What was at first delightful turned somewhat dismal for the Santa Ana Valley High School girls' cross-country team Saturday at the Southern Section cross-country championships at Mt. San Antonio College.
Although the Falcons finished second in the 4-A final, holding off county rivals Newport Harbor, Villa Park and Irvine, they didn't receive what they had worked for all season: an invitation to the state cross-country championships Nov. 28 at Woodward Park in Fresno.
Though it was originally announced that Santa Ana Valley had qualified, having one of the five fastest team times in Division I, that announcement was revoked moments later. A computer error had Santa Ana Valley as the fifth team to qualify, but, in reality, it was Montebello. The Falcons' total time was 99 minutes 17 seconds. Montebello's was 98:16.
"When I told my kids we made it, they were all crying (with happiness) and jumping for joy," Falcon Coach George Payan said. "Then I had to go tell them it was a mistake."
The Falcons, ranked second in the 4-A, lost only to No. 1-ranked Palos Verdes this year. Palos Verdes, which won its second consecutive 4-A title Saturday, is considered by many to be the nation's top girls' team.
Santa Ana Valley's Maricela Benavides, one of the county's top runners all year, finished sixth Saturday in 18 minutes 45 seconds, the fastest time among Orange County girls.
Saturday's race marked Santa Ana Valley's best team effort this year.
Maria Vargas finished 22nd (19:38); Linda Villa was 28th (19:57); Teresa Beltran was 34th (20:10), and Eva Orozco was 47th (20:47).
Newport Harbor was very close, scoring 125 points to Santa Ana Valley's 118.
Sophomore Kim Robinson led the Sailors, finishing 11th in 19:07. Stacy Pando (18th, 19:24) improved 30 seconds over her time in last week's preliminaries. Lena Dahbour (32nd, 20:07) improved her preliminary time by a whopping 1:19, and Maggie Steinhauser (33rd, 20:07) improved by 35 seconds.
Heather Webb, who ran with a twisted ankle she suffered in the preliminaries, finished 51st (20:55).
"We're really happy about our performance," said Bob Van Sickle, Newport Harbor coach. "Our whole team ran great."
Besides that, the Sailors, who qualified in Division II, are going to the state championships.
Villa Park, ranked third most of the season, finished fourth in the 4-A with 152 points, but Spartan Coach Dick Brant was pleased. "Every girl just ran super," he said. "They all improved their times, and they had the best season this school's (girls' cross-country team) has ever had." Irvine, led by Barbara Kozlowski (ninth, 19:00) and sophomore Andrea Caminiti (13th, 19:09) was only four points behind Villa Park, finishing fifth (156 points). El Toro was ninth (185), followed by Mission Viejo (207). Santa Ana and Tustin tied for 11th with 215. In the 3-A, Sita Jones of La Habra (third, 19:01) outkicked Katella freshman Martha Pinto (fourth, 19:16) in the final 800 yards. Also placing in the top 10 were Jennifer Cooke of Esperanza (eighth, 19:35) and Fullerton's Gisela Lopez (10th, 19:43). Freshman Amy Robles led Woodbridge to a third-place finish in the 2-A division. The Warriors join Newport Harbor in advancing to the state championships in Division II.