It was a break-out season in 2018 for the Burbank High girls’ cross-country team.
Behind the strength of a contingent of talented runners, the Bulldogs claimed an outright league team title for the first time in 40 years.
For Burroughs, it coming off a season in which the girls’ squad surged to a second-place showing in the Pacific League and earning a spot in the CIF Southern Section prelims.
New for the Pacific League this season is there will be just two scoring meets, along with a nonscoring league preview meet to be held at De Bell Golf Club.
Providence lost its top boys’ runner to graduation after he qualified for state competition. However, the Pioneers have an accomplished returner on the girls’ side in Carissa Guardado.
Here is a closer look at the teams.
The Bulldogs girls swept all three league meets a year ago. In the finals at Crescenta Valley Park, Burbank finished with 32 points by virtue of five top-11 efforts to win its first league crown since splitting it with Crescenta Valley and Arcadia in 2014.
It was Burbank’s first outright league crown since winning the Foothill League championship in 1978.
“We put in a good summer and are excited for the season,” said Kathryn Nelson, who is assisted husband, former Burbank great Jeff Nelson, along daughter Elizabeth. “We have the utmost respect for the Pacific League and feel that the preparation for our league meets will help us compete well at invitationals.”
Running for the Bulldogs will be seniors Sol Fernandez and Cynthia Movsisian, along with juniors Mckynzee Kelley, Megan LaCamera, Noela Kim, Elin Markarian and Zoe Zeron.
In last season’s league finals, the Bulldogs received an impressive effort from Fernandez, who took second in 19 minutes,12.5 seconds.
“Sort of a rebuilding year after graduating four seniors from our varsity squad,” Nelson said. “Solid group moving up from [the lower ranks] to varsity. ... Staying healthy will be key for this team.”
The Burbank girls are ranked No. 9 in CIF Southern Section Division I
It should be an interesting match-up in the Pacific League this season on the boys’ side. In Division I, Burbank is currently ranked No. 3 behind league foe Crescenta Valley. Great Oak boasts the No. 1 spot.
The Bulldogs boys’ team is ripe with returners from a team that placed third in league in 2018 behind champion Crescenta Valley and runner-up Arcadia.
The squad should be paced by seniors Victor Goli, Dayne Ellis, Tadeh Shanazari, Anthony Chiaravalle and Steven Wright, along with juniors Andres Leon and Tyler Jenkins.
Burbank’s league finals scorers from last season were Leon (eighth, 16:12.4), Goli (12th, 16:23.9), Shanazari (15th, 16:37), Wright (24th, 17:23.5) and Ellis (26th, 17:29).
“The boys’ team has the necessary experience but must stay healthy,” Nelson said.
The Indians girls’ team will look to build on its fine effort in last season’s league finals where it finished runner-up to Burbank, 32-59.
Burroughs will have a returning trio in junior Jordan Guzman, sophomore Sophia Navarro and senior Ceci Whitney.
In the 2018 league finals, Guzman was the Indians’ top finisher, placing sixth in 19:53.2.
Also vying for scoring spots will be seniors Samantha Hoxsie and Taylor Lombardo, juniors Briana Contreras, Kiara Cruz and Kaia Mouser, along with sophomore Savannah Hernandez.
“We need to work on closing the gap between our top seven runners,” Burroughs coach John Peebles said. “They are working hard and it is a long season, but we have to simply focus on getting better one day at a time.”
On the boys’ side, the Indians have returning runners in seniors Logan Berger, Robert McGraham and Trevor Villagran. Newcomers who are looking to make an impact for the Indians are sophomores Chase Eldridge, Jalen Leighton and Mason Ortega and juniors Julius Largaespada and Jimmy Nealis.
Nealis (23rd, 17:12.7) is Burroughs’ top returning finisher from last year’s league finals, where the team finished fifth and didn’t make the CIF prelims.
“The boys are really working on the concept of pack running,” Peebles said. “The path to success for the boys will be getting the pack to go together.”
In last season’s Prep League finals, Guardado led Providence with a 12th-place finish in 20:16.62. As a team, the Pioneers finished sixth and didn’t advance to CIF Southern Section competition.
It was the Pioneers first season in the Prep League after making the jump from the Liberty League.
Guardado won a Liberty League individual title as a sophomore in 2017.
“This is Carissa’s fourth year with is, so she has the experience and she has worked really hard to get to where she is now as a runner,” Providence coach Michelle Boucher said. “She has just been a standout for us. We have some good runners this year, but Carissa is far above the others.”
“We are trying top build up the girls’ program and we have been going around to different classes on campus to see if we can get more runners out.”
Other key runners for the Pioneers are senior Victoria Ramos and juniors Sandra Vargas and Celia Renteria.
On the boys’ side, the Pioneers are coming off a 2018 season in which they placed fourth in their inaugural showing in the Prep League and did not make it to the CIF prelims.
The Pioneers graduated the most successful runner in program history, Nick Montijo, who become the school’s first athlete to qualify for the CIF State Cross Country Championships, finishing in 16:55 for 34th place in Division V.
Runners to watch for Providence should be sophomores Connor Flynn and Xander Penaflor and freshman Aiden Urbina.
“We are looking for those three to really carry us and I think that’s a strong top three,” Boucher said.
“It is very tough in the Prep League. We just need to keep improving and we have to concentrate on more individual goals. Hopefully we can compete better than we did last year.”