SAN MARINO — Perhaps there was no better combined effort in recent memory for the La Cañada High cross-country program than what took place Thursday afternoon.
The girls won their fifth Rio Hondo League championship in six years behind their fifth straight individual winner in sophomore Adena DiPaolo, while the boys’ second-place finish at the league finals at Lacy Park was the best in the four-year era of coach Nick LaCapria.
“We’ll take today’s efforts in a heartbeat, oh yeah,” LaCapria said. “The girls are real strong right now and they’re only going to get stronger. We have a lot of depth and we really stepped up today.
“The boys are strong and they all stepped up and came together and ran as a group. I think we’ll see more out of the boys next week, too.”
Both teams earned advancement to the CIF Southern Section Division IV preliminaries at the Riverside City Cross Country Course on Friday.
On the girls’ side, the Division IV fifth-ranked Spartans rolled to a 27-60 win over San Marino and South Pasadena for the Spartans’ third consecutive crown. La Cañada crossed its top four runners through the first six positions, led by DiPaolo.
The sophomore joined the ranks of recent past champions Katie Scoville, Anna Frederich and Sonja Cwik by winning in 19 minutes, 26.78 seconds.
“For me, I didn’t have a good race, so I just had to push through and do the best for my team,” DiPaolo said. “I ran like 20 seconds faster the last time we ran at Lacy, but I know I’ll be ready next week.”
While the team competition wasn’t all that intriguing, the battle up top was, as DiPaolo and Spartans freshman Sarah Arthur were involved in a great battle with San Marino’s Olivia Ruiz.
While DiPaolo won the league’s first meet at Lacy Park on Sept. 22 in 18:57, Ruiz rallied in the second meet at Crescenta Valley Park and won in 19:47 on Oct. 13.
With the third meet deciding the league’s champion, the trio of runners separated before Arthur began to fall back with about a half mile remaining.
DiPaolo overtook Ruiz in the final 300 meters and held her off down the frantic stretch as Ruiz finished second in 19:27.66. Arthur took third in 19:51.62.
“I wanted to beat her because she beat me last time,” DiPaolo said. “It was just a matter of out-kicking her in the end.”
Added Arthur: “I just tried to stick with both of them because they’re great runners, but I just got tired.”
La Cañada’s Madison Pirkey (fifth, 20:03.91) and Kallie Rushing (sixth, 20:14.67) finished close behind.
Scoville, the league’s two-time defending champion, made her debut Thursday after battling a season-long illness and finished the scoring by placing 12th in 20:40.74, just ahead of teammate Morgan Bowman (13th, 20:43.93), who was celebrating her birthday.
On the boys’ side, South Pasadena romped to victory, 20-64, over La Cañada, which was hardly devastated by the result.
“South Pas is ranked in Division III and they’re really good, so it means a lot to come in second this year,” La Cañada junior Ryan Van Slooten said. “We’ve made a lot of improvements, we have some new coaches who have put us through some strict, hard training regiments and it’s all paid off. We’re doing a lot better than we’ve done in the past five years.”
Van Slooten became his team’s first top-five finisher since 2014 by placing fourth in 16:58 in a race won by South Pasadena’s Jackie Kieran (15:42.68).
Van Slooten started strong and was in an early pack that included Kieran and San Marino’s Eric Lew (fifth, 17:07.98) before Van Slooten fell back to fourth.
“I went into this race with a plan, which was to beat the San Marino kid who had beaten me all year,” Van Slooten said. “I realized that I needed to try to stick with him in the first mile.
“The race was a little more painful because of that, but I came up with fourth, so that was worth it.”
La Cañada’s scoring squad included Patrick Salter (11th, 17:50.65), Shaan Sandhu (12th, 17:52.12), Lucas Echternach (17th, 18:04.63) and Seve Rodriguez (20th, 18:21.84).