ORANGE — Not even a wheat-like substance in a Starbucks Frappuccino could really slow down Newport Harbor High senior cross country runner Paige Tennison, on Saturday at Irvine Regional Park.
Running in a very businesslike manner, in the Orange County Championships, Tennison showed why she is among the elite three-milers in Orange County with her second straight individual sweepstakes title. Finishing in 16 minutes, 56 seconds in the Division 1 sweepstakes race, Tennison is starting to finish her last year wearing a Sailors uniform in stride.
"I missed five days of training last week [Oct. 1-6] because I'm allergic to wheat," Tennison said. "It was from a Frappuccino at Starbucks, of all things."
Bethan Knights of Northwood was second in 17:06.
Also medaling as one of the top 40 runners was Erin Barth (30th, 18:21), as Newport Harbor finished 14th out of 15 teams in Division 1. The tree-lined course featured 330 feet of grass, 330 feet of dirt and the rest hard blacktop pavement, with two decent-sized upward hills to climb in between.
"I just wanted to go and win," Tennison said. "This is my favorite course, we get a hill and we get it over with right away."
Tennison, who declined to reveal the universities recruiting her, is more confident heading into the CIF State Division 2 Championships, set for Nov. 24 at Woodward Park in Fresno.
"I'd really like to win the state title," Tennison said. "I was really nervous last year. I have a lot less nervousness now, where I feel I've got the hang of this."
Another strong showing was the Corona del Mar girls' team, finishing sixth with 209 points. In cross country, like golf, the lower-scoring teams finish ahead of each other.
Coming in first for the Sea Kings was freshman Lilly Schmidt, 25th (18:59), followed by usual top runner Kirsten Hansen (29th, 19:05), Elin Wolker (36th, 19:13), Darcie Marshall (50th, 19:33) and Shelby Perez (70th, 19:56).
Hannah Crane, who has consistently been CdM's second or third-fastest runner this season, did not score due to a shin injury, after she was accidentally kicked by another runner.
"We took a little beating on the girls' side," Corona del Mar Coach Bill Sumner said. "That was a heartache for us."
Both of the Sea Kings' teams are chasing Northwood in the Pacific Coast League. In a PCL cluster meet last week won by Northwood, CdM lost by one point on its sixth runner in the boys' meet, despite that runner leading with less than 20 yards left in the race. Corona del Mar's girls' team is ranked sixth in the most recent CIF Southern Section Division 3 poll, with Northwood in third. The CdM boys are 11th. Northwood, who finished ninth in the Division 2 race, is 10th.
"On the boys' side, we were good," Sumner said of the boys' team's 12th-place finish in the Division 1 sweepstakes race. "We're trying to put it back together, get it back to full force. We do need to climb that ladder. We're chasing Northwood and Woodbridge and we're only a heartbeat away from first."
Medaling for the CdM boys were Teddy Parks (31st, 15:43) and Spencer Keith (34th, 15:44). The remaining scoring runners were Reid Meckler (48th, 15:53), Tanner Love (82nd, 16:25) and Ethan Hold (95th, 16:42).
Another big story on Saturday morning was Costa Mesa's boys finishing eighth out of 23 scoring teams in the Division 3 boys' race, scoring 205 points. Sage Hill School was 10th with 239 points and Estancia was last with 634 points.
The Mustangs were spearheaded by medal-winning performances by its top four runners and were a strong fifth runner away from possibly winning the race, which was won by Beckman with 113 points. Coming in fifth was Brett Bermudez (15:47), followed closely by Dakota Alford (15:48), Jorge Jeronimo (36th, 16:41), Anuare Magana (40th, 16:47) and then Tristan Padron (143rd, 19:13) for Costa Mesa.
After four years of struggling at times, it appears Costa Mesa is back.
"There's a new ridge for Mesa," Bermudez said. "I'm pretty stoked. It's been a good season for us. We're looking forward to league and trying to make it to CIF."
The Lightning's girls' team also finished 10th, in the girls' Division 3 race. The Lightning's main competition included Crean Lutheran (fourth in girls) and St. Margaret's (third in boys).
"We're always up against stiff competition," Sage Hill Coach Nate Miller said. "We're happy with the day. This is the beginning of our competitive phase. Our emphasis was bringing the last mile in pretty strong and they did that today. We had good pack running."
Sage's boys were led by Dylan Thies (18th, 16:27), followed by Chris Andras (53rd, 16:58), Cameron Knollenberg (59th, 17:02), Alexis Michaca (72nd, 17:15) and Brennan Hicks (17:21).
The Lightning girls were paced by Sophia Witte (21st, 20:15). Coming in 27th was Brittany Andressoo (20:22), followed in pack formation with Alyssa Anderson (84th, 22:22), Claire Goul (85th, 22:22) and Rebecca Fudge (86th, 22:23) running right near each other.
Estancia's boys were led by Matt Thomas (95th, 17:40). The girls finished 14th, with Brenda Vargas earning a medal (25th, 20:20). Veridiana Rios (69th, 21:57), Melissa Hernandez (80th, 22:19), Estela Hernandez (99th, 23:23) and Sophia Putman (111th, 24:04) also scored.