Gabby Satterlee’s rise to prominence in high school cross country, like her red hair, is flaming.
Never was that more evident than Saturday morning, when the Central Valley Christian senior couldn’t catch Destiny Collins of Great Oak-Temecula, yet still placed second to the All-American in the Girls Championship of the 37th Asics Clovis Invitational at Woodward Park.
Madera South senior Eduardo Herrera, likewise, couldn’t quite run down one of the nation’s finest in Arcadia’s Phillip Rocha but scored silver in the Boys Championship, nonetheless, with one of the top performances in Central Section history.
Herrera clocked 15 minutes, 1 second on the state’s official prep 5K course. Only Buchanan’s C.J. Albertson (14:51, 2010) has done better in section annals.
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15:01 Time by Madera South’s Eduardo Herrera on Woodward Park’s 5K course at the Asics Clovis Invitational, second only to Buchanan’s C.J. Albertson (14:51, 2010) in Central Section annals.
Rocha, ranked sixth nationally by DyeStat.com a year after winning the state D-I title, was timed in 14:58 at a meet that drew a record 4,300-runner field from California, Nevada and Texas.
That occurred soon after Satterlee – bumped out and far above a Division 4 race fit for her school’s enrollment of 260 by her coach, Scott Kostelyk, for the opportunity of chasing Collins and others – beat six runners from nation top-ranked Great Oak; Arcadia star Holly Lung; Clovis North’s Lauren Moffett, The Bee’s 2014 Runner of the Year, who placed 14th; Clovis’ Mikayla Sodersten, who was third; and 175 runners in all in a meet that ranks with the best in the West.
“Absolutely amazing experience,” Satterlee said after timing 17:48.8 to torpedo her previous best of 18:22. “I hadn’t raced against that kind of competition, ever. I did a huge prayer before, got myself in the right mindset and just hoped I could hold on.”
Collins, June’s state runaway 3,200-meter champion at Buchanan’s Veterans Memorial Stadium, clocked a pedestrian 17:36.7, by her standards, on a day two-year reigning state D-I queen Fiona O’Keeffe of Davis didn’t compete for reasons that were unclear. This came a year after Collins beat O’Keeffe with a 16:57 in the same meet.
But soon after Collins finished Saturday, she expressed excitement that she and Satterlee could possibly join forces next year at Baylor, where both have made official recruiting visits.
Satterlee, who has a 3.85 GPA, also has visited Arizona State and Cal Poly, and received additional offers from a deep list ranging from USC to Oklahoma and Tennessee.
It extends a remarkable success story hatched not out of a plan, but coincidence.
She knew all along she would follow her mother’s path and run track and field in high school. Mom – the former Alisa Jacobsma – was a league champion half-miler at Mt. Whitney, where she graduated in 1987.
Cross country, however, wasn’t in the plan for the daughter. But Kostelyk wouldn’t have it at a private high school whose campus is aligned with the system’s intermediate and elementary schools on Tulare Avenue in west Visalia.
We’ve got to get this girl to run cross country.
Central Valley Christian coach Scott Kostelyk after seeing Gabby Satterlee run in a 5K fundraiser as an eighth-grader
He tells this story: “We have a Labor Day community 5K fundraiser for the cross country program, and Gabby participates as an eighth-grader. She runs 21 minutes without any training, has a beautiful stride, and I say, ‘We’ve got to get this girl to run cross country.’ ”
Satterlee, however, remained firm to a volleyball commitment and played that sport instead in the fall of her freshman year.
That’s a popular thing to do at CVC, which has been so successful in volleyball it has been elevated to D-II, where it won a section title last year while competing against schools seven to 10 times its size.
Encouraged more by coaches and runners – with a particularly aggressive pull from Cavaliers standout Shani Slabber – Satterlee did eventually cave and joined the cross country team as a sophomore.
And even though she continued to play volleyball – meaning she played both sports concurrently in the fall – Satterlee captured Central Section cross country titles as a sophomore (D-V) and junior (D-IV).
CVC also won team championships with perfect scores of 15 each season, placing 1-2-3-4-5 each time. And, in addition, they won last year’s D-IV state title.
Oddly, Satterlee was far off her game, placing 20th at 19:17 in that race only a couple of weeks after winning Central Sequoia League gold with the 18:22 on the same course.
“She tanked,” Kostelyk said. “Every runner will do that at some point in their career. It’s pressure, the excitement – everything that goes into it.”
Satterlee, particularly based on Saturday’s effort, will be expected to contend with McKinleyville’s Morgin Coonfield and Santa Cruz’s Cate Ratcliff for this year’s state D-IV title Nov. 28 at Woodward. Coonfield (17:51) and Ratcliff (18:23) placed second and fourth in last season’s D-IV final.
Satterlee, after playing four sports (cross country, volleyball, basketball, track and field) as a sophomore and junior, will concentrate exclusively on running as a senior.
And if she doesn’t win it all at state, Kostelyk said, it won’t be for lack of preparation.
“She does everything right; she’s completely committed. Nutrition, cross training, gym work – she does all that stuff perfectly,” Kostelyk said. “I couldn’t have forecast this three years ago because you never know how girls will develop. But she had all the pieces in place in terms of work ethic, attitude and desire.”
Herrera had more – Herrera, who placed fourth and seventh in the past two state meets and arrived Saturday with a personal best of 15:07, was encouraged by the fact he had more gas in the tank at the wire than he expected.
Seeing his time on the running digital clock above the finish line as he approached, he found another gear and just missed in his charge to break 15 minutes.
“I should have made my move earlier,” he said. “I just wanted to go out there and be comfortable and relaxed, but once I saw 14:56 (on the clock), I tried to make 14:59.”
He has little doubt he’ll break 15 easily by the end of the season, saying: “I think I can go 14:50 at state, if not 14:40.”