Expectations high for FSHA

GLENDALE — A few years ago, the numbers weren't too promising surrounding the state of the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy track and field program.

In 2007, the Tologs fielded just 15 varsity athletes. Meet losses piled up, forcing the coaching staff to scramble for ways to drum up interest in its quest to make the program viable on campus.

It took some time to rebuild the program's foundation and now it has a combined 40-plus athletes on board from the junior varsity to the varsity level. The Tologs now have strength in numbers, leading to their goals being raised for the upcoming season.

"We didn't have many people who could fill out the events back then," said Flintridge Sacred Heart Coach Mario Aguilar, who has served as the program's distance coach the past four years and has taken over the head coaching responsibilities for this season while Coach Eddie Gorton pursues his master's degree. "There's been a total reversal in interest and now we have a lot of people who have been trying out.

"We've had some success in the last two years or so. We had 44 people come out last year and we look to have about that same number this year."

Flintridge Sacred Heart will attempt to contend for the program's first Mission League championship and will look to send at least 10 athletes to the CIF Southern Section Division IV finals at Cerritos College in Norwalk in May.

The Tologs will return the nucleus of their team, including junior sprinters Drew Washington and Stephanie Vargas. Washington and Vargas will team up with Daelyn Moon and Noelle Niederhaus in the 4x400-meter relay. The quartet placed fifth at the division final last season with a school-record mark of 3 minutes 57.96 seconds.

Also coming back is distance runner Paulina Antaplyan, who will lead the charge in the 1,600 and 3,200 races. The junior competed in both events at CIF last season, setting a school record in the 3,200 (11:15.36).

"We are overloaded in talent in some events, so we will look to fill in at the other events in terms of who can score well," Aguilar said. "It's a great problem to have."

Expectations remain high at Crescenta Valley under the guidance of Coach Mark Evans.

The Falcons will return several key athletes, including senior sprinters Jessica Beerman and Tiernan Hebron. Beerman captured Pacific League titles in the 100 and 200 last season, while Hebron won the 400.

The Falcons should once again boast a formidable group of distance runners that will include seniors Claudia Pham and Anneke Kakebeen, junior Brooke Moultrie and sophomore Cali King. At the Division I finals, King finished eighth in 5:29.76 in the 1,600.

"I think we can be a good, solid team," Evans said. "We are looking to try to be more balanced, and we want to have that balance by the end of the year.

"We also have some younger athletes moving up. We have some question marks in the jumps and fielding events, but we will move along and fill in those holes."

Holy Family will seek its second Horizon League championship in a row after sharing the program's first last season. With many returners in the mix, the Gaels might be a good bet to repeat.

Junior Alejandra Hernandez returns to run the 100, 200 and the 4x100 relay. Also back is senior Gladys Hernandez to anchor the 4x400 relay team. She will also compete in distance events and shot put.

Senior Kristen Gaer will take part in the hurdles, while sophomore Natalia Neris returns to the 100 and 4x100 relay. Sophomores Briana Russo and Valerie Russo will possibly contend for league titles in the 400, 800 and 4x400 relay.

Junior Anissa Mota looks to fill a void at middle/long distance and freshman Jackie Benitez will likely run the 100 and 200.

"We have a fairly new team this year, but the returners are ready to help carry the load and continue our success," Holy Family Coach Robert Bringas said. "Last year, the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams finished second in league, but qualified for CIF prelims based on time.

"This year, we have some very solid runners who are looking to make their mark in league this year."

At Flintridge Prep, the Rebels will have a cast of underclassmen looking to shape the face of the program. The Rebels normally have a talented group of distance runners and that appears to be the case once again for Coach Nick Ponticello.

The Rebels also figure to be balanced in field events and sprints.

The main distance runners will likely be freshmen Sarah Yoho and Kate Evans and sophomore Kaitlyn Kelleher. The sprinters will be sophomores Casey Cousineau and Samantha Davies and senior Brooke Elby, who will also participate in hurdles and jumps. The field events will be anchored by senior pole vaulter Katherine Hurrell and junior jumpers Arielle Baptiste and Tam Duong.

"We are hoping to compete in league and take it," Ponticello said. "It can be a competitive group and we are looking to score high."

Glendale will also have many of its returners back, though it lost distance runner Frances Pasamba to graduation. Looking to try to replace Pasamba will be sophomores Fabiola Naranjo and Lauren Hansen.

The main sprinters figure to be seniors Phien Le and Mabelle Denuna and the hurdlers are junior Sophia Amodia and senior Shannon Cruz.

Those being counted on to get points for the Nitros in the field events include junior jumper Gabriella Kovarik, senior Mayra Perez in the throws and juniors Angela Kim and Jessica Kim in the pole vault.

Veteran Glendale Coach Bob Bailey said the Nitros hope to have enough depth to possibly challenge for a top-three finish in the Pacific League.

"Many girls last year were thrown into varsity due to our low numbers, so they do have varsity experience under their belts," Bailey said. "Hopefully, that will translate to a better understanding of what it takes to compete at that level."

Hoover Coach Jack Sallakian said the Tornadoes figure to have around 15 athletes this season. The Tornadoes' top distance runner will be senior Frances Ramas.

"She's the only senior on the team and we'd like to see Frances get to CIF," Sallakian said.

Joining Ramas will be junior distance runner Renee Lawson and junior Liyana Avansian in the sprints. The 400 athletes will be sophomore Hayley Black and junior Anna Rubino. Allison Zalin, a sophomore, will compete in the pole vault, shot put and jumps.

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