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Sage Hill girls strike back against St. Margaret’s in second league cluster

Sage Hill girls strike back against St. Margaret’s in second league cluster
From left, Hannah Ren, Kate Miller, Maya Jaffe, Ashton Carroll, Brooklyn Button and Alice Warden are all smiles after defeating St. Margaret’s in the second Academy League Cluster. (Andrew Turner | Daily Pilot)

A conversation among the cross-country coaches of the Academy League addressed a passing observation.

"This league sure does have a lot of ties," one of them said.

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Lately, it has often been the case for Nate Miller and Patrick Bendzick, the coaches of Sage Hill High and San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret's, respectively. Their girls' teams are fighting for the top spot in the league once again.

On Tuesday, Sage Hill tightened the gap between the squads, pulling off the minor upset in winning the second league cluster via the sixth-runner tiebreaker at Central Park in Huntington Beach.

Hannah Ren finished 13th overall in 21:52, bettering the time of St. Margaret's Madeline Arundale (22:30, 17th) after the teams' scoring quintets ran to a 32-32 draw.

The two cluster meets are worth a quarter of the season totals toward a league title, with the league finals accounting for the other half. Sage Hill, ranked seventh in CIF Southern Section Division 5, evened the score with the second-ranked Tartans after dropping the first cluster meet, 27-33.

"We knew that it would be like that," Miller said. "It's going to be a great matchup. They were down a couple people. We were down one person. If both teams are full strength, I think it will be very close, and I don't think that it could have been any closer today."

Brooklyn Button, the senior transfer from Iowa, paced the Lightning in 18:50. She finished second to St. Margaret's Andi Carnell (18:32).

The Lightning ace revealed an interesting twist to the rivalry with the Tartans after the win.

"It was a decision between Sage and St. Margaret's as to what school I would end up going to, which is a little bit funny now that we're here at the cross-country meets and racing against them," Button said.

"I knew coming into the program that they had a cross-country team, and I was eager to come in and share my passion for running. I knew that running would be something that made moving here easier because I automatically have an immediate friend group."

While Button had her fellow front-runner to run with, others found additional ways to compete in the race. Sage Hill was able to sneak by the Tartans by running with each other.

The trio of Alice Warden (20:32), Maya Jaffe (20:50), and Ashton Carroll (20:51) came across in the fifth through seventh spots. Kate Miller (21:30) and Ren occupied the 12th and 13th positions.

Standing alongside Button after the win, Ren spoke of the senior as a role model. Her praise explained how Button arrived in training camp and was named team captain within two weeks.

"She's like one of the nicest people ever," Ren said of Button. "Once you meet her, she automatically becomes your friend. That's how we started to really like her. Her willingness to do more than Coach Miller expects and trying her best really inspires us."

The boys' meet went to Irvine Crean Lutheran, which defeated St. Margaret's, 28-32. Cerritos Whitney claimed third with 96 points. Sage Hill was fourth with 101 points.

A pair of freshmen — Ben Romeo and Ryan Dickerson — placed among the top five for the Lightning. Romeo is a recent addition to the team, after his long-distance running ability was discovered in a physical education class.

"I think he is very excited and enthusiastic that he had this hidden talent that he really didn't discover until less than a month ago," Miller said. "[Coming out from P.E.] doesn't happen all that often, and more often, those kinds of kids will start out on JV and progress to varsity after a year or two. To have an immediate impact on varsity is pretty rare."

The top runners for Brethren Christian in the boys' and girls' varsity races both finished 25th overall. They were junior Luke Montgomery (18:42) and senior Sami Timblin (23:22).

BOYS' CROSS-COUNTRY

Academy League Cluster #2

At Central Park, Huntington Beach

3-mile course

Team Results: 1. Crean Lutheran 28; 2. St. Margaret's 32; 3. Whitney 96; 4. Sage Hill 101; 5. Oxford Academy 117; 6. Brethren Christian 177; 7. Downey Calvary Chapel 188.

Individuals: 1. Weiss (Crean Lutheran) 15:49; 2. Miller (Crean Lutheran) 16:05; 3. Graham (St. Margaret's) 16:14; 4. Soto (St. Margaret's) 16:15; 5. Kochan (Crean Lutheran) 16:35; 6. Nataupsky (Sage Hill) 16:42; 7. Colglazier (St. Margaret's) 17:06.25; 8. Capelle (St. Margaret's) 17:06.74; 9. Fitzgerald (Crean Lutheran) 17:15; 10. Villamil (St. Margaret's) 17:18; 25. L. Montgomery (Brethren Christian) 18:42.

GIRLS' CROSS-COUNTRY

Academy League Cluster #2

At Central Park, Huntington Beach

3-mile course

Team Results: 1. Sage Hill 32; 2. St. Margaret's 32; 3. Whitney 87; 4. Crean Lutheran 116; 5. Oxford Academy 132; 6. Downey Calvary Chapel 135; 7. Brethren Christian 186.

Individuals: 1. Carnell (St. Margaret's) 18:32; 2. Button (Sage Hill) 18:50; 3. Jones (St. Margaret's) 19:46; 4. Sellas (St. Margaret's) 20:22; 5. Warden (Sage Hill) 20:32; 6. Jaffe (Sage Hill) 20:50; 7. Carroll (Sage Hill) 20:51; 8. Kochan (Crean Lutheran) 20:55; 9. Larson (St. Margaret's) 21:14; 10. Olmos (Downey Calvary Chapel) 21:16; 25. Timblin (Brethren Christian) 23:22.

Twitter: @ProfessorTurner

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