Prior to Saturday's CCS Championships in cross country, only two girls from the section had ever broken the 17-minute mark at the 2.95-mile Crystal Springs layout in Belmont. Gunn's senior runner Sarah Robinson made sure to add her name to the exclusive list in her final competition at the course.
Robinson dominated with a 16:59 time, helping the Gunn girls' team finish second with 75 points in Division I, securing the Titans one of two berths in the CIF State Meet.
Monta Vista was the other Division I girls team to qualify for state, placing first with 52 points. Menlo-Atherton just missed out by taking third with 85 points.
"I am thrilled with the results today," said Gunn coach PattiSue Plumer. "This team really rose to the occasion. Everyone gave it their all. I found it very inspiring and moving.
"Sarah's race may have been the best high school performance that I have witnessed. Everything conspired against her. It was windy, blustery, cold and dusty, and then moments before the race was to start, the officials stopped the race to allow for paramedics to drive in. The runners then had to wait 35 minutes all the while the conditions deteriorated even further. But she would be not be denied."
Robinson's time was the sixth-fastest ever for a high school girl on the Crystal Springs course, and was the fourth-best CCS girls' run of all-time.
"I was trying to go as hard as I could," Robinson said about finishing strong near the finish line. "I could hear people (from the crowd) saying 'you're under 17 minutes,' so I was trying just to push it."
Robinson was actually the second girl on the afternoon to break the 17-minute mark, as another senior runner, Anna Maxwell of San Lorenzo Valley High, finished with a 16:53 time in the Division IV girls' race.
The weather was very different than the hot and dry climate present for the SCVAL championships at Crystal Springs two weeks earlier when Robinson won in 17:04. Instead, the course was chilly and very breezy, making the conditions for running less than ideal.
"The wind was kind of brutal, especially going up the hills, and going down the back stretch," said Robinson, who finished five seconds better than her SCVAL championship time.
Robinson's teammates also ran extremely well, as sophomore Gillian Meeks finished 11th (18:55), and freshman Claire Hu ended up in 16th place (19:07). Maya Miklos (19:34) was 21st and Illi Gardner (19:44) was 26th to round out Gunn's scoring.
Gunn clinched the spot ahead of M-A with its top-two finishes as Robinson was nine places ahead of Madeleine Baier and Meeks was one spot ahead of Katie Beebe.
Menlo-Atherton's third-place finish was a bit disappointing for a team coming off a PAL championship and undefeated league season. Still, M-A head coach Eric Wilmurt was proud of the way his girls competed.
"I don't think there is anything they could have done to run any faster today," Wilmurt said. "They put their heart on the line today and it just didn't pan out for them."
The Bears were led by Baier, a sophomore who was able to finish 10th (18:51). Two other M-A girls finished in the top 20, as sophomore Beebe placed 12th (19:02), and senior Taylor Fortnam finished in 15th (19:06).
The Palo Alto girls finished in ninth place with 257 points, as sophomore Bryn Carlson (19:47) and junior Katie Foug (19:58) were the only Viking girls to finish in the top 50. Carlson finished in 28th, while Foug finished in 32nd.
In the Division I boys' race, Menlo-Atherton, Gunn and Palo Alto finished in sixth, eighth and ninth, respectively.
Menlo-Atherton senior Zach Plante had the No. 8 time at 15:46, good enough for him to qualify for the state meet.
"Zach is a real special kid . . . he's got a real arsenal of running skill and speed," Wilmurt said of Plante, who plans to compete in the 400 meter event in college.
Gunn was led by senior Thomas Rasmussen, who finished his career with a strong 29th place finish (16:45). The Titans also had freshman Jonas Enders and junior Noah Krigel finish with a time of 17:10, for 50th- and 51st place-finishes, respectively.
"At the beginning of the season, we didn't look like we would come anywhere close to the CCS," Plumer said of her boys team. "To finish eighth in CCS, that's nothing to be unhappy about. (The CCS race) was kind of gravy for them."
The Palo Alto boys finished with two runners in the top 50, as junior Aaron Chandler placed 37th with a 16:58 time, and freshman Kent Slaney placed 43rd with a 17:01 mark while dealing with a hip-flexor injury. Junior Lucas Matison, among the favorites for individual honors, suffered a bike accident during the week and did not compete.
In the Division V races, the Priory girls and boys both came away with first-place finishes, qualifying both squads for the state meet.
"Pure joy," a smiling Priory head coach Matt Lai said when asked about his emotions after the races. "We knew going into both races that we had a shot, but we knew we had to race really well. And they ran out of their minds today."
The Priory boys cruised to an easy 34-60 margin over second place Pacific Collegiate, placing four runners in the top 10. Senior Chris Gregory placed second (16:29), junior Ross Corey finished fourth (16:35), senior Johnny Trudelle finished fifth (16:45), and sophomore Robert Screven finished 10th (17:20).
A very young Priory girls' squad also finished with four of the top- 10 runners in their race, as sophomore Hanna Marsheck placed second (19:33), sophomore Maria Naclerio placed fourth (20:34), freshman Elise Rust finished sixth (21:17) and sophomore Sarah Halabe finished 10th (21:30).
In Division IV, Sacred Heart Prep junior Daniel Hill was an individual qualifier for the state meet after finishing fourth in 16:05. The Gators took fifth as a team.
The Menlo School girls, among the early favorites to advance as a team, instead finished sixth with only the top four moving on. The Knights did have two individual qualifiers for the state finals as Zoe Enright ran 18:32 for fifth and Lizzie Lacy clocked 18:34 for sixth.
For the teams and runners who qualified, the CIF State Cross Country Championships will take place Saturday Nov. 30 in Fresno.