When Shea Elmore won the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division Cross Country Finals as a freshman, she was running with then-teammate Sophie Tau to cross the finish line first.
The two were in a virtual dead-heat to the finish, and both had the opportunity to win. Elmore, a Los Gatos High junior, said she received a nod from Tau to take it and won in a personal-record 18 minutes, 10.3 seconds.
Fast forward two years and with Tau having since graduated, Elmore tasted victory in the league finals again, besting the field in 19:07.8 at the 2.95-mile Crystal Springs Course in Belmont on Oct. 31.
“It felt really good, it’s been my goal for the past couple of years to win league [again],” Elmore said. “Last year, I didn’t have my best season, so it feels good to finally come back stronger this season.”
Elmore endured shin splints at different points in the 2022 season, but this year she’s stayed healthy by focusing on quality workouts while keeping her mileage relatively low. Elmore led a fleet of Los Gatos runners as they won the team title in convincing fashion, finishing with a low score of 19 points to Monta Vista’s 76.
How dominant was Los Gatos? It took five of the first six places and seven in the top 10. Taylor Chesarek (third), Tatum Pyle (fourth), Claire Liu (fifth), Elise Greenstreet (sixth), Sarina Salzer-Swartz (ninth) and Zoe Williamson all finished in the top 10.
Elmore said it’s been a joy being on this year’s team, with several runners all close in talent coupled with a cohesive team dynamic.
“It’s been so fun because we’ve really come together as a team,” she said. “We’re always supporting each other at practice, and we’re all really good friends off the track.”
Led by Aydon Stefanopoulos, the Los Gatos boys also won a league championship, edging Homestead, 41-46. Stefanopoulos won the individual title in 15:28, just off his PR of 15:25.4 which was established at the second SCVAL De Anza Division meet on Oct. 3.
Ben Klarich took fourth in a PR of 15:56.9, and Jensen Bidmead also had a standout performance, running a PR of 16:03.1 in taking sixth place. Adam Wang (11th) and Ryan Sacco (19th) were the team’s fourth and fifth scoring runners, with Sacco establishing a huge PR of 17:24.8, 36 seconds better than his previous best at Crystal Springs.
Both the boys and girls teams will be competing in the Central Coast Section Championships at Crystal Springs on Nov. 11. Stefanopoulos is one of the top-ranked boys in Northern California and has posted the fifth fastest time at the Belmont course this season.
Also notable, coach Paul Lawryk earned a high honor as he was named this year’s CCS Cross Country Honor Coach. Los Gatos Athletic Director Ken Perrotti had high praise for Lawryk in a statement released via a LGHS Athletics Twitter post.
“Paul works tirelessly to provide a home for any and all athletes that want to run,” Perrotti said. “He cares as much about the kid out there running just for fun as he does our kids who will be running at the NCAA level. Coach Lawryk is kind, personable and well liked by his athletes. He provides much needed structure for many kids on campus. … Of the 111 coaches we have at Los Gatos, Paul is by far the most organized. His communication skills with athletes, fellow coaches, staff, school admin, parents and our community are second to none.”
Los Gatos has had some truly great teams in its storied history, and this year’s squad is looking to join that exclusive list.
If the Wildcats (15-0-2) win their next two games, they’ll finish the season undefeated. And if the CCS quarterfinal playoff results were any indication, Los Gatos is the favorite to win it all again. The Wildcats put a 3-0 drubbing on Leigh High on Nov. 4, by far the most dominant performance of the day.
The three other quarterfinal winners—St. Francis, St. Ignatius and Mitty, the Wildcats’ next opponent—all escaped with 1-0 victories. Top-seed Los Gatos plays Mitty in the semifinals on Wednesday at 4:30pm at Valley Christian High.
The Monarchs, of course, are a familiar foe, as the two play in the same Santa Clara Valley Athletic League A division. The teams had two regular-season matches, with Los Gatos winning the first and the second game ending in a 1-1 tie on Oct. 5.
“This is the playoffs so whatever happened earlier in the season doesn’t matter,” Wildcats coach Henry Reyes said. “It’s about what the girls have to bring on Wednesday. Mitty will be well coached, and we have to minimize any extra opportunities they might have.”
It should be a doozy of a matchup, pitting the two most successful programs in the section—bar none. Los Gatos and Mitty have been the only two teams to win the CCS championship since 2012, and the storied programs even shared the title in 2017, the fifth of six straight titles Los Gatos won spanning the 2013 through 2018 seasons.
However, Mitty is the defending CCS champion and aiming for its 10th section championship. Los Gatos, winners of a record 16 CCS titles, seemingly is in prime position for No. 17. The Wildcats put Leigh away early, scoring all three of its goals in the first half.
Juliette Vrijen, Frankie Sutherland and Alexa Musser had one goal each and goalie Keira Lin made all of the stops to power Los Gatos to victory.
“Keira Lin came up with some big blocks versus some hard shots,” Reyes said. “She was in the right spot and didn’t offer them [Leigh] any hope [to get back into the match].”
Vrijen scored off a rebound and displayed her goal-producing prowess again, Sutherland waited patiently before collecting a ball and firing it in and Musser juked a couple of Leigh defenders before coming in on goal and scoring.
“I’m very pleased with how the girls are playing,” Reyes said. “They’ve been playing consistently really well and Aanya Gupta, Claire Torres and Leaya Cleary did a great job of containing and supporting the attack. The entire defense led by Ellie White was textbook.”
The Los Gatos boys made history by earning its first-ever win in the vaunted CCS Open Division. The No. 3 seed Wildcats defeated No. 6 Valley Christian 12-8 in the opening-round quarterfinals on Nov. 4, which also earned them a berth into the CIF NorCal Regional playoff tournament.
First off, Los Gatos (25-2) plays national power and No. 2 seed Sacred Heart Prep (20-7) in the section semifinals on Nov. 8 at 5:30pm at Bellarmine. A year ago, SHP drubbed Los Gatos, 19-10, in the quarterfinals. This year’s game should be more competitive.
That’s because Los Gatos is a stronger team from 2022 and SHP hasn’t been quite as dominant as it was last year. The Wildcats led Valley Christian 8-6 at halftime before breaking things open in the third quarter, outscoring the Warriors 4-1 in that frame.
Connor Sullivan scored four goals, and Mathijs Dirven and Liam Amburgey had three scores each to propel the team to victory. Dirven also had four assists in another sterling performance.