The Saddleback High School boys' cross-country team lived up to its No. 1 ranking in Orange County Friday by outrunning rival Corona del Mar to win the Sea View League cross-country championships at Irvine Regional Park.
Saddleback, which finished with a 5-0 dual-meet record after edging Corona del Mar last Thursday, improved on that performance Friday, outscoring the Sea Kings, 21-36, to win its first league victory since the school joined the league in 1982. Until Friday, Corona del Mar, the county's sixth-ranked team, had won four of the past five league championships, including the past three.
"This was a big obstacle for us to overcome," Saddleback Coach Mel Silva said. "Corona del Mar is still a defending state champion (in the medium-schools division); they're still ranked No. 1 in the state. So even though we beat them last week, we still had doubts today."
Saddleback's doubts became reality in the first 300 yards as Corona del Mar's top five runners swept to the lead ahead of Saddleback's talented duo of Rob Price and Eddie Salinas.
"They scared me," said Salinas, the individual winner in 14 minutes 53 seconds. "They went out so fast. But I told Rob, 'Don't worry about it. The first 1 1/2 miles, they're gonna die.' "
Corona del Mar would have won the race, had the finish line been at the one-mile mark. But as Saddleback runners gradually moved up and picked apart the pack, it became evident by the two-mile mark that the Roadrunners would clinch the title.
In the girls' division, Corona del Mar, ranked ninth in the county, upset sixth-ranked Tustin and eighth-ranked Newport Harbor to win its first league title since 1979 with 38 points. Newport Harbor, the six-time defending league champion, was second (45) and Tustin, which entered the league final in first place at 5-0, finished third (55).
University sophomore Tanja Brix won her second consecutive title in 17:33, Kim Robinson of Newport Harbor was second (18:12), and Kristen McFarland, third in 18:14, led Corona del Mar.