Taylor Wins CIF; Girls Qualify for State

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

December 4, 2023

Morro Bay High’s Girls’ Varsity Cross Country Team pose for photos on the winner’s stage to accept their 2nd Place plaque after the CIF Central Section Finals held Nov. 16 in Clovis’ Woodward Park. Pictured from left are: Shelby Taylor, Mia Bennett, Wendy Wilson, Noleena Fahy, Lily Buller, Astrid Barnett-Davis, and Jane Hotaling; with head coach Jennifer Lacovara Frere and assistant coach, Jackie Wilson. 

Morro Bay High School’s Girls’ Varsity Cross Country Team won a chance to compete for a State Championship after the girls took second at the CIF Central Section Div. 4 Finals and the top Lady Pirate runner won a CIF Championship; so too the Pirates’ best boys’ team runner.

Now, the girls’ team and the solo boy’s runner were scheduled to run at the State Meet on Nov. 25 (post press time) back in Clovis.

Morro Bay High’s Otis Kelly runs all alone in the Boys’ Div. 4 finals, coming in second place and qualifying for the State Meet. Photo by Roger Warnes
From left: Shelby Taylor, Mia Bennett and Otis Kelly bite down on the CIF medals they took home; with Taylor and Bennett holding the team’s second place plaque.

Shelby Wins

Morro Bay’s Shelby Taylor raced to an over-10-second win in the Div. 4 race leading the Lady Pirates to a second place finish behind Kerman.

Taylor’s wining time in the 3-mile race was 19 minutes 09.02 seconds, far ahead of second place finisher, Anna Villavicencio of Woodlake in 19:13.65 and Alyana Chaves of Roosevelt was third (19:34.32). Fourth went to Jaslyn Rodriguez of Liberty of Madera in 19:47.61 and fifth was Irene Martinez of Matilda Torres in 19:57.44. 

The next highest MBHS runner was ninth place, Mia Bennett in 20:49.83 and third best was Lilith Buller (16th, 21:18.01).

Noleena Fahy was 87th (24:05.26) and Jane Hotaling was 105th in 24:45.83; followed by Astrid Barnett-Davis (138th, 25:57.2). 

Bennett and Taylor both received individual CIF medals and there were 204 runners in the Div. 4 girls’ race.

In the team scoring, Kerman won CIF with 95 points, and Morro Bay was second with 112. Third was Arvin with 145 points; Matilda Torres H.S. was fourth with 169 points; and fifth went to Roosevelt with 174.

Morro Bay’s CIF win followed up on the Girls’ Ocean League Championship just a week prior.

Should they triumph at the State Meet they would be the first MBHS cross country team to ever win a State Championship, though there have been individual champions, including twice by Isaiah Festa and current Pirates’ head coach Jennifer Frere (when she was Jennifer Lacovara).

Kelly Takes Second

Morro Bay’s top runner, Otis Kelly, ran the race of his life so far taking second in the Div. 4 race, and leading the Pirates to a sixth place finish, but out of the money for the whole team to qualify for State.

Kelly clocked 16:07.71 in the 3-mile race behind winner Evan Torres of Parlier in 15:53.23. Israel Gutierrez of Del Oro was third in 16:28.25; and fourth was Kade Ketterman of Taft Union (16:45.25). Jose Delgadillo of McFarland was fifth in 16:51.51.

Morro Bay’s other top runners were: Lucas McAlpine (51st, 18:24.07); Eli Waldman (55th, 18:30.12); Nathan Fuller (75th, 19:01.49); Dominic Holst (88th, 19:23.20); and Joaquin Cuellar (110th, 19:50.68). There were 217 runners in this race and only Kelly medaled for Morro Bay.

Del Oro took the team title with 60 points; Justin Garza was second with 88; and McFarland was third with 108. Fourth went to Nipomo with 160; Taft Union was fifth (213); and Morro Bay sixth with 248 points.

Kelly will now compete in the State Meet as an individual.

Both Are Young Teams

It should be noted that the girls’ Taylor, Wilson, and Buller are all freshman and have potentially three more seasons to compete. Bennett is a junior. 

The girls will lose seniors, Fahy and Hotaling to graduation after this season.

On the boy’s side, Kelly is the Pirates’ only senior, and Walker and Waldman are both juniors. Fuller, Cuellar and Holst are sophomores, and McAlpine is a freshman.

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