NORWALK — In the history of the Crescenta Valley High track and field program, it had never sent two female athletes to the CIF-State Meet.
That changed in a hurry Friday night at the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet at Cerritos College’s Falcon Stadium, as seniors Claire Collison and Rachel Lange earned the right to return to the same venue next Friday and May 31 in their quest to capture state glory.
Lange and Collison became the first duo to accomplish the feat after they finished third and fourth, respectively, in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races on a wet track that resulted from a light drizzle that fell throughout parts of one of the state’s more prestigious meets.
The Stanford-University-bound Collison clocked 4 minutes 52.70 seconds in the 1,600 and 10:45.44 in the 3,200. Lange, who will attend Brigham Young University in the fall, had a 4:53.30 in the 1,600 and a 10:47.53 in the 3,200.
“It’s amazing,” Crescenta Valley Coach Mark Evans said. “It says something when you can get two girls in two events to the state meet.
“It’s great for Rachel because it will be her first time at state, and it’s again incredible for Claire to make a second appearance. They have to do a lot of work, and they’re not afraid to go out there and be aggressive.”
Two local boys’ runners failed to qualify for the state meet in Zack Torres of Crescenta Valley in the 3,200 and James Kostelnik of Loyola in the 1,600.
In the girls’ 3,200, Lange led through the first three laps of the eight-lap event. Then Collison led through the next four laps before San Clemente’s Alexandra Dunne and Saugus’ Kaylin Mahoney both had passed her to take first and second, respectively.
Dunne finished first in 10:35.91 and Mahoney second (10:38.05).
For Lange, it proved to be a long time coming after she missed qualifying for the state meet last year by .74 of a second at the Masters Meet.
“It was a struggle for me last year just missing out,” Lange said “It helped me push it more this year.
“It felt good, I felt comfortable racing with all of the other girls. It’s a cat and mouse game. At state, it will be going from the gun.”
Collison showed fine form in each race. The Pacific League champion in both events continued to show why she’s among the top runners in Southern California.
“This is what the season is about,” said Collison, the reigning News-Press Female Athlete of the Year. “State is what’s most important.
“Last year, I felt more like a spectator. I’ve learned to relax and go and compete.”
Unfortunately none of them could catch standout Christina Babcock of Woodbridge in the 1,600, who easily won the four-lap race with a nation-best time of 4:36.57. The University of Washington-bound Babcock eclipsed the mark of 4:38.15, set last year by Alex Kosinski of Oak Ridge.
Torres, who made his inaugural appearance in the Masters Meet, finished 10th in the 3,200.
The junior, who also competed on the school’s baseball team that advanced to the playoffs, clocked 9:19.36.
He needed to finish in the top five or meet the state-qualifying time of 9:14.22.
Evans said Friday’s effort will likely serve as a learning experience for Torres.
“He ran a great race by giving it all he had,” Evans said. “He was right there during a long season that saw him playing two sports.
“If anything, it will make him more motivated for next year.”
Kostelnik, a Glendale resident, saw his bid to return to the state meet fall by the wayside after he clocked a 4:18.11 to finish eighth in the 1,600.
He needed to finish in the top five or meet the state-qualifying time of 4:14.96. The Duke University-bound Kostelnik, who earlier captured the 1,600- and 3,200 Mission League championships, stayed toward the front of the pack until just past the third lap. However, three runners caught and passed him.
Kostelnik said he thought he could maintain his pace throughout the event.
“You have to run 4:14 to make state, so I was on pace to run 4:14,” Kostelnik said. “It’s pointless to come out here and go for 4:16.”
Raul Arkos of Corona won the race in 4:10.46.
CHARLES RICH covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-3228 or email@example.com.