NORTH HOLLYWOOD — For a season-opening meet, the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and St. Francis High track and field teams couldn't have asked for a better start and finish.
The Tologs and Golden Knights began their seasons on the road Thursday afternoon with a Mission League dual meet against Harvard-Westlake. Flintridge Sacred Heart and St. Francis proved to be resourceful by winning in grand fashion in the final events of their respective portions of the meet.
Both teams were able to breath a sigh of relief, as Flintridge Sacred Heart posted a 65.5-61.5 victory over the defending league champion and St. Francis earned a 64-53 win.
In the girls' side of the meet, Flintridge Sacred Heart trailed, 60.5-52.5 with the triple jump and 4x400-meter relay still to take place. Ali DeOca of Flintridge Sacred Heart won the triple jump with a mark of 32 feet to slice Harvard-Westlake's lead to 61.5-60.5. The Tologs' relay team of Stephanie Vargas, Drew Washington, Rebecca Armstrong and Noëlle Niederhaus worked together to clock 4 minutes 4.03 seconds to win the event and clinch the victory.
Niederhaus, a sophomore, said she received a perfect pass of the baton from Armstrong.
"My teammates did all of the work," said Niederhaus, who began the meet by working with Hailey James, Vargas and Washington to capture the 4x100 relay in 51.08. "The Harvard girl got close to me [going into the final kick], but I just felt like I had to get us the win.
"I was so nervous during my lap because the coaches told me that it might come down to the final race. Harvard-Westlake is our hardest opponent in league and we want to win a league title because we've never won before."
The Tologs saw James win the 100 and 300 hurdles in 18.12 and 49.15, respectively. Vanessa Romero won the shot put with a heave of 30-4 for Flintridge Sacred Heart, which also got wins from Washington in the 100 (12.93) and Daelyn Moon and DeOca in the long jump (tie, 15-1).
Flintridge Sacred Heart Coach Mario Aguilar said the Tologs needed to be prepared to topple the Wolverines, who have won two league championships in a row.
"With the history of the Harvard-Westlake program, it can be intimidating going up against them," Aguilar said. "We had every reason to be intimidated, but we also knew that we had to come out and be ready.
"What did it for us to win was spreading our talent out and getting points. We got some first-place wins early, like in the hurdles, and the momentum was then in our favor. Still, we knew it would come down to the end.
"This meet gave us a chance to see where we are at. It's always the most difficult and the most challenging. We feel we have what it takes to win a league title."
St. Francis won its part of the meet when junior Kibbey Gosnell turned in a mark of 12-6 to win the pole vault.
"It's great to get that first win under your belt," St. Francis Coach Pat Donovan said. "It's just hard to win here because it's cold and windy and the meets can be long.
"We got off to a slow start, and then we found our momentum. I didn't know what to expect coming over here. We came here with good intentions, but I had no idea if we would win."
Gosnell said he wasn't aware that St. Francis needed a first-place finish in the pole vault to turn back Harvard-Westlake.
"It's great that we could win, and I didn't know we needed to win that," Gosnell said. "It gets us going for the rest of the year.
"We know there's things that we need to work on and we need to work together. A meet like this can set the stage for league."
James Knowles of St. Francis won the 110 and 300 hurdles. Knowles clocked 14.70 in the 110 and 40.48 in the 300.
Also picking up first-place finishes for the Golden Knights were Kevin O'Toole in the triple jump (37-2) and Scott Mele in the 100 (11.64). Mele grouped with Marshall Tush, Caleb Simmeth and Antonio Canzona to win the 4x100 relay in 45.15.
Flintridge Sacred Heart and St. Francis will next compete in another league meet Monday. The Tologs will meet Louisville and the Golden Knights will take on Crespi. Both portions of the meet will take place at Crespi.