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La Cañada cross-country teams finish second at Rio Hondo League finals

SAN MARINO — Individually, the La Cañada High cross-country runners did their part at the Rio Hondo League finals at Lacy Park on Thursday.

The Spartans had individual runners place second in the boys’ race, while the girls’ took first and third.

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But ultimately, South Pasadena came out on top and took both boys’ and girls’ team league titles, defeating the Spartans boys, 36-67, and the La Cañada girls, 38-53.

The La Cañada girls’ team saw its league reign of four straight titles end despite placing two runners in the top three spots.

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Even with the 2017 league champion Kayley Bond deciding not run this season, and 2016 league champion Adena DiPaolo out with a stress fracture in her right leg that sidelined her since the second league meet, the girls’ squad came into the finals focused.

“It’s a different team,” La Cañada coach Andy DiConti said. “It’s a different mindset. They came in the season with a different outlook. They’re excited of their prospects, but then with Kayley not running, that was an early setback.”

“But they gelled well in the beginning. Then the injuries — we’re not a deep team. Being a small team, you can’t afford the setbacks. One wheel comes off, you’re going to feel it.”

The Spartan girls, who are ranked No. 14 in Division IV, still had a strong individual showing.

“We have a legitimate shot at taking two spots in individuals,” DiConti said. “I see Sarah [Auther] making it if she runs to her potential. She looked good today.”

Sophomore Ellaney Matarese completed her league campaign as league champion, winning in 18 minutes, 38.30 seconds.

“I feel like I’m more experienced,” Matarese said. “But I was also thinking of my teammate Adena [DiPaolo] who is injured, so I just wanted to dedicate it to her.”

Matarese makes it the seventh straight year La Cañada has claimed the league girls’ individual title.

“[Placing first in the first meet] helped me this time around, but I didn’t want to be too cocky,” Matarese said. “I just went out and tried to do my best.”

Junior Sarah Auther finished third (19:00.80) behind Monrovia’s Alayna Peters (18:44.10), but the team’s performances dropped off from there.

“We didn’t have one our best runners [this year], which is too bad,” Auther said. “But we tried to make the best of our situation.”

Said Ellaney: “I was just trying to pace off of the Monrovia runner [Alayna Peters] and our first runner.”

Freshman Jenna Milbdrodt, who was running with an injury she suffered playing soccer, according to DiConti, finished ninth (19:51.60), followed by sophomores Madison Pirkey (19th; 21:36.10) and Juliette Aslanian (21st; 22:12.60).

South Pasadena, No. 4 in Division IV, placed all its runners in the top 20, including runners who finished fourth, fifth and sixth.

The La Cañada boys’ team fell short of South Pasadena for the third consecutive year, but senior Owen Serricchio saw improvement from the 2017 finals.

“I see him making [CIF],” DiConti said. “He just missed it last year as an individual. He was one individual off from making it to state, and he’s definitely a better runner this year.”

Serricchio led the No. 15-ranked Spartans with a second-place finish in 16:31, despite getting confused on the course, which also affected some other runners.

“This time, we got lost,” said Serricchio, who also finished second in the first league meet with a faster time at16:17.80. “Kai [Dettman] and I were right next to each other, but we both messed up and we were both able to race against each other.”

Added Srricchio: “We thought it was on the straight so we stayed on the pavement. Apparently we were supposed to go up so we went back and forth twice.”

Dettman placed first, as the South Pasadena senior clocked 16:29.90. Blair senior Asa Barton claimed third with a 16:37.70 effort.

Junior Sheldon Watanabe (9th; 17:18.30), sophomore Jaden Milbrodt (15th; 17:42.80), along with juniors Max Fan (20th; 18:06.50) and Max Bohan Apfeldorf (21st; 18:09.60), rounded out the other four Spartans finishers.

“My boys should definitely make it to CIF finals, and even my girls can make it,” DiConti said. “Girls will definitely have to run better.”

South Pasadena and La Cañada will have both teams in the CIF Southern Section prelims on Nov. 10 in Riverside.

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