LA CRESCENTA — With Pacific League titles hanging in the balance, both Crescenta Valley High cross-country contingents set their sights on reigning champion and archrival Arcadia.
For the Falcons’ girls’ squad, though, the race may have ultimately been decided more than four hours before the meet when it was learned that illness would keep one of the team’s top five out of the race. As for the boys, who, like the girls, split the previous league meets with Arcadia, they simply got the very best the Apaches, ranked No. 1 in CIF Southern Section Division I, had to offer.
The end result was a pair of repeat bids as champions for the Apaches on Thursday afternoon upon the 3.1-mile Crescenta Valley Park course.
Nonetheless, both Falcons squads finished second, leading a local contingent into next week’s CIF Southern Section prelims, as Burbank and Burroughs qualified both their girls’ and boys’ teams, as well.
Junior Gabe Collison turned in a stellar third-place run of 15 minutes 35.28 seconds to lead the Falcons, whose 54 points were a distant second to first-place Arcadia’s 22.
“I think they took it for granted,” said Falcons Coach Mark Evans of the Apaches’ performance in the first league meet when the Falcons beat them. “[Today], we just wanted to try and get as close to Arcadia as we could. I think they did a pretty good job.”
A good job considering Arcadia’s team time of 78:35, led by league champion Mitchell Pratt (15:20.12) and Esteven De La Rosa (second, 15:20.31), was a course record.
Burbank took third with 89 points in front of fourth-place Burroughs (96 points), while Hoover senior Jeremy Zadoorian finished sixth in 15:59.46 to nab a CIF individual qualifying spot.
On the girls’ side, Glendale sophomore Leana Setian also grabbed an individual qualifying slot, taking fifth in 18:58.12.
CV, led by junior Erika Johnson’s third-place finish in 18:42.18, took second with 40 points, just behind Arcadia’s 34. Burroughs, which was led by seventh-place senior Gracia Innocentia, was third with 82 points, just in front of rival Burbank (88).
Crescenta Valley was missing All-Area standout Cali King, who was at home with a “102-degree fever,” according to Evans, and one could presume it made a huge difference, as the Falcons’ top four runners finished after the Apaches’ top two, but in front of the rest of the Arcadia pack.
“We put four in front of all of them, but we couldn’t get that fifth up there. That hurt us, obviously,” Evans said. “It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it was. They ran really well. They’ve been running better and better.
“I’d rather have [King] out today than for CIF.”
Setian took the race out strong at the start and Arcadia’s top two obliged the pace.
“I went out pretty fast,” Setian said. “Every race I need to get a really good start to get into it.
“I was ... planning for a better place, but at least I made [CIF prelims], that’s the important thing.”
Arcadia’s Veronica Yamane (first, 18:04.96) and Laura Guidolin (second, 18:17.71) never waned, but Johnson and fourth-place sophomore Megan Melnyk (18:48.02) began a steady stream of Falcons across the finish, doing their best in King’s absence.
“Honestly, I was mostly just bummed cause she’s one of our sisters and this was our last race together on this course. That was a big bummer,” Johnson said. “But I was still pretty confident we could pull it together because it’s our home course.”
Following Setian were CV senior Hannah Ruby (sixth, 19:17.18) and sophomore Haley Witzeman (eighth, 19:31.09), who were split by Innocentia, who came across in 19:21.18.
“I was satisfied, but I know I can improve,” said Innocentia, who garnered the last first-team all-league slot and was followed by teammates Miranda Acosta (16th, 20:35.52), Johanna Reyes Ortega (17th, 20:37.56) and Samantha Fajardo (20th, 20:49.40) as top-20 Indians. “I just wanted to push my team so we could go to CIF.”
Following the Falcons’ top four, though, Arcadia had five more finishers come across in front of the Falcons’ next finisher and last scorer. It happened to be freshman Rebecca Mencia, who took 19th in 20:39.90. Evans applauded Mencia’s efforts, as the ninth-grader entered the day ready to run in the frosh-soph race before being thrust into a varsity tug-of-war for a league title.
Burbank junior Arlette Movsesyan was a second-team all-leaguer, taking 11th in 19:46.99. She was followed in by sophomore teammate Lynn Park (15th, 20:27.93) and junior Daisy Ignacio (18th, 20:39.43).
Glendale was fifth with 128 points, Hoover, led by 25th-place Lucik Minassian (21:10.09), was sixth with 185 and the all-important Pasadena took seventh with 194. After failing to field a team for varsity last season, Pasadena, though it took last in girls and sixth in boys, was of the utmost importance as the seventh team participating, allowing the league to send four teams to next week’s prelims.
“A year ago, we weren’t even going off to CIF prelims,” said Collison, who was part of a Falcons team that took fourth in 2011 and was out of the prelims mix. “We just need to keep on going strong.”
The Falcons had no worries on Thursday about advancing, though, thanks to Collison, junior Nick Beatty (fifth, 15:57.37) and senior Aaron Esparza turning in stellar days.
“We’re a good, solid team and in the next couple weeks we hope to be running even better,” Evans said.
For a Burbank squad that had preseason aspirations of contending with Arcadia, Bulldogs Coach Trevor Marca’s hopes have had to be adjusted a bit with the loss earlier in the season of his top two runners for various reasons. He lost his current No. 1 runner — Arsen Mkrtchyan — to a shin injury this week, though he hopes he’ll be back for CIF prelims.
“Considering we were without our No. 1, [we did] pretty good,” said Marca, whose team was led by junior Elliot Choe (11th, 16:11.72) and senior Bernie Corea (14th, 16:19.84). “We wanted to hang on to third.”
It’s in the coming two weeks that Marca believes just how good the season has been or how much it’s been salvaged will come to the forefront.
“Is this season a successful one?” Marca said. “It’s yet to be determined. If we make CIF finals and have a respectable showing, I think we validate ourselves.”
Fourth-place Burroughs was led by the consecutive finishes of junior Ricky Mendez (16:26.43), sophomore Garrett Boulais (16:33.96) and sophomore Elias Hoxsie (18th, 16:40.40).
Glendale took seventh, led by 32nd-place Bradley Day (17:41.15), a senior.
Hoover finished in fifth with 119 points, with senior Kenneth Trejo finishing 12th in 16:18.18. But the highlight of the day for the Tornadoes was assuredly Zadoorian, who took sixth in 15:59.46 to advance into next week’s prelims.
“This was the one race [this season] where I woke up in the morning and I felt good,” Zadoorian said. “I felt that I did well.”