WOODLAND HILLS — Shoulder to shoulder, Flintridge Prep juniors Hudson Billock and Bennett Oakes were inseparable during the downhill stretch of the Prep League cross-country finals on Saturday at the hilly course at Los Angeles Pierce College.
The runners were split right at the finish line, and though Billock claimed the boys’ individual championship in a time of 16 minutes, 5.27 seconds — one-hundredth of a second faster than Oakes’ 16:05.28 second-place finish effort — the bigger picture was continuing a Rebels tradition of league champions for another year.
The two juniors led Flintridge Prep to its 10th consecutive Prep League title, as the Rebels finished with five top-10 finishers to win with 27 points, finishing ahead of runner-up Pasadena Poly (64), third-place Chadwick (68) and fourth-place Providence (73).
In the girls’ competition, Mayfield won its second league title in three years with a team score of 22, while the Rebels finished fourth with 82 points behind runner-up Chadwick (56) and third-place Pasadena Poly (77). Westridge finished fifth (107) and Providence (176) was sixth.
“We just took it in together, and I guess they had to choose a winner,” Billock said. “We knew to just get it done today and do what we had to do.”
The Rebels boys’ team, ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division V, have won 22 of the last 23 league titles.
“We’re always happy to win this meet,” Flintridge Prep boys coach Scott Jung said. “Our focus now will be on getting ready for CIF and hopefully state.
“I think we had a good meet. Everybody ran really well today and we’ll build on that. We’ll get a couple of more weeks of good training in and we’ll see what we can do at CIF Finals.”
The Rebels now have back-to-back league champions with Billock. Last season, Carson Hasbrouck won the league title in 15:57.28.
After the initial two, a pack of Rebels runners finished one after another, as Daniel Kotlyar’s placed seventh in 16:50.27 and was followed by junior Andrew Odom in eighth (16:52.05) and senior Grady Morrissey rounded out the top 10 finishers with a ninth-place effort (16:52.96). Flintridge Prep sophomore Dominic Schraeder finished 11th in 16:56.03.
Providence was powered by an underclassmen duo in sophomore Xander Penaflor and freshman Aiden Urbina. Penaflor claimed fourth place in 16:28.81, with Urbina right behind in fifth with a time of 16:39.21.
“I took the first mile nice and steady and I wanted to see what was going on,” said Penaflor, who is the second Providence top-four finisher in a row since the Pioneers’ transition to the Prep League last year.
In its Prep League finals debut last season, Providence was led by Nick Montijo, who claimed third in 16:01.61.
Added Penaflor, “I took the bait. [Flintridge Prep] was smarter. When I took the lead, I didn’t think they were going to keep up towards the end. I’m going to race smarter.”
Pioneers sophomore Connor Flynn finished 18th in 17:32.96 and was followed by senior Chris Kelamyan (21st; 17:50.87), sophomore Jackson Hicks (25th; 21:05.78) and junior Bryan Ortiz (26th; 21:42.11).
In the girls’ race, the title returned to Mayfield after Flintridge Prep narrowly won by two points last year. The league titles has been split down the middle between the Cubs and the Rebels in six of the last seven years.
“I think being fourth today, they’re probably feeling some disappointment,” Flintridge Prep girls coach Jill Henry said. “I think the bigger and more important takeaway was that it was a close battle. We still have a few weeks of training left and I think that when everybody on this team comes together and performs their best, we really can put up a good fight.
“I don’t think this is a discouraging thing for the long term. It’s motivation to just get sharper in the next few weeks and try to show up to qualify for state. That’s the big goal this year.”
The Rebels were without top runner, senior Liara Morrissey, who had struggled with a hip strain and was rested to be ready for the upcoming CIF prelims.
Mayfield junior Audrey Suarez continued her dominant run in the league finals with a first-place finish of 17:42.62. The junior secured her third straight title as the Cubs registered five runners in the top eight spots.
The Rebels, ranked No. 11 in Division V, were led by sophomore Nicole Mirzaian, who finished 10th in 20:51.37. Flintridge Prep senior Natalie Bax finished 12th in 21:09.41 and was followed by sophomore Rosalinda Chen (15th; 21:17.19), senior Audrey Luan (18th; 21:58.74) and freshman Audrey Jung (27th; 22:53.25), who ran her first varsity race of the season.
“She was only told she was running officially yesterday,” said Henry of Jung. “She stepped up and finished fifth on the varsity team, which is a really gutsy thing for a freshman to do in a race of this importance. That’s what this sport is about. You deal with the circumstances that you’re dealt and you always have new people stepping up to fill those voids.”
Providence lead runner Carissa Guardado did not race for the Pioneers due to a lingering knee injury. The Pioneers’ top finisher was Emily Avila, who clocked in at 22:58.98 for 28th place.
The Division V prelims will be held at the Riverside Cross Country Course on Nov. 16. The CIF Finals will be on Nov. 23 at the same venue.
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