LA CRESCENTA — Heading into the Mission League finals Wednesday, the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and St. Francis cross-country teams took to the three-mile course at Crescenta Valley Park with specific goals in mind.
Flintridge Sacred Heart looked to win a second-straight league championship, while St. Francis aimed to qualify for the CIF postseason for the first time since 2011.
On a warm afternoon, Flintridge Sacred Heart had its bid for back-to-back championships foiled, while St. Francis punched its ticket to the prelims.
In the girls’ race, Flintridge Sacred Heart finished second with 44 points, finishing second to Harvard-Westlake (23 points) in the four-team event. Flintridge Sacred Heart and Harvard-Westlake split the first two league races before Harvard-Westlake took charge Wednesday behind five top-11 finishes. Louisville took third with 75 points, followed by Marymount (96).
St. Francis took fourth in the boys’ race with 137 points behind powerhouse Loyola (15), Harvard-Westlake (68) and Chaminade (68). The Golden Knights needed a fourth-place finish or better to extend their season.
Flintridge Sacred Heart and St. Francis will compete in the CIF Division IV prelims on Nov. 10 at Riverside City Cross-Country Course. The finals for all five divisions will be held Nov. 17 at the same site.
The Tologs, ranked 10th in the division, received five top-16 performances Wednesday.
Lauren Nettels paced Flintridge Sacred Heart with a fourth-place finish in 19 minutes, 45.89 seconds. Also scoring for the Tologs were Alex Christodoulou (seventh, 20:10.38), Samantha Cvey (10th, 20:45.05), Beatriz Cerezo (15th, 21:57.83) and Joshlyn Aguirre (16th, 22:09.66).
“It was going to take our best effort to win league,” Flintridge Sacred Heart coach Kirk Nishiyama said. “Harvard-Westlake has a very tough 1-2 group.
“Our top three ran well, but our fourth and fifth runners were a little off today. Lauren ran well again for us and we’ll look to regroup next week.”
Natalia Quintero of Harvard-Westlake (fourth in Division IV) finished first in 18:08.97, followed by teammate and sister Daniela Quintero (18:09.19) and Nina Rhone of Marlborough (19:35.21).
Nettels recorded a personal-best mark on the course.
“I was really focused on the second mile with the hills,” Nettels said. “I took a positive mindset in that stretch and that helped me pull through and I’m happy with my time.
“We really wanted to win league again, but Harvard-Westlake has so many fast runners. We’ll come back motivated for CIF and next year in league.”
St. Francis received a 14th-place finish from Stuart Serventi in 17:14.93. Also scoring for the Golden Knights were Jason Suh (20th, 17:46.85), Brady McNulty (22nd, 17:58.43), Mark Polenzani (23rd, 18:09.19) and Timothy Parisi (24th, 18:10.05).
“It’s definitely cool to make it to the postseason,” St. Francis coach Pat Donovan said. “We have a pretty young team, but we made that one of our goals coming into the season.
“They showed up and were ready to race. I’ve had a lot of long drives home from here after just missing out on making the playoffs. It’s a new beginning for our guys and such a great experience.”
Loyola, ranked second with Claremont in Division II behind Newbury Park, had five top-five efforts. Anthony Stone won in 15:55.28 and was followed by Mason Ratkovich (15:58.49), Roberto Ruelas (16:01.04), Hudson Godfrey (16:02.93) and Vinnie Giachini (16:03.29).