FSHA, Prep make stately splash

WALNUT — A steady stream of rain Saturday morning led to a change of plans as relates to the famed cross-country course at Mount San Antonio College.

Now, three area cross-country teams are making new plans of their own to travel to Fresno for the CIF State Meet on Saturday after meeting the qualifying criteria on a rain-slicked, sped-up Mt. SAC course.

With the course's dirt trails and hills reduced to a muddy slop, the course was reconfigured to cover mostly paved areas and the finish line was relocated to the stadium's synthetic track, where Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and the Flintridge Prep boys' team notched impressive third-place finishes in Division IV and Division V, respectively, while Prep's girls' team also made the cut for state with a sixth-place showing in Division V.

"I really liked it and I thought it was just a really fun race," Sacred Heart's Paulina Antaplyan said of the rain and the course change, which was much flatter and faster than the normal route. "We can't let it affect us. I think that we handled it well."

Crescenta Valley's girls' team and St. Francis also took a shot at state on Saturday, but neither was able to make the top-seven cutoff for team qualification, nor were the Falcons or Golden Knights able to qualify any runners individually by virtue of having one of the five fastest times from a non-qualified team within the top 20 overall.

The biggest surprise of the day came from the Tologs, who had anticipated having to fight to meet the cutoff for state.

"They really stepped it up," said Sacred Heart Coach Kirk Nishiyama, whose team scored 165 points to finish behind Junipero Serra (48) and Harvard-Westlake (138) and edge El Segundo by a single point. "I'm really proud of the girls. They surprised us. We were looking at seven."

Antaplyan, a junior, crossed the finish line first for the Tologs in 15th place with a time of 19 minutes 51 seconds. The race was won by reigning state-champion Cami Chapus of Harvard-Westlake in 18:41.

Following Antaplyan for the Tologs were freshmen Riley Gilmartin (18th, 19:57) and Casey Basso (36th, 20:48), junior Amanda Aguilar (50th, 21:11) and freshman Rebecca Armstrong (63rd, 21:31).

"Our goal was to pack up front," Nishiyama said. "Paulina and Riley and Casey would lead us up front and Amanda Aguilar really stepped up for us today and Rebecca Armstrong really stepped up. We talked about the fours and fives making a difference today and that was it."

Senior Jason Bunn clocked 17:02 for 12th place to lead Prep's boys' team to a score of 133 points behind St. Margaret's (68) and Lancaster Desert Christian (102).

"We're thrilled," Bunn said. "We were ranked fourth coming in and we knew it would be tight, no matter what. This is the spot we were hoping for, it was a really fun race.

"For us, it was just go. [We were] racing people, not racing the time."

Juniors Eli Weinstein (29th, 17:39) and Jake Johnson (34th, 17:47), senior Jesse Redding (35th, 17:47) and sophomore Elias Ellison (39th, 17:50) rounded out the top five for Prep.

The Rebels' youthful girls' squad continued its late-season surge behind sophomore Kaitlyn Kelleher (18th, 21:02) and freshman Sarah Yoho (19th, 21:02) to pick up the last state berth with 174 points in the only division that featured a top-six cutoff. Prep League rival Chadwick won the race with 74 points.

"We were really relieved," Kelleher said. "It was really a team effort and we're so excited. In the beginning [of the season] we were all separate and working a little bit more individually and then we kind of had a meeting and said we really need to stick together as a team. I think everybody took that to heart and it's always been about the team."

Freshman Kate Evans was 24th for Prep in 21:15, followed by freshmen Audrey Levy (70th, 23:26) and Galey Caverly (72nd, 23:27).

"We're absolutely ecstatic to be going on," Prep girls' Coach Michael Roffina said. "It's a very young team, they got really serious in the last two weeks.

"None of them have been to the state championships, so it's a great opportunity for them to gain some wisdom and it's great for our program for the future."

Claudia Pham was the top runner for Crescenta Valley, which placed ninth in Division I with 242 points. The senior finished 13th in 18:46 in her last race as a Falcon.

Freshman Erika Johnson (50th, 19:22), junior Brooke Moultrie (19:27), senior Anneke Kakebeen (69th, 19:43) and sophomore Ruby Hannah (97th, 20:19) comprised Crescenta Valley's top five.

St. Francis was 15th in Division III with 389 points, led by junior Colin Peterson and senior Kyle Palazzolo, who were 61st and 62nd, respectively, both in 17:06.

Glendale resident Richard Lucas, a senior at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, finished third overall in the Division V boys' race in 16:25 and helped his team move on to state with a third-place finish and 146 points.

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