LA CRESCENTA — There’s plenty of talent throughout the Pacific League, perhaps leading to a group of boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams challenging for league championships and making deep postseasons runs.
At the first league meet Thursday at Crescenta Valley Park, many of the squads were ready to take the first step. There were plenty of impressive individual and team accomplishments following runs on the three-mile course.
The Crescenta Valley boys’ team began defense of the league crown with a first-place finish and Burbank took first in the girls’ competition on a warm late afternoon.
The Falcons, who won the league title last season for the first time since 2007 and are ranked No. 5 in CIF Southern Section Division I, finished with 34 points and got a first-place effort from Dylan Wilbur in 15 minutes, 36.3 seconds. Teammate Manan Vats took second in 15:36.9. Crescenta Valley’s top five runners finished in the top 12 to edge rival Arcadia (40), ranked No. 7 in Division I, by six points.
“We definitely want to carry over the success we had from last year,” Wilbur said. “We lost a bunch of our runners to graduation, but there’s still a lot of quality runners here.
“I felt good with the way I ran. I made a push on the back of the trail to get going.”
The Falcons got an eighth-place finish from Erik Faeustle (16:12.2), 11th place from Grant Lauterback (16:27) and 12th from Ameer Mohammed (16:31.2).
Burbank was third with 76 points, followed by Burroughs (86), Glendale (120), Hoover (192) and Pasadena (204).
Burroughs’ Raymond Berrellez took third in the boys’ race in 15:53.8.
“There are so many great runners in our league and I just try to connect and stay with them,” Berrellez said. “I just try to get out fast and maintain my position. It’s a wake-up call for me because Dylan and Manan are awesome runners.”
Burbank got a ninth-place effort from Andres Leon in 16:16. Anthony Chiaravalle took 13th (16:31.30) for the Bulldogs, followed by Tadeh Shanazari (15th; 16:35.5), Dayne Ellis (16th; 16:38.3) and Victor Goli (23rd; 17:13.2).
Burroughs got a 14th-place finish from Carlos Ponce in 16:32, followed by Robert McGraham (17th; 16:38.9), Johnny Padungyothee (24th; 17:15.1) and Logan Berger (28th; 17:32.3).
Glendale received a 10th-place finish from Arvin Sales (10th; 16:19.5) and a 20th-place effort from Chadi Saklaway (16:46.7). Hoover’s top finisher was Askanaz Sahakyan (33rd; 18:11.4).
Burbank gained the upper hand on the girls’ side, receiving 34 points. Burroughs took second with 52 points, followed by Crescenta Valley (60), Arcadia (79), Glendale (157) and Hoover (163).
The Bulldogs’ top five athletes finished among the top-11, led by a splendid effort from Shalom Mejia. Mejia took third in 19:41.3, behind Joyce Wu of Arcadia (first; 19:17.8) and Crescenta Valley’s Sophia Atin (second; 19:23).
“It’s really exciting,” Mejia said. “The goal is to try to go in and win it and this is very big for the team.
“It’s exciting to see what we can do in the other league meets.”
Natalie Danao placed fourth in 19:47 for the Bulldogs, followed by Sol Fernandez (sixth; 19:54.6), Megan LaCamera (10th; 20.00.2) and Mykynzee Kelley (11th; 20:10.3).
Atin held a slim lead over Wu in the final portion of the race before Wu took control.
“Joyce got me in the last 200 meters, but I’m happy with the way I ran today,” Atin said. “I liked my chances coming in and this will be a confidence builder for me.”
Burroughs had four other runners place in the top 17, they were Sophia Navarro (fifth; 19:53.5), Ceci Whitney (ninth; 19:57.4), Julianna Navarro (13th; 20:18) and Lakely Nealis (17th; 20:36).
In addition to Atin, Crescenta Valley had four top-20 finishes, they were Samantha Moore (seventh; 19:54.9), Gabriela Borraez (12th; 2013.4), Emma Walch (19th; 20:43.2) and Sarah Nakama (20th; 20:49.8).
Hoover’s top runner was Gabriela Quinones (25th; 21:14.7). Glendale was paced by Vanneza Venzor (29th; 22:29.3).
The second league meet will occur Oct. 11 at Arcadia County Park and the league final will take place Nov. 1 at Crescenta Valley Park.