Falcons slay Arcadia juggernaut

LOS ANGELES — While Goliath is said to have been slayed by the sling of a well-placed rock, on Thursday afternoon the Pacific League boys’ cross-country giant, Arcadia High, instead succumbed to a well-timed stampede courtesy of Crescenta Valley.

The Falcons, who entered the opening league race at Griffith Park ranked eighth in Division I of the CIF Southern Section, used a pack strategy in ganging up and ultimately upsetting the state top-ranked Apaches, 26-29, on a day filled with strong efforts.

“Honestly, our goal coming into this race was to beat Burbank and to stay close to Arcadia. We didn’t anticipate beating them,” Crescenta Valley Coach Mark Evans said of Arcadia, which finished second in state last year. “I think what’s really interesting is that this team finally ran as a pack and still really isn’t that close to what it’s capable of doing.”

The Falcons placed four runners through the top 10, with runner-up Gabe Collison, who finished in 15 minutes 54 seconds, leading the way, ahead of third-place Nick Beatty (16:01), Aaron Esparza (seventh, 16:08) and Matthew Manalo (eighth, 16:08).

Falcons fifth-place finisher Adam Rowton was 17th in 16:47.

Collison’s finish seemed unexpected as the junior was eighth at the midway marker. Yet, Collison made a strong surge over the next half mile, while Arcadia’s Mitchell Pratt took the race lead away from Hoover’s Jeremy Zadoorian.

“I knew Arcadia was going to make its move. Coach told us we had to do our best to stick with them,” Collison said. “I was just trying to hold on.”

Even though Pratt took the race in 15:51, the Falcons’ strong grouping provided the slight edge needed for the upset.

“It’s been at least four years since we beat them,” Evans said. “This is a special group, maybe from top to the bottom, the best group I’ve ever had.”

Burbank took third place as junior Arsen Mkrtchyan was fourth overall in 16:04 for a squad missing senior Sergio Fraire and junior Isaiah Amos. Fraire is reportedly no longer on the team and Amos is dealing with health issues.

“My role didn’t change. I’m just going to run as hard as I can and do my best,” Mkrtchyan.

In the cross-town rivalry, Burbank topped fourth-place Burroughs, 22-34, with its top five all placing in the top 20, helped by Bernie Correa (ninth, 16:12).

Junior Ricky Mendez paced Burroughs in taking 15th in 16:23.

As for Hoover, Zadoorian finished fifth overall in 16:04, while Kenneth Trejo was 11th in 16:13.

Both Zadoorian and Trejo led midway through the race.

“I’m not used to being in that position,” Zadoorian said. “It was exciting. Plus, I think we have a team that can compete for a CIF spot.”

Hoover (3-4) was fifth, while Glendale (2-5) ended sixth, led by Brian Shieh (27th, 17:27).

On the girls’ side, fifth-ranked Arcadia (7-0) clinched the meet, 22-34, over runner-up Crescenta Valley (6-1) after Veronica Yamane (17:59) and Laura Guidolina (18:01) finished first and second.

Glendale’s Leana Setian broke up the Apaches’ bunch up front with a third-place effort in finishing in 19:05.

“My plan was just to run as hard as possible,” Setian said. “When I got to the two-mile mark, I just gave everything I could, even if it hurt.”

Sophomore Megan Melynk guided the Falcons, finishing fourth in 19:18.

“This is a brand new course for me, so I was trying to stay with the Arcadia girls up front,” Melynk said. “They went out pretty fast.”

Hannah Ruby (sixth, 19:28) and Haley Witzeman (seventh, 19:42) both delivered top-10 efforts for the Falcons.

In similar order to the boys, Burbank finished third on the girls’ side, guided by junior Arlette Movsesyan (eighth, 19:48), while Burroughs was fourth, thanks in part to the effort of Gracia Innocentia (ninth, 19:51).

In the points standing, Glendale took fifth, while Hoover was seventh as Lucik Minassian (27th, 22:20) was the Tornadoes’ top finisher.

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