LA CRESCENTA – With Wednesday evening's third and final installment of the Crescenta Valley summer cross-country series marking the last tune-up for the majority of high school teams present, preparation for the upcoming season was paramount.
Complicating those goals a bit was the massive swell of runners who competed in two races at Crescenta Valley Park, which featured area squads Bellarmine-Jefferson, Burbank, Glendale, Hoover and St. Francis highs.
"People show up and come out and run and have a good time and it's a nice segue into the season with school starting next week," Crescenta Valley coach Mark Evans said. "We had three pretty good races this year, the biggest ones we've ever had and this was the biggest race we've ever had."
Evans sat his starting seven boys' and girls' runners as the team just returned from a trip to Mammoth.
Wednesday's final race, though, did provide good training for his race and stat crew, who will be assisting with Pacific League meets.
A total of 41 runners competed in the first 2-kilometer race, which preceded a whopping 224 athletes taking part in the 3-mile competition.
Former La Cañada assistant coach Jacques Sallberg found himself at the top of both races as he won the 2K in 6 minutes, 25.18 seconds and the 3-mile competition in 15:50.
"It was fun out there and for me it's just an opportunity to get out and race," Sallberg said. "I would have liked to have competed against the CV boys, but overall the competition was still pretty good."
Sallberg beat out another coach in the 3-mile competition as Crescenta Valley track and field distance coach Alex Lowe finished second in 16:31.
Golden Valley's Alexis Romero was the first student competitor to cross the finish line, taking third in 16:47.
Burbank freshman Andres Leon surprised himself by becoming the area's first boys' finisher in taking fifth place in a mark of 16:52 in only his second-ever run at Crescenta Valley Park.
"I think my teammates weren't feeling too good today, so I went out in front," Leon said. "I don't think of myself as being a frontrunner because I know we're not at full speed yet."
Leon finished right ahead of teammates Victor Goli (sixth, 16:55) and Dayne Ellis (10th, 17:39).
Burbank assistant coach and former Glendale Community College standout Elizabeth Nelson was once again the fastest female, taking 22nd overall in 18:50. Nelson was the top female finisher in the second summer series race, as well.
Burbank sophomore Sol Fernandez was the fastest girl for Burbank in 20:19 as she took third among females and 54th overall.
Bell-Jeff junior Nick Montijo, a serious challenger for the Camino Real League title, led the way for the Guards in 13th in 17:59.
On the girls' side, reigning Camino Real League champ Caitlyn Couch finished fourth among girls in 20:33 and was 58th overall.
"We just got back from Mammoth ourselves and I wasn't sure how we'd run this time," Bell-Jeff coach Jim Couch said. "You look at Nick, who I think will win league this year, and he actually ran better tired today than he did last time, so that's a definite bonus."
Like Burbank, St. Francis' top effort came from a freshman as Brady McNulty earned 32nd place in 19:08.
Hoover's Omer Abdelrahim, known more for being a 4.0 honor roll student, was his school's top runner in 42nd in 19:36.
"All I asked for my guys was to stay together," said Hoover coach Jack Sallakian, who ran and finished 66th in 21 minutes flat. "We did that for most of the first mile, but there were a lot of runners and it was tough."
Sallakian was without his top girls' runner Gabby Quinones who, according to the coach, is on vacation in Mexico.
Glendale competed in the 2K and fared well with junior Arvin Sales finishing runner-up (6:52), sophomore Chadi Saklaway taking third (7:23) and junior Jose Romero earning fourth (7:24).
Crescenta Valley's Carter Walch ran to a fifth-place finish in the 2K in 7:33.