GLENDALE — For three area high school cross-country teams, this year's Thanksgiving weekend includes a getaway to Fresno.
Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy's team and the boys' and girls' squads from Flintridge Prep won't mind making the trip up north today because it will present for each an opportunity to compete for a state title in their respective divisions in the 2010 CIF State Cross-Country Championships at Woodward Park.
The only team out of the local trio making a return appearance at state is the Rebels' boys' squad, which will compete at 10:40 a.m. in Division V, where it finished third last season and second in 2008.
"They like the course and they know that they're strong at the end of the season," Prep boys' Coach Ingrid Herskind said of her squad. "We're peaking right at the right time and our confidence is peaking, too, so we're very excited about that."
The Rebels pack, which turned in a third-place finish at the CIF Southern Section finals at Mount San Antonio College on Saturday, is led by senior Jason Bunn, who was the 12th overall finisher at the finals, and also includes seniors Jesse Redding and Taylor Beith, juniors Eli Weinstein, Jake Johnson and James Bradley and sophomore Elias Ellison.
Woodcrest Christian is the defending champion, but San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret's has emerged as the favorite after winning the Southern Section title. Lancaster Desert Christian, Prep League rival Chadwick and The Urban School of San Francisco from the North Coast Section are other top teams the Rebels will have to contend with.
"Our goal is basically to go after these guys," Herskind said. "We got third last week. I think that we're ranked third again going into the meet and we would like to get up on the podium.
"We know it's going to be a big fight. Woodcrest always comes hard and they're good on this course, they ran very well at the Clovis Invite and pretty much spanked us pretty hard."
Sacred Heart also managed a third-place finish at the CIF finals, where it placed behind Junipero Serra and Harvard-Westlake in Division IV.
"If we hit on all cylinders, it would be nice to be on the [medal stand] and that's our goal," said Sacred Heart Coach Kirk Nishiyama, whose team's race will get underway at 10:05 a.m. "These girls have worked hard. It would be a nice reward to finish the year strong."
Serra and Harvard-Westlake, which boasts individual favorite Cami Chapus, the defending state champion, are expected to battle it out at the top, while the Tologs must fend off challenges from Felton San Lorenzo Valley of the Central Coast Section and others to remain near the top.
"Our goal, obviously, is to stay within the top five," said Nishiyama, whose pack consists of juniors Paulina Antaplyan (15th at finals), Amanda Aguilar, Stephanie Vargas and Nora Welsh and freshmen Casey Basso, Rebecca Armstrong and Riley Gilmartin. "We talked about how we ran well [at CIF finals], but I think we can run better. We had some runners that did not have great races that are capable of running better.
"I would like to put everything together for this final race."
Prep's girls' squad squeaked into state with a sixth-place finish in Division V at the finals and will be up against some strong competition beginning at 12:15 p.m. in a North Coast Section-dominated field led by San Francisco University, College Prep of Oakland and The Urban School of San Francisco. Prep League rival Chadwick is also in the mix.
Prep is led by sophomore Kaitlyn Kelleher (18th at finals) with support from sophomore Marisa Wang and freshmen Audrey Levy, Gayle Caverly, Kate Evans, Sarah Yoho and Nikhita Poole.
Glendale residents Philip Kostelnik and Richard Lucas will also be competing on Saturday with their Loyola (Division II; 11:45 a.m.) and Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (Division IV; 9 a.m.) teams, respectively.