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Sacred Heart, St. Francis cross-country teams finish second in Mission League meet

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Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy’s Alexandra Christodoulou placed third in Wednesday’s Mission League meet at Crescenta Valley Park.
(Tim Berger/La Cañada Valley Sun)

LA CRESCENTA — The St. Francis High and Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy cross-country teams entered the second Mission League meet at Crescenta Valley Park on Wednesday with hopes of breaking the mold set by Loyola and Marymount in the first league race.

The task for the Tologs would be difficult without their top runner, senior Lauren Nettels. For the Golden Knights to topple the Cubs, ranked No. 7 in the CIF Southern Section Division II, St. Francis looked to find a way to break Loyola’s pack of runners.

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, which was without Nettels due to a minor foot injury, was led by junior Alexandra Christodoulou, who helped the team to a second-place team finish as Marymount edged the Tologs, 31-49, to win.

Meanwhile, Loyola’s runners dominated, occupying the top eight places to finish ahead of St. Francis, 15-68.

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With Nettels absent, Christodoulou finished third with a time of 21 minutes, 11.9 seconds. Louisville senior Kayde Inouye clocked 20:19.8 to win the race. Marymount junior Caitlin Donovan placed second in 21:09.

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St. Francis’ Stuart Serventi runs with the pack at the start of the boys’ Mission League race at the 2019 Mission/Sunshine Cross Country #2 at Crescenta Valley Regional Park on Tuesday, October 15, 2019.
(Tim Berger/La Cañada Valley Sun)

“I really learned a lot today with the competition and the other girls were really good today,” Christodoulou said. “They were pushing me and I want to be able to let people push me more because I learned a lot.

“I learned how to use the uphills and the downhills a lot, and also how to use the surge points that we learned in practice.”

The Tologs received help from its freshmen core of Annamaria Vazquez, Michelle Houser and Izzy Mozillo, who coach Kirk Nishiyama hoped would pick up some of the workload without his top senior.

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Nettels, who advanced to state competition in 2018, won the first league meet in 20:10.4.

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Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy’s girls’ team at the start of the girls’ Mission League race at the 2019 Mission/Sunshine Cross Country #2 at Crescenta Valley Regional Park on Tuesday, October 15, 2019.
(Tim Berger/La Cañada Valley Sun)

“Without Lauren, we were handicapped, obviously, but everyone else stepped up,” Nishiyama said. “Everybody really had good races for us. We finally saw the freshmen push themselves a little bit today. We’re moving in the right direction at the right time, so we’re really happy with the performances.”

Vazquez placed eighth in 22:20.8 and was followed by junior Claire Pratt (10th; 22:45.5) and senior Chase Hayes (11th; 22:56.6). Houser clocked 23:31.6 for 19th and Mozillo finished in 23:40.4 for 20th place for the Tologs.

In the boys’ race, St. Francis’ best finisher, Stuart Serventi, placed ninth in 17:16.2. Cubs senior Richard Moreno won the race in 16:49.

“I was hoping for a little bit more,” St. Francis coach Pat Donovan said. “Loyola is obviously very strong and we were hoping to break up that pack a little more. All things considered, it was where we wanted to finish and where we expected to finish, but times and places are going to need to improve by league finals.

“We have our sights set on the postseason and this type of performance is not going to get us that far into the postseason. Our ultimate goal is to make the state meet and for that to happen, everybody’s going to have to drop 20-to-30 seconds.”

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St. Francis’ Stuart Serventi crosses the one-mile marker in the boys’ Mission League race at the 2019 Mission/Sunshine Cross Country #2 at Crescenta Valley Regional Park on Tuesday, October 15, 2019.
(Tim Berger/La Cañada Valley Sun)

Serventi, who had been experiencing tightness in his calves, ran with the middle of the Loyola pack toward the mile-mark on the course before his legs felt a little tweak.

“I usually just race every race with the same mentality,” said Serventi, who won the first league meet in 17:08.5. “We’ve run this course before and we train on this course. We do workouts here, so we know the course front-and-back. It was maybe just an off day for all of us. It was a good day, personally and we got second. We’ve gotten second twice now.”

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Golden Knights senior Chaz Cepielik followed Serventi with a 10th-place finish in 17:18.7, while freshman Hayden Owen (12th; 17:36.3), senior Jason Suh (14th; 17:44.2), juniors Lars Martin (23rd; 18:39,1) and Mark Polenzani (24th; 18:40.2) and sophomore Timothy Parisi (27th; 18:46.6) rounded out the St. Francis runners.

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Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy’s Annamaria Vazquez, center, runs with teammates Izzy Mozillo and Claire Pratt in the girls’ Mission League race at the 2019 Mission/Sunshine Cross Country #2 at Crescenta Valley Regional Park on Tuesday, October 15, 2019.
(Tim Berger/La Cañada Valley Sun)

“I’m OK with today’s performance, but I think the boys are hungry to run faster and to race a little bit better next time,” Donovan said. “The first mile got off a lot slower and everybody seemed comfortable and they just didn’t get into that gear. Everybody went out faster in the first mile last time and were racing from the beginning. This was kind of lackadaisical first mile and cruising a little bit. They just never got that fire to race. By the time it mattered, it was a little too little too late.”

The league finals will occur Nov. 6 at Crescenta Valley Park.

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