Local runners keep up the pace

GLENDALE — The 2008 CIF cross-country season recently came to a close, but several members of the highly successful boys’ and girls’ programs at Crescenta Valley High are still adding on to their list of accomplishments for the year.

The Falcons’ Zack Torres, a senior, who finished runner-up in the CIF Division I State Championships on Nov. 29, competed on his own in the West Regional portion of the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships at Mt. San Antonio College on Saturday and punched his ticket to the national championships with a ninth-place finish in the 5K race.

Simultaneously, members of the Crescenta Valley High girls’ team, which finished sixth Division I at state on Nov. 29, competed in the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore., where they turned in a fourth-place finish.

Torres, who placed ninth in the West Regionals in 15 minutes, 52 seconds, will next compete in the national final of the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Morley Field in Balboa Park.

“I didn’t feel like I ran a very good race, but I’m just grateful that I qualified,” said Torres, who is the reigning All-Area Male Athlete of the Year. “Being able to run with all those amazing athletes, I mean, all those guys are really good.

“Every high school runner’s dream is to run in the national championships, so I’m just really excited just to get the experience.”

Torres’ race was won by Christopher Schwartz of Bakersfield, who finished in 15:38, just ahead of Brian Shrader (15:42) and Trevor Dunbar (15:43) of Flagstaff, Ariz. and Kodiak, Alaska, respectively.

Just five seconds separated sixth-place finisher James Cameron (15:48) of Mission Viejo and 11th-place finisher Wade Meddles of Minden, Nev., with Torres finishing with the same time as eighth-place Tyre Johnson of Gonzalez and 10th-place Steve Magnuson of Oro Valley, Ariz.

“Right at the finish line, [Johnson] dove in front of me and he got [eighth], so I was a little frustrated, but it’s OK,” Torres said. “I knew I qualified when I was about a step away [from the finish].

“It didn’t hit me that I was going [to nationals] until I was walking through the chute and I could hear my parents and my coach and everyone screaming for me and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I did it.’”

Seven members of the Crescenta Valley girls’ team competed at the Nike Team Nationals as the Flying Chinchillas and finished six spots higher than a group representative of La Crescenta did a year ago.

Michelle Callister and Carlotta Pham were the top finishers for that group a year ago and once again led the charge on Saturday to a time of 1:40.34.

The girls’ 5K race was run by the Kenya Cross Country Club in 1:32.32.

“I’m happy with the race we raced as a team and [my race] as an individual,” said Callister, who finished 10th overall in 19:27.50. “We were excited that we could do well and get fourth place overall.”

Pham was the 20th finisher in 19:45.80, followed by Claudia Pham (25th, 20:03.20) Megan Doeding (28th, 20:13.40), Anneke Kakebeen (51st, 21:04.10), Eliza Collison (61st, 21:31.70) and Kaitlan Reininger (65th, 21:38.30).

The course at Portland Meadows is renowned for it’s unique terrain, resembling a horse ranch, complete with hay bales.

“We had a really good time,” Carlotta Pham said. “It’s kind of a different race [from what we’re used to].”

The course is also usually known for its muddiness, but on Saturday, it remained dry, leaving cold as the main element to battle.

““It was cold, probably in the 40s,” Callister said. “There wasn’t a ton of mud, nothing compared to year’s past.”

 GABRIEL RIZK covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-3226 or at gabriel.rizk@latimes.com.

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