LOS ANGELES — It was a day of met and exceeded expectations locally at Saturday morning's 38th annual Bellarmine-Loyola Cross-Country Invitational at Griffith Park.
While the three-mile, hilly course proved a challenge for several teams and individuals, the La Cañada High boys and girls certainly weren't phased.
The La Cañada girls turned in the most impressive effort of any team by winning the varsity white race with an incredible 15 points, the best score possible.
Spartans' junior Sonja Cwik dominated the race in a near-equally impressive effort, finishing in a course personal-best time of 17 minutes and 44 seconds.
"The strategy coming into this race was to just try our hardest," said Cwik, who finished half a minute ahead of runner-up Borah Lim (18:14) of Cerritos. "We already ran earlier this week, so we just wanted to go out fast."
Cwik stormed out to a 13-second lead entering the hills midway through the course and built her advantage to 25 seconds on her descent before sprinting around the final turn and earning the win.
Cwik's teammates Anna Frederich (18:41), Colleen Mispagel (18:45), Meghan Fuelling (18:52), Hannah Yoho (19:17) and Eloise Dimase-Nordling (19:25) all finished behind Cwik in taking spots three through seven, while junior Caroline Fontes (21:29) was 27th.
Since Lim competed as an individual, her place and points weren't counted on the team results, thus giving the Spartans the first five scoring positions.
Even though the Spartans' energy and stamina was tested since they just competed in Thursday's Rio Hondo League meet at Lacy Park and took second, their effort Saturday wasn't unexpected, contended one athlete.
"We're not surprised, we train hard," Frederich said. "This is fun, man."
The La Cañada boys also posted a solid effort, taking second with 77 points in the white race, led by third-place senior Brendan Greene (15:21).
Greene, who took second at Thursday's league race, guided a squad that included Brandon Newquist (12th, 16:26), Mathew Schwartz (20th, 16:56), Dillon Bromley (22nd, 17:06), Jonathan Scaggs (23rd, 17:11), Chris Scaggs (26th, 17:14) and Daniel de Valle (44th, 17:57).
Calabasas won the boys' white race with 37 points.
As for team finishes, the La Salle girls just missed earning a medal in the varsity white race, placing fourth with 132 points.
Freshman Venetia Freihube led the way, taking 16th (20:34) and was preceded by Mariana Henry (22nd, 21:09), Makenzie LaPorte (30th, 21:46), Sara Rupp (32nd, 21:51), Olivia Kavanagh (41st, 22:55), Alessandra Gonzales (46th, 23:05) and Noelle Crowley (54th, 24:05).
"We had an OK day for the girls. After all, we're still a really young team, so this was a good experience," La Salle coach Fred Riley said.
The Lancers' premiere boys' runner, Daniel De La Torre, was scheduled to compete in the boys' seeded race, but pulled out because of a knee issue.
There was still a strong area presence in that race, however, as Glendale took fifth with 145 points, behind race-winner Loyola (28).
Nitros' senior Chris Canlas overtook two runners in the final half mile in finishing eighth in 15:01.
"It was tough. Everyone kept on pushing me out there to go faster," Canlas said. "I was tired but I just had to go. I wanted to stay with the fast runners."
Fellow senior Joshua Carlos (20th, 15:49) nudged into the top 20 and was trailed by teammates Brian Shieh (30th, 16:13), Joey Clingerman (38th, 16:26), Bradley Day (54th, 17:25), Tristan Pacba (58th, 17:37) and Michael Williams (63rd, 17:52).
The Glendale girls finished seventh in the varsity red race, as freshman Leana Setian's Griffith Park debut went swimmingly.
"The hills were really tough. In the beginning, you've got to go out quick to get a good pace," said Setian, who finished 14th (18:37). "I've been running for seven years now, so I'm used to racing. But the high school varsity competition is a lot different."
Fabiola Naranjo (33rd, 19:41), Carolina Cubero (44th, 20:02.63), Lauren Hanson (45th, 20:02.95) and Elizabeth Harris (76th, 21:32) composed the Nitros' scoring five.
Freshman McKenzie Dowling was Bell-Jeff's top girls' finisher, taking 40th (22:53) in the varsity blue race.
The Bell-Jeff boys grabbed 13th place in the varsity blue competition, as Gabriel Ellman was 43rd (17:52) and sophomore Cooper Conran was 53rd (18:12).