After coming out on top in one of the Rio Hondo League meets this year, both the La Cañada boys' and girls' cross-country teams finished second to South Pasadena in league finals Nov. 4.
It wasn't all bad news for the Spartans, as Anna Frederich placed first in the girls' race with a time of 19 minutes 32 seconds, which was 33 seconds better than South Pasadena's star runner, Anika Renken, who came in third after placing first in both of the previous league meets this year.
Frederich's finish was no surprise to her coach Andy DiConti. DiConti knew she had a chance at being league champion after her performance at the Clovis Invitational on Oct. 9, when she finished 18th out of 162 runners with a time of 19:51.
"Let's face it: it boils down to who wants it more, and [Anna] doesn't like to lose. She's a competitor and you can't teach that," said DiConti.
Frederich admitted she hates losing, and the second Rio Hondo League meet only fueled her desire to win more when she came in second, losing to Renken by two-tenths of a second.
"I just really wanted to win after I lost by [two-tenths of a second] in the second league race," Frederich said. "I wanted to win so bad — it was motivation."
The motivation was enough for Frederich to overcome being sick earlier in the week, and running without being 100%. Unfortunately for La Cañada, Meghan Fuelling was ill as well.
"You can't blame a kid for being sick, it is what it is and it just happens," DiConti said. "If we lost to an inferior team, then that sucks; but [South Pasadena] is a great team."
Holly Shreckengast finished sixth (20:26) and Courtney Schulte was close behind (eighth; 20:37). Meghan Fuelling managed to come in at 11th (20:46) and Hannah Yoho rounded out the Spartan's top five (14th; 21:00).
The Tigers had runners place second, third, fifth, seventh, ninth and 13th, giving them a first-place finish with 26 points. La Cañada was second with 40, which was 40 points better than third-place San Marino (80).
Even though the Spartans didn't come out on top, DiConti knew his team ran its best.
"I know they didn't leave anything on the course," DiConti said. "So there is really nothing I have to tell them to run differently, they just need to be healthy."
The Spartans boys' varsity team also came in second behind South Pasadena after winning the first league meet Sept. 23. The Tigers' 26 points were good for first-place again, compared to the Spartans' 42. The Titans finished third with 74 points.
It was the first time both La Cañada and South Pasadena's teams were at full strength. Sam Pons sat out the first league meet for the Tigers and Brendan Greene didn't participate in the second league meet because of an injury.
La Cañada couldn't match South Pasadena at full strength, as Anton Cwik, usually the Spartan's fifth runner; fell short of his usual mark.
"When a guy has an off day, I try and get to him immediately and tell him to go off by himself and put this race behind him," said Mike Thatcher, the boys' coach. "He needs to get that totally in the past so we can look forward to the next round of CIF and he can pull it back together."
Greene finished third with a team-best 16:23. Andrew Fisher was sixth (16:29), Erick Lankey (16:32) and Adam Skaggs (16:39) were right behind at seventh and eighth, respectively. La Cañada's fifth runner was Thomas Han, who finished 19th (18:00). Cwik came in 30th (19:46) after running the same course in 17:09 at the first league meet.
"You couldn't ask for anything more," Thatcher said. "Barring our number-five runner having an off day, we ran our best race. I can lose to a team because they are running that well. It really hurts when we come out and underperform. That wasn't the case today."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times