there. But, I didn’t want them to not also compete. So balancing having fun, and then competing with the top kids in the state with reasonable expectations,” Bretan said.

On Saturday, Nov. 25, at Woodward Park, the BHS team competed in the state championship. According to Bretan, this race was a highlight of the team this season. “Our whole entire team had their best race,” said Bretan. “One example is, Mason passed 30 people in the second mile and he passed 20 people in the third mile, so just very smart executed races.” 

The girls placed 17th out of 21 as a team, with the highest placing individual, Nottingham, coming in 40th out of 177. Dietz placed the highest of the boys competing at state, coming in 11th out of 182. 

“Every single kid on that team worked hard this season,” Bretan said. “They all finished strong. And, we had a very low level of injuries this season and just a nice progression of improvement throughout the season The season exceeded my expectations and I also thought the season was really fun. All of that in combination makes it feel like an A+ season.”