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St. Francis, Flintridge Sacred Heart cross-country teams finish second at league finals

LA CRESCENTA — The opportunity for Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy to regain the Mission League cross-country title came Wednesday afternoon at Crescenta Valley Park.

But to do so meant top efforts would be needed from the Tologs runners against a surging Marymount team that has won the first two league meets.

For St. Francis, its goal to reach the CIF State Cross-Country Championships would continue with a strong finish to the league campaign.

Marymount narrowly defeated Flintridge Sacred Heart, 38-39, to win the girls’ league title, while Loyola captured its 22nd straight league crown in the boys’ race as it finished ahead of second-placed St. Francis, 15-52.

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“I told the girls it was going to come down to one or two points and it actually did,” Flintridge Sacred Heart coach Kirk Nishiyama said. “I just wish we could’ve been on the other side of that.”

Marymount, a team that finished fourth last season, won all three league meets on its way to the league title. Harvard-Westlake, last season’s champion, placed third (69) followed by Louisville (85).

The Tologs finished runner-up in each of their three league races, and with the CIF Southern Section Division IV prelims around the corner, Flintridge Sacred Heart looks forward to seeing Marymount again in the finals.

“We’re disappointed,” Nishiyama said. “One point makes it hurt. We’ll use it as motivation and we’ll try to get them again.”

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On the back of her first-place finish in the second league meet, Louisville senior Kaydee Inouye won the finals race with a time of 19 minutes, 45 seconds. Harvard-Westlake junior Isabel Lawrence placed second in 20:26.3 and Flintridge Sacred Heart senior Lauren Nettels finished third in 20:38.8.

“We knew it was going to be a super-close race,” said Nettels, who missed the second league meet with a foot injury. “It stung a bit, but we’ll be looking forward to doing our best in prelims to advance to the finals.”

Behind Nettels were three teammates with top-10 finishes.

Tologs junior Alexandra Christodoulou placed sixth in 21:21.6, junior Claire Pratt clocked in at 21:36.7 for eighth place and senior Chase Hayes finished 10th in 21:36.7. The freshmen pair Michelle Houser (12th; 22:00.1) and Annamaria Vazquez (14th; 22:18.1) rounded out the Tologs racers.

Loyola, No. 8 in Division II, occupied the top-five spots on its way to the title. Chaminade finished third (111), Sherman Oaks Notre Dame followed in fourth (112), Harvard-Westlake was fifth (124), Alemany was sixth (126) and Crespi was seventh (192).

St. Francis, ranked No. 15 in Division IV, had three top-10 runners, led by Golden Knights duo Chaz Cepielik and Stuart Serventi.

“Across the board, it was a great day of competition for us, especially the seniors,” St. Francis coach Pat Donovan said. “It’s their last opportunity on our home course. I told them to go out there and leave their mark on it and I think a lot of them did, so it’s definitely something to be happy with.

“You stay up at night wondering what could have been on those off races, but everybody’s going to sleep soundly tonight.”

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Loyola senior Anthony Stone repeated as league champion with a first-place time of 15:49.8, while Cepielik and Serventi clocked in at the same time, 16:39, to finish sixth and seventh, respectively.

“Today’s race was just really good,” said Serventi, who improved his time of 17:16.2 from the second league race. “I felt really strong and came in pretty well. I was pushed by my team a lot in the back stretch in the third mile. It felt really good in general.”

The Golden Knights received a 10th-place finish from freshman Hayden Owen (16:48.2), and senior Jason Suh (12th; 16:55.9) and juniors Lars Martin (17th; 17:25.8) and Mark Polenzani (22nd; 17:44.8) rounded out the St. Francis contingent.

“We’ve had the state meet in our sights since the first time we met in June and I think this team is capable of it,” Donovan said. “We’re going to need to find some extra seconds and extra places, but we’re in the mix. We’re in the hunt. As long as these guys can focus for the next two-and-a-half weeks on that goal, regardless of what happens, they’re going to be happy with their season.”

The CIF Division IV prelims will be held at the Riverside Cross-Country Course on Nov. 16.

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