One last chance at history for Virtue, Chahal

A Burroughs High cross-country program that has certainly enjoyed a historic past few years will end an era at Saturday morning’s CIF State Championships at Fresno’s Woodward Park.

History will be made in the girls’ Division I championship race as senior Emily Virtue, the reigning two-time All-Area Girls’ Cross-Country Runner of the Year, will compete as an individual at 9:05 a.m.

Virtue is Burroughs’ first-ever three-time qualifier to the state finals, beating out a tie with individual qualifiers Sadee Martinez (2006-07) and Anthony Monroy (2009-10) and 2014-15 team qualifiers Justin Villagran, Timothy Wells and Andrew Barrondo.

“The one thing that’s changed for me throughout the years is that I’m racing smarter,” Virtue said. “In the past, you’d want to go out really fast, get ahead and then try to stay there.

“That’s not me anymore. I’m a lot more strategic and it’s about passing up rather than just jumping ahead.”

In 2015, Virtue finished sixth at the state Division I finals and 13th in all of California with a mark of 17 minutes, 39 seconds.

Last season, Virtue finished ninth in Division I and 26th in the state with a time of 17:48.2.

If there’s a change this season for Virtue, it’s the time of her event.

In the previous two years, the girls’ Division I race has been run at 12:15 p.m. This time around, the start time is more than three hours earlier, which should lead to much cooler elements.

Virtue enters Saturday’s race with an up-and-down season as the two-time Pacific League champion finished second (17:11.5) at this year’s league finals at Crescenta Valley Park on Nov. 1.

The senior rebounded and placed fifth at Saturday’s CIF Southern Section Division I championship at Riverside City Cross Country Course in 16:58.5.

The effort marked the third consecutive season that Virtue finished in the top of five of Division I.

While Virtue fell a little short at Pacific League finals, that day marked a breakthrough effort for senior Jagdeep Chahal.

It was then that the Indians’ runner topped reigning league champion Colin FitzGerald of Crescenta Valley for a league title.

The close call was almost a repeat of when the duo tied for the Pacific League 1,600-meter championship at the track and field finals at Arcadia High on May 5.

“I’ve tried to block [league finals] out of my head since then because that probably would have made me overconfident,” Chahal said Saturday. “It’s been weeks since then, but I still can’t believe it that I won league. I just want to keep going.”

Chahal will get his chance in the boys’ Division I finals at 10:05 a.m.

Chahal is making his second state appearance and first as an individual.

In 2015, the senior ran as part of a Burroughs squad that finished 12th with 291 points. Individually, Chahal earned 31st in Division I and 90th in California with a mark of 15:44.

Though Chahal was not a member of the 2014 Burroughs’ CIF Southern Section Division I championship or CIF State Division I fourth-place squad, the freshman competed for the team earlier in the season and is the last active link to those units.

As for getting to Fresno, Chahal finished fifth at Saturday’s Southern Section Division I finals in a time of 14:46.8.

The mark was the second-best in the area, trailing FitzGerald (second, 14:39.9).

andrew.campa@latimes.com

Twitter: @campadresports

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