By Owen Pugh, sports editor
MCHS Men’s XC team took second at CIF XC Division 3 State Championships behind NCS rival Campolindo, the team who the Pumas beat the week prior at the NCS Championships. Senior Colton Swinth won the race at 15:10, which bested his own school record for 5k, and fellow senior Rory Smail finished second in 15:22. Swinth and Smail are now the two fastest athletes from the Redwood Empire ever on the course.
Coming down the homestretch, Colton Swinth was all smiles as he grabbed the top of his singlet to emphasize the “Maria Carrillo” written across his chest. As Swinth, a Maria Carrillo High School senior, finished his race, he turned to watch his teammate Rory Smail come across the line. The duo embraced for an emotional moment, as they had just finished first and second in the men’s Division III CIF Cross Country State Championships, en route to a second place team finish, just behind section rival Campolindo.
Swinth and Smail’s finish was the best by any duo in Redwood Empire history and Swinth became the Puma’s first-ever state champion.
Through the first mile, Smail and Swinth came through side by side in seventh and eighth place. Their respective mile splits of 4:44.3 and 4:44.5, which put them both within a second and a half of the leader–perfect positioning at that point of the race.
Swinth took the lead just after the two mile mark and never looked back, opening up a gap of over twenty seconds over the next non-MCHS runner.
Smail did not take command quite as early as his teammate, taking second place with about one kilometer left in the 5K race.
“Colton and I talked about it before the race, and we said from [one kilometer] to go we just have to give it our all,” Smail said of his race execution.
“That was so much fun,” Swinth said of his, “that felt amazing.”
After the race, the duo shared an emotional moment with their families and teammates filled with smiles and tears.
But as the rest of the runners came in, tensions began to rise over the question of who had captured the team title.
The week prior, Swinth and Smail took second and fourth in the men’s Division III race of the North Coast Section Cross Country Championships, where they defeated Campolindo, although Swinth and Smail were bested by Campolindo’s tandem of Dylan Gunn and Alex Lodewick who finished first and third. The top ranked Puma duo was hungry for revenge, but the whole Campolindo squad was even hungrier, as just a season ago Campolindo fell just 11 points shy of capturing their first ever state title.
Campolindo commanded the first mile of the race, placing their top five in the top 21 runners, their second mile was even stronger, as their fifth runner moved into 20th place, and absolutely demolished the third mile, they finished with all five scorers in the top 18.
The Pumas did not go out as strong as Campolindo. At the mile the Pumas had 89 points to Campolindo’s 55–34 points behind; at the second mile they managed to drop another nine spots, cutting the deficit to 30 points, and in the final mile the Pumas dropped their score to an incredible 64 points, a score that would have won the meet nine out of 10 ten times before this season, but Campolindo’s score of 47 points was virtually unbeatable, even when MCHS had the top two finishers.
Despite not winning as a team, the Pumas team performance was historic nonetheless: the Pumas’ team time of 1:18:31 was the second fastest ever by a Division III school at the state meet, 15 seconds faster than Campolindo’s team time. Even though the Pumas had the better team time, cross country is scored by place, not time, Campolindo put all of their top five within 19 seconds of each other, an incredible feat. So despite the dominant performance by the Pumas, Campolindo was even more so.