Expectations are riding high for the Flintridge Prep boys' and girls' teams and La Cañada High girls' squad heading into Saturday's CIF State Cross-County Championships at Fresno's Woodpark Park.
Thanks to a little agreement, the Spartans will be heading to Central California in style.
Coach Nick LaCapria promised his team that if it qualified to state, he would provide limousine service.
Thanks to some foresight, fundraising and clutch running from LaCapria's girls, the Spartans will ride in comfort after the team finished fifth at the CIF Southern Section Championships at the Riverside Cross Country Course.
"The girls deserve it and they fundraised in anticipation of getting to state," LaCapria said. "Since school is out during the Thanksgiving week, we even booked our hotel in Fresno. All that was left was qualifying to the meet."
The Spartans finished with 159 points in Division IV and even topped 2016 champion JSerra (174) in the process of advancing to the program's first state meet as a team since 2012.
The last time La Cañada had a runner qualify to Fresno was in 2015 when Katie Scoville finished 10th in Division IV. Scoville also advanced in 2014, while Anna Frederich finished seventh in Division III in 2013.
La Cañada will compete in the Division IV Championships at 11:35 a.m.
The Spartans' qualification was vindication after the program finished eighth at the 2016 Southern Section Division IV finals and missed the state cut.
"The girls were despondent after the loss and thought about that all winter, all summer and all spring," LaCapria said. "They never forgot what happened and it drove them all the way up to today."
La Cañada will be led by its one-two punch of youth and experience in freshman Kayley Bond and senior Scoville.
Bond finished third in the Southern Section finals in 17 minutes, 56.2 seconds, while Scoville (16th, 18:25.2) will be making her third state appearance.
In that same event at state, La Cañada Flintridge resident McKenna Smith and her Mayfield Cubs will also be looking for glory.
There's little denying that any team will have a bigger bulls-eye on its back in the Division V girls' championship at 8:30 a.m. than Flintridge Prep.
The small-school colossus enters after having captured its fourth consecutive CIF Southern Section Division V title easily, 55-101, over St. Margaret's in Riverside.
The only team that has had any postseason success versus the Rebels is Mayfield, which competes in Division IV.
Without the Cubs to stand in their way, the Rebels are attempting to win their fourth straight CIF state title.
"If the girls just go out and run their race, they'll be fine," Flintridge Prep coach Jill Henry said. "Obviously, [Southern Section finals] and state are the two big races that they've been prepping for all year. The stakes are higher, but every day we go out with the same mission to reach our goals."
The Rebels boast three top-10 Southern Section racers in Sophie Gitlin (second, 17:59), Sasha Codiga (fourth, 18:06.5) and Haley Allen (eighth, 18:19.7).
For the Flintridge Prep boys' team, it didn't seem possible that after the graduation of Jack Van Scoter – arguably the greatest runner in Flintridge Prep history – in 2016, the Rebels would be able to replace him.
Yet, that's just what the team did when Evan Pattinelli stepped into the spotlight and led.
Pattinelli matched Van Scoter in Southern Section titles with two when he claimed the Division V championship in 14:51.9 in Riverside.
While Van Scoter has a 2015 CIF State title under his belt (the last state crown for Flintridge Prep), Pattinelli will have a chance to guide his team to an individual and team title in the Division V state championship at 9:35 a.m.
"I'm very happy with [two titles], but I'm also looking forward to what the team can do," said Pattinelli, who finished second individually at state last season. "We have a great chance to win as a team and bring home a title."
Flintridge Prep, which has won five state titles in program history, finished second a season ago with Lancaster Desert Christian claiming first. It was the 20th straight season in which Prep has finished in the top four.
The Rebels finished third with 122 points at Southern Section finals, but feel like they have an edge in Fresno.
"I think we really like the Fresno course better," said Flintridge Prep coach Ingrid Herskind, when comparing Riverside's flat, dusty trail to the hillier, greener Woodward Park course. "We've had a lot of great success on that course and the type of training we've had is definitely going to be supportive and helpful for that race."