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Cross-Country Season Preview: With or without best runner, La Cañada has share of talent

Cross-Country Season Preview: With or without best runner, La Cañada has share of talent
Adena DiPaolo, left, and Sarah Auther are two top returners for this season's La Cañada High girls' cross-country team. (Raul Roa \ Staff Phorographer)

Last season proved to be memorable for a group of local girls’ and boys’ local cross-country teams.

The La Cañada girls’ team ran to a fifth-place finish in the CIF Southern Section Division IV championships to earn a berth to the CIF state meet in Fresno for the first time since 2012. At the CIF State Division IV championships, the Spartans turned in a great effort to take third place.

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Flintridge Prep’s girls’ team continued its dynasty by winning a fifth consecutive CIF Southern Section title and fourth straight Division V state championship. The boys’ team won another Prep League title and fared well in the postseason before seeing coach Ingrid Herskind step down to take an administrative position at the school following 20 league, six CIF Southern Section and five state championships since 1997.

The other local teams look to have their share of talent this season.

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Here is a closer look at the teams.

LA CAÑADA

The big question with the Spartans girls’ squad is the status of sophomore Kayley Bond. Last season, Bond won all three Rio Hondo League meets, which included a league championship, earned third at the CIF Southern Section Division IV championships and turned in a great effort to finish seventh and pace La Cañada to a third-place showing in the CIF State Division IV championships.

But coach Andy DeConti, who takes over both the school’s programs this season, said Bond hasn’t worked out with the team during the offseason and isn’t sure if she will be joining the squad

“She just doesn’t like running all that much,” DiConti said.

However, the Spartans girls’ squad, which lost two seniors to graduation, does have a talented group returning, and has added a promising freshman in Jenna Milbrodt.

Among the returners are sophomores Ellaney Matarease and Sarah Auther and senior Adena DiPaolo, all of whom ran on last season’s state meet team.

“If all goes well, I see them running faster than last year,” DiConti said. “That’s if we have all the runners who we are supposed to have.”

On the boys’ side, leading the Spartans will likely be junior Owen Serricchio, who missed advancing to state competition last season my one place. Also expected to step up are juniors Sheldon Watanabe, Max Bohan Apfeldorf and Max Fan.

“Owen has really been putting in the millage to get better,” DiConti said. “He is very capable and he had some major breakthroughs in track last season. He has really turned the corner to becoming a big-time runner.

“As a team, we will have to see. We got out to kind of a slow start and had some injuries in the summer. Our fifth man is really up for grabs.”

FLINTRIDGE PREP

Armed with plenty of talent, lofty expectations have already been set for both Flintridge Prep squads.

Last season, the girls’ team completed a marvelous campaign by finishing second in the Prep League before embarking on further success.

Flintridge Prep will bring back the majority of its core, starting with seniors Sasha Codiga, Hope Codiga, Haley Allen and Caroline Wreszin in their quest for additional glory. Sasha Codiga picked up All-Area accolades last season following a fourth-place finish at state.

“We’ll have a strong senior class and and a group as a whole that will continue to get better,” said Flintridge Prep coach Jill Henry, the reigning All-Area Girls’ Cross-Country Coach of the Year. “With the previous success we’ve had, It’s made the girls that much more motivated to keep it going and we have a proud culture.”

For the boys, things will look a bit different.

The Rebels turn to Scott Jung, who served as an assistant last season under Herskind. In 2017, the Rebels captured the league championship for the 20th time in 21 seasons. They took third at the CIF Division IV finals and fourth in Division V at state.

The Rebels lost Evan Pattinelli, an All-Area pick who won CIF and state titles.

“My expectations aren’t any different from Ingrid’s,” Jung said. “We run the best we can and get to CIF and state. We have a very good group and a lot of experience.

“We have some big shoes to fill with Evan graduating, but we like who we have and we will keep the program’s tradition going.”

The squad will feature seniors Carson Hasbrouck, Sebastian Evans and Ethan Moutes and sophomore Bennett Oakes.

FLINTRIDGE SACRED HEART ACADEMY

After finishing last in the Mission League in 2016, Flintridge Sacred Heart soared and captured the league championship last season. The Tologs then took 15th in the CIF Southern Section Division IV championships.

Flintridge Sacred Heart coach Kirk Nisjiyama and Co. would like to remain in the league penthouse, though the Tologs expect powerhouse Harvard-Westlake to challenge them.

“We think we have a shot at league again, but you know Harvard-Westlake will reload,” Nishiyama said. “We did lose some of our depth to graduation, but we like the group we have coming back.

“We had a real good summer in terms of workouts and we’ll look for our core from last year to lead the way.”

Looking to lead the charge for the Tologs are seniors Samantha Covey, Megan Koehler, Erika Wei and Joshlyn Aguirre, juniors Lauren Nettels and Chase Hayes and sophomore Alexandra Christoudoulou.

ST. FRANCIS

The Golden Knights turned in a fifth-place finish in the tough Mission League last season. Along the way, St. Francis gained plenty of experience and will look look to it to move up in a league that features state powers Loyola and Harvard-Westlake.

St. Francis will bring back seniors Sean Wilcox and Nico Ciranna, juniors Stuart Serventi and Jason Suh and sophomore Brady McNulty.

“Our goal is a top-four finish in league, so we can get to CIF,” St. Francis coach Pat Donovan said. “It’s always encouraging when you can bring back most of your team and they now have more experience. They all have a better idea of what to expect.”

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