Rebels reloading for 2011

It took only one season for the Flintridge Prep boys' cross-country team to reclaim its spot atop the Prep League and continue on for its traditional trip into the top-five echelon of the CIF-State Division V hierarchy.

After a 16-year Prep League title run ended for the Rebels in 2009, the 2010 Rebels reclaimed their top spot and moved on to finish fourth in the state championships. While longtime Prep Coach Ingrid Herskind graduated four of her top seven runners, the Rebels hardly seem ready to do anything less than continue their glowing tradition.

"We've been able to put in a lot more work than we had last year," said Herskind, whose team enters the season ranked fourth by the CIF in Southern Section Division V. "I think really what we learned from the loss two years ago was that we took things for granted. I think what we learned last year is we really have to work."

The Rebels were joined in the postseason locally last season by St. Francis and Crescenta Valley, with the Golden Knights reaching their goal of returning to the CIF Southern Section Division III finals and the Falcons' campaign coming to a close at the CIF Southern Section Division I prelims.

Meanwhile, Glendale and Hoover were both on the outside of the postseason looking in with both hoping to reach the CIF postseason this year.

For Prep, despite its senior losses, Herskind is more than pleased with the emergence of senior Casey Thompson as a leader. The Arcadia transfer spent his time on the junior varsity squad last year due to transfer rules and was also hampered by injury. This year he's stepped up to lead on the course and off.

"He wants to lead his team up to the podium at state," Herskind said. "He's extremely committed to the team. … He pushes people hard."

Prep will likely be pushed hard at the Southern Section and state level by division heavyweights St. Margaret's, Desert Christian and Woodcrest Christian – the respective top three teams in the division – while top-10 squads Pasadena Poly and Chadwick will look to unseed the Rebels in Prep League action.

With the likes of senior Jake Johnson and a deep cast of others, though, Herskind likes her team's potential.

"I think Casey and Jake will be really nice frontrunners, but we're really solid with our next 10," Herskind said. "We're so, so thick as a pack that it's so cool. We're just gonna be ferocious. You might have a front guy, but we're gonna eat you up in the middle."

St. Francis Coach Patrick Donovan, however, isn't quite so fortunate to be able to reload with depth.

Instead, he's rebuilding with senior Colin Peterson as the only holdover from last season's CIF finals qualifier.

"It's definitely a rebuilding year," said Donovan, who will also look to senior Andrew Evans and junior JD Kieffer to lead the team's scoring five. "You hate to say you're rebuilding from the ground up, but we have a lot of guys who've just barely had some varsity races.

"We'll do what we can. You never know 'til you put your toes on the line and see what happens."

Led by All-Area senior Mike Duncan, Crescenta Valley is hoping to move up the Pacific League ranks after tying for third last season and concluding its season at the Southern Section Division I prelims.

"I'm excited about our group," said Evans of a Falcons unit that includes seniors Dylan Devens, Matt Williams, Brandon Baum and Jacob Smith. "They've really worked as hard as they've ever worked this summer. They want to be up there second or third in league. I think that's a reasonable goal."

Of course the Pacific League is clearly a formidable one at the onset, led by defending state champion Arcadia, which is ranked No. 1 in the division with Burbank ranked ninth and Burroughs ranked 10th.

Glendale and Hoover have designs of running into the postseason-bound top four of the Pacific League, as well.

The Nitros took fifth in league last season, just ahead of the Tornadoes.

Led by seniors Chris Canlas and Josh Carlos, Glendale could move up with a good mix of upperclassmen and newcomers.

"We have a good mix of veteran depth and newcomers," Glendale Coach Bob Bailey said. "Their summer work has been good and I believe our time between our lead runner and fifth runner should be greatly reduced this year. I think this is finally the year we break through into the top four and grab a CIF spot."

Led by junior Jeremy Zadoorian, Hoover is also looking to contend.

"He's looking very strong," said Tornadoes Coach Jack Sallakian. "This year is the year [for him]."

Along with Zadoorian, seniors Paul Ingram, Sasha Mikhailpoor and Daniel Marin could pose a formidable front four.

"With those four guys, they're looking pretty strong," Sallakian said. "It's probably the fastest team I've had since I've been here."

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