Watsonville High freshman Layla Ruiz finished off her impressive first cross country season by taking second in the freshman race of the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championship West Regional, Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.
Ruiz, competing unattached, completed the 5,000-meter course in 19 minutes, 29.4 seconds to finish just 14 seconds behind the champion Amber Rios of Ontario.
Watsonville’s first female league champ since 1989 and the program’s first California Interscholastic Federation state meet qualifier since 2000, Ruiz would have placed 45th in the seeded race, which featured 122 of the best runners from the California, Utah, Washington, Arizona, Montana, Idaho and New Mexico.
Aptos High senior Marea Zlatunich took 30th in the seeded race in 19:15.4 a year after placing sixth and advancing to the National Championship round, where she took 36th.
A three-time top-six finisher at state and a Central Coast Section champion last season, Zlatunich was far and away the fastest runner from the CCS among the pack of seeded runners.
Live Oak High senior Kaylah Grant finished seven spots behind her in 19:24.
Malibu High junior Claudia Lane placed first in the seeded race with a time of 16:59.6.
Lane last week shattered the CIF state meet record at Woodward Park in Fresno by completing the 5,000-meter course in 16:30.3 to win the Division IV individual championship.
Ruiz took 30th in the Division I race at the state meet a week ago. She was the second fastest freshman in the division and seventh fastest freshman overall.
Watsonville senior Daniela Salazar placed 18th in the senior race in 20:54.8.