ARCADIA — On the surface, Thursday afternoon’s Pacific League cross-country championships appeared little more than a large Arcadia High celebration.
After all, the Apaches won both the boys’ and girls’ team titles and claimed each race’s individual crown at Arcadia County Park.
Yet, quite a few local teams made noise, both surprisingly and expectedly, led by the Burbank boys and Crescenta Valley girls, who finished second in their respective races, while the Crescenta Valley and Burroughs boys and the Burbank and Hoover girls all earned spots to the CIF Southern Section divisional preliminaries at Mt. San Antonio College on Nov. 16.
Maybe no team made a bigger splash than did the Division I fifth-ranked Bulldog boys, who appear to be surging and demonstrated their prowess by knocking off seventh-ranked Crescenta Valley for the first time this season, 47-63, for second place in league.
“With CV and Arcadia, we just let them go and waited to make our move,” said Bulldogs senior Elliot Choe, who finished fifth in 14 minutes, 44.09 seconds, which trumped a previous course best of 15:08.
Choe and senior Arsen Mkrtchyan (sixth, 14:49.12) stuck to their plan, even when their chances of advancing to the Division I prelims looked imperiled as the duo were 12th and 13th, respectively, at the one-mile mark.
Yet, a mile later, the Burbank duo moved into eighth and ninth before eventually finishing fifth and sixth.
“This was a slow build to state and we’re still getting there,” said Mkrtchyan, who easily eclipsed his previous course personal best time of 15:10. “We still have work to do.”
Burbank’s next three scorers — Gabriel Ellman (10th, 15:08.38), Ethan Moskowitz (11th, 15:09.91) and Enrique Vizcaino (15th, 15:18.97) — propelled the Bulldogs within striking distance of league champion and top-ranked Arcadia, 27-47, which also had a surprise result when sophomore Phillip Rocha (14:02.12) nipped senior Estevan De La Rosa (12:02.47) at the finish line to win the Pacific League individual title in a new league record time.
Burbank’s joy was contrasted with a slight tinge of disappointment from the Falcons, who were led by senior Gabe Collison (third, 14:13.47).
Fellow Falcons Matt Manalo (seventh, 14:54.78), Matt Owens (13th, 15:16.66) and Nick Beatty (19th, 15:32) all scored in the top 20.
“The Burbank guys finally caught up to me and to us as a team,” Manalo said. “They’ve been working hard all year and we didn’t have a good race, which kind of explains what happened.”
Without as much fanfare, the Burroughs boys claimed the last CIF spot by finishing fourth with 167 points.
Junior Shane Thompson (ninth, 15:05.47) led the Indians, who boasted three additional top-20 placers in Elias Hoxie (14th, 15:17.43), Garrett Boulais (18th, 15:25.75) and Ricky Mendez (20th, 15:36.18).
“I was trying to hit a sub-15 time and also get in the top 10,” Thompson said. “As long as I got one of those two, that’s fine.”
Junior Liam Spires (24th, 15:51.28) paced sixth-place Glendale, which tallied 167 points, while seventh-place Hoover, which totaled 189 points, had its best effort from senior Daniel Ramas (33rd, 16:37.06).
On the girls’ side, individual champion Veronica Yamane (17:20.28) was a runaway winner as were her Apaches, who defeated Crescenta Valley, 23-44.
While there was no drama in the Falcons finishing second and Burbank taking third with 66 points, the day’s most competitive race regarded the final postseason spot as Hoover outlasted Burroughs, 121-128, to clinch the program’s first playoff berth since 2002.
“It’s a big step forward for us and it’s been a long time since we last went to CIF,” Hoover Coach Jack Sallakian said. “Everything lined up perfectly for us today and we’re come along way from summer when we only had 10, 11 girls in the program.”
Senior Lucik Minassian was Hoover’s leader again Thursday, finishing 16th (19:35.47), while teammates Megan Mirkhanian (18th, 19:54.72) and Preny Riganian (20th, 20:02.18) were nearby.
Burbank sophomore Candela Fernandez was the fastest local finisher, taking third in 17:45.62 after rebounding from her fifth-place standing at the two-mile mark.
“I’m really happy, glad and satisfied with what I was able to do,” Fernandez said. “I just gave it all I had in the end to climb up those last two spots.”
Burbank’s third-place squad included three more top-20 scorers in Arlette Movsesyan (12th, 18:52.40), Daisy Ignacio (13th, 18:55.56) and Taryn Stevenson (14th, 19:09.78).
Crescenta Valley junior Megan Melnyk was right on the heels of Fernandez and finished fourth in 17:50.28.
“This was a real competitive race and I just thank God I was able to get through it and that I’ve been able to stay healthy,” Melnyk said.
The Falcons benefited from the return of senior Erika Johnson (seventh, 18:24.81), who was back for the first time since Oct. 17 after missing action with a right ankle injury.
Rebecca Mencia (eighth, 18:36.38), Haley Witzeman (10th, 18:48.84) and Samantha Bernardo (15th, 19:11.81) round out Crescenta Valley’s scorers.
Burroughs finished fifth with 128 points, led by junior Miranda Acosta (17th, 19:48.75), while seventh-place Glendale was guided by Amira Al Hadeed (36th, 22:27.84).
While the Nitros’ season ended Thursday, Glendale did have a flash of brilliance when junior Caroline Cubero ran out strong and was in fourth place through the first half mile before eventually finishing 42nd (23:40.02).
“Hey, I just wanted to start out fast and give everything I had,” Cubero said. “We knew Arcadia was going to win. Today was just about doing your best.”