Locals turn it on at Mt. SAC

WALNUT — As Zack Torres crossed the finish line on Saturday morning at the 61st running of the prestigious Mt. SAC Invitational, he did so with a look of disdain and his head shaking from side to side in dismay.

It was hardly the expected reaction of a runner who had just finished third in the Division I-II Boys’ Individual Sweepstakes race and did so in a personal-best time on the 2.91-mile Mount San Antonio College course.

“That’s just Zack,” grinned Crescenta Valley Coach Mark Evans while talking about his ultra-competitive senior. “He did a great job, he was right in it.”

Saturday’s race was won by Trevor Dunbar of Kodiak High in Alaska in 14 minutes 41 seconds. He was followed shortly thereafter by reigning CIF-State Division I champion Chris Schwartz of Bakersfield Foothill (14:46), who had outdueled Torres weeks earlier at the Clovis Invitational.

“I really wanted to beat those guys,” said Torres, the reigning All-Area Boys’ Cross-Country Runner of the Year, who took third in 14:50. “That guy from Alaska’s a stud. ... Chris Schwartz had more guts than me today.

“I did run a PR, but a PR’s not good enough for me ... I need to start winning races.”

Over the two-day event, only one area team — Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy — and no area individuals were able to win races, but there were still plenty of highlights for the locals.

The Tologs, who took first in the Division IV-V Girls’ Varsity Green race, both Flintridge Prep’s girls’ and boys’ teams and St. Francis ran on Friday, while both Crescenta Valley and Glendale squads ran on Saturday.

Saturday started with a brisk early morning, but turned into a sweltering day.

“We had sweatshirts on, we had blankets,” said Crescenta Valley’s Michelle Callister of the morning temperatures when the Falcons first arrived.

But Callister and Co. began the Division I-II Girls’ Team Sweepstakes race — perhaps the most anticipated race of the day — at 9:40 a.m., just as the temperatures began to rise.

Still, the Falcons, ranked fourth in CIF Southern Section Division I, turned in an excellent showing, finishing fourth behind two-time state champion Saugus, which set a course record with a team time of 88:18 and garnered 24 points, Dana Hills (68 points) and Torrey Pines (100). The Falcons finished second among Division I Southern Section squads, however, jumping over Trabuco Hills and Great Oak, who are both ranked ahead of Crescenta Valley, which totaled 165 points.

“I thought the girls ran really well,” Evans said.

Carlotta Pham took 14th in the race in 18:09, as she and Callister (22nd, 18:35) continue to go back and forth in grabbing the Falcons’ top spot over the course of the season.

“I think it’s gonna be that way the rest of the season,” Pham said. “It was my good day [Saturday]. Next time it’ll be Michelle’s.”

While neither was new to the Mt. SAC course, the senior duo ran it for the first time as Falcons frontrunners.

“I think every time it’s always tough in its own way,” Callister said. “[This time it was] more like we gotta do it, we gotta step up.”

It was a feat accomplished by Pham and Callister, according to Evans, and one they’ve been doing all season thus far.

“I thought they did a great job,” he said. “They really took the responsibility of leading the way.”

They led the way in front of teammates Anneke Kakebeen (38th, 18:56), Claudia Pham (42nd, 18:58) and Yumeng Wei (49th, 19:04).

The Tologs, fresh off a Mission League meet on Wednesday, dropped out of their division’s sweepstakes race and into the smaller Division IV-V Green race and garnered some surprisingly dominant results.

“We were kind of surprised because we weren’t really going all out,” said Sacred Heart Coach Kirk Nishiyama, whose team, ranked seventh in Division IV, won with 59 points to Bret Harte’s 100. “We were really happy with getting first place.”

Swimming standout Andrea Kropp continued her successful rookie cross-country season, as she took sixth in 20:17 to pace Sacred Heart.

“She’s been a pleasant surprise for us,” Nishiyama said.

Sacred Heart won with stellar pack running however, as Erin Hartwig (12th, 20:55) didn’t finish that far behind Kropp and Emily Brown (14th, 21:26). Paige Conti (15th, 21:28) and Katie Johnson (16th, 21:29) followed soon thereafter.

Flintridge Prep’s boys’ squad continued its climb up the Division V ladder, finishing third in the Division V Boys’ Sweepstakes with 72 points, just behind Woodcrest Christian (47) and Hopi (55) and just in front of Pasadena Poly (83), which is ranked second in Southern Section Division V, a spot ahead of the Rebels.

The Rebels turned in an impressive team gap of just 46 seconds, the best in the race, as Paul Weitekamp took seventh in 16:12 and Prep’s No. 5 runner, James Lyon, took 22nd in 16:58. In between, Kevin Heintz finished 12th in 16:25, Jason Bunn was 17th in 16:44 and Conner Verreaux garnered 18th in 16:45.

Flintridge Prep’s girls’ team took fifth in the Division V Girls’ Sweepstakes race with 129 points, while first-place Woodcrest Christian had 26. Dot Silverman led the Rebels with a seventh-place mark of 19:44, while Elise Partos took 14th in 21:08.

St. Francis finished fourth in the Division III Boys’ Varsity Blue race, with Kyle Palazzolo (10th, 16:41) and Kyle Peterson (23rd, 17:16) leading the Golden Knights.

Led by Torres, the CV boys took 10th in the individual sweepstakes race. Neil Jones took 44th in 16:34, while Mike Duncan was 48th in 16:37.

Rounding out Saturday’s action, Glendale’s boys’ team took 12th out of 20 teams in the Division I Boys’ Yellow Race with 284 points, while winner Poway had 91. Nick Wagner led the Nitros with a 27th-place finish in 17:07.

While the Nitros’ girls’ team didn’t qualify for team scoring with just three runners in the Division I Girls’ Varsity Blue race, Frances Pasamba turned in a solid effort with a 13th-place mark of 20:15.


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