RIVERSIDE — As a host of area teams competed in the CIF Southern Section Cross-Country Championships at the Riverside County Cross-Country Course on Saturday, one squad captured a division title, one had a runner-up finish and others punched their ticket to the state meet.
For the first time since 2015, the Flintridge Prep boys’ team secured a section title, upending Division V defending champion St. Margeret for the title.
The Crescenta Valleys’ boys’ team finished runner-up behind powerhouse Great Oak to advance to yet another state meet and the Burbank boys secured their trip to Fresno for the first time since 2011.
For the girls, La Cañada junior Ellaney Matarese was the only area athlete to clinch a spot in state compition, to be held next Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno.
Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, Burbank, La Cañada, Crescenta Valley and Flintridge Prep girls, St. Francis and La Cañada boys and Providence sophomore boys’ athlete Xander Penaflor also made appearances in championship races.
But the biggest success of the day came from a solid collective performance from Prep League champion Flintridge Prep, which secured its 10th, straight league title and 22 of the last 23 seasons earlier trhis season.
“It was a team effort today and it was probably our best team performance of the year,” Flintridge Prep coach Scott Jung said. “We were able to finally have our top seven run the same race together today, and we needed that performance to beat some of the really good teams.
“These were two of the goals coming into the season. We still have one more goal of doing well in state and we’re going to do our best next weekend to represent both the Prep League and the Southern Section.”
In the Division V race, the Rebels bested the Tartans, 100-116, with a trio of juniors finishing in the top-20, led by Prep League champion Hudson Billock.
Billock clocked 15 minutes, 50.4 seconds on the three-mile course for a ninth-placed finish. Close behind was Bennett Oakes (11th; 15:51.8), who was followed by Nolan Costin (18th; 16:12.1), Andrew Odom (31st; 16:26.5) and Daniel Kotlyar (40th; 16:32.7).
“We knew we just had to come in today and work hard,” Billock said. “I think we did that and now we’re looking forward to next weekend to put in another good effort. We’re really coming together these last couple of weeks and, again, we’re ready for the race next weekend.”
Providence’s only athlete to compete was Penaflor, who finished 22nd in 16:17.6 in his finals debut in Division V.
“I wanted to race exactly how I wanted to race [in prelims],” said Penaflor, who transferred to Providence from Burroughs this year. “I wanted to maintain the last mile because I faded last time. It didn’t work out because I was in the middle [at the start]. I’ll learn from this race.”
In the boys Division I race, Pacific League champion Crescenta Valley finished second to defending champion Great Oak, 96-145.
“We felt fairly confident that we should be able to make top-seven,” said Crescenta Valley coach Mark Evans, whose Falcons were ranked No. 2 in the CIF poll behind top-ranked Great Oak. “We’ve been ranked up and down all season and finished up second.
“Our last couple of races have been really good. We ran really well at league finals and we had a good, solid prelims. ... It wasn’t probably our best race. The order got mixed up, but we still had a 36-second gap between [our] one and five [runners].”
Pacific League champion Dylan Wilbur led the Falcons to their best overall finish since 1981, when they last won the division title. The Crescenta Valley senior and reigning Glendale News-Press Boys’ Athlete of the Year finished seventh in 15:03.4.
“I was just more team-oriented because I knew we had a strong shot with the team,” Wilbur said. “That’s what I had in mind. That’s how I prepared. It’s nice to come here going in with a greater purpose and not just [focus on] myself.”
Falcons junior Max Burton was 29th in 15:30 and he was followed by sophomore Rowan FitzGerald (31st; 15:30.6), junior Jack Myers (47th; 15:38.7) and senior Erik Faeustle (50th; 15:40.9).
For the fourth time in school history, the Burbank boys’ team will compete in the state meet after placing fourth in Division I with 198 points.
“Today, they knew they were without a fifth [runner],” Burbank coach Kathryn Nelson said. “We’ve been without a fifth for most of the season and they knew that without a fifth in Division I, that you better have a good, solid four. Then, we can withstand a little bit, and that’s what made the difference.”
Bulldogs senior Victor Goli clocked 15:08 for 11th place to lead Burbank. The senior finished ahead of senior Dayne Ellis (30th; 15:30.2), junior Andres Leon (40th; 15:35.3) senior Anthony Chiaravalle (60th; 15:44.8) and junior Tyler Jenkins (79th; 16:01).
“This year, we came into the summer training like no tomorrow,” Goli said. “We [were grinding] every day and we went into [the finals] knowing we had to make the state meet just for our coach. [Coach Nelson] made so many sacrifices for us these past four years and it’s time those sacrifices pay off.”
For the Division IV boys’ race, St. Francis’ goal of qualifying for state fell short with a 10th-place finish with 238 points, 15 points shy of the final automatic berth of seventh-placed Barstow High.
“We were in the mix and the boys ran great today,” said St. Francis coach Pat Donovan, whose Golden Knights finished runner-up in the Mission League and were ranked No. 12 in Division IV. “I’m really proud of them this season and I’m proud of what they accomplished.
“It’s sad to see my three seniors on varsity leave next year. They’re going to leave a big hole, but I have some kids in the wings who are a strong group. This was a great team to coach and I’m just so proud with what we were able to do this year.”
First-year cross-country runner Chaz Capielik, a senior, led the Golden Knights with a 19th-place finish in 15:50.5. Golden Knights freshman Owen Hayden (34th; 16:13.1), seniors Stuart Serventi (57th; 16:32.7) and Jason Suh (62nd; 16:36.6) and junior Lars Martin (78th; 16:45) rounded out the St. Francis scorers.
The La Cañada boys finished 19th with 509 points and was led by senior Sheldon Watanabe, who placed 79th in 16:45.9. Spartans junior Jaden Milbrodt (92nd; 16:56.7), sophomore George Branda (110th; 17:13), senior Max Bohan Apfeldorf (117th; 17:17.2) and sophomore Ethan Lee (126th; 17:26.3) also scored for the No. 6-ranked La Cañada team that finished runner-up in the Rio Hondo League.
In the girls’ competition, Division IV contenders and Rio Hondo League champion La Cañada placed ninth with 273 points, just two spots out of of state qualification. Matarese led the Spartans with a 15th-place finish in 18:30.4, clinching qualification as an individual for state.
Spartans senior Sarah Auther followed in 22nd in 18:51.3, with sophomore Jenna Milbrodt (73rd; 20:01.3), freshmen Maya Sharma (91rd; 20:29.6) and Catherine Mispaigel (94th; 20:30.9) rounding out the La Cañada runners.
“I think ninth place was a solid showing considering we had a sick runner,” La Cañada coach Andy DiConti said. “It’s an improvement from last year and we just have to keep going from here. The season’s not over. We’ve got one person in state.”
Alongside La Cañada in the Division IV race was Flintridge Sacred Heart, which finished 19th with 455 points and was led by senior Lauren Nettels. The Mission League runner-up clocked a 19:26.7 to finish 46th. Tologs junior Alexandra Christodoulou placed 63rd in 19:50.3 and was followed by senior Chase Hayes (118th; 21:03) and freshmen Izzy Mozilo (119th; 21:03.4) and Emily Wong (138th; 21:39.6).
“It’s a bit disappointing for Lauren, but she’s had such a great career for us,"Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy coach Kirk Nishiyama said. “She’s been a leader and that’s one of the things we’ll miss is that she won’t make it to state. I’m very happy with the way they ran. After the last year, they’re just happy to be here.”
The Division I girls’ championship was claimed once again by Great Oak High with 38 points, while Pacific League runner-up Burbank finished 16th, one spot ahead of league champion Crescenta Valley. The Bulldogs had 414 points and the Falcons tallied 434.
Burbank, which fluctuated in the Division I polls with Crescenta Valley throughout the season, was led by junior Elin Markarian, who placed 33rd in 18:17.5. Other scorers for the Bulldogs were junior Megan LaCamera (44th; 18:30.9), senior Sol Fernandez (102nd; 19:16.5), and juniors Mckynzee Kelley (130th; 19:44.6) and Zoe Zeron (136th; 19:51.8).
“I think the girls’ ran the best that they could have,” Nelson said. “I was pleasantly surprised that they advanced [from prelims] on a tough day.”
For the Falcons, senior Natalie Bitetti took the 39th spot in 18:26.4. Fellow senior Samantha Moore followed in 54th in 18:39 and Pacific League champion Sophia Atin finished 97th in 19:12.3. Crescenta Valley senior Ily Nelson (135th; 19:51.7) and junior Julianna Cheney (142nd; 19:59.2) also scored for the Falcons.
“Being in a CIF final race — we haven’t been in one for a couple years and I think it just kind of got to them a little bit,” Evans said. “They fought hard. They had a good season. They’re league champions. It’s been a tough go these last three weeks and doing this race with 24 really good teams is just tough.”
In the girls’ Division V race, La Crescenta resident Mia Barnett captured her third straight section title, as the Village Christian junior won the race in 17:45.9. The Crusaders finished seventh overall with 243 points and will be competing in the state meet.
The Flintridge Prep girls placed ninth with 266 points, as St. Margarets retained its Division V title with 54 points. The Rebels were paced by sophomore Nicole Mirzaian with a 51st-place finish in 20:59.4.
“They executed how we asked them to and everybody did the job that they were supposed to in terms of time,” Flintridge Prep girls coach Jill Henry said. “It was a fast race, and so time doesn’t particularly matter if you end up being in the second half of it in terms of packs.
“What I am proud of is that in second half of the race, they really picked up points, and disappointed with the outcome, but I couldn’t be happier with how they executed. There’s nothing we could’ve done differently and I don’t think there’s any regrets leaving today.”
Flintridge Prep senior Liana Morrissey came in 54th in 21:06.2 and was followed by sophomore Rosalinda Chen (61st; 21:15.9), senior Natalie Bax (68th; 21:36.4) and junior Ana Turysheva (74th; 21:44).