Strong starts, finishes from area at Bell-Jeff Invite

LOS ANGELES — Three individual victories and a team triumph highlighted a day of strong area efforts at Saturday morning's 39th annual Bellarmine-Jefferson High Cross-Country Invitational at Griffith Park.

On an individual basis, La Salle High's Daniel De La Torre turned in the day's best effort.

The Lancers' senior destroyed his field in the premiere boys' seeded race in winning with a day-best time of 14 minutes 26 seconds.

"I'm not really satisfied with my time, but it's OK," De La Torre said. "I was aiming for a 14:07, but I liked the competition I got and this was only the second time I've ever run this course."

De La Torre was intent on breaking the course record of 14:10 held by Pete Knight's Bryan Guijarro (2011) and Glendale's Richard Erbes (1986) and took the lead within 200 meters.

By the mile mark, De La Torre held a 25-second advantage over runner-up AJ Yarnall (14:59.88) of Saugus and eventually won by over 30 seconds.

While De La Torre ran solo, Hoover's Jeremy Zadoorian may have additional bragging rights, as he won his event in 15:12.75, while senior teammate Kenneth Trejo took second in 15:15.22.

Like De La Torre, Zadoorian took an early lead, buoyed by Trejo, who remained right behind from midway through the race until the finish.

"We led for most of the meet and it was a lot different than Thursday's [Pacific League race held on Griffith Park's northern end]," said Zadoorian, who was first midway through Thursday's race before ultimately finishing fifth. "I told myself not to ease up like the last race, but keep going."

Trejo also utilized valuable experience gained Thursday.

"The difference from Thursday is that we didn't really understand how to run one-two," Trejo said. "Once we got accustomed to running, we did well."

Overall, Maranatha's Kyle Bueckert may have earned the biggest prize, in both winning his blue boys' race in 15:10.55, while also leading the Minutemen to a 52-65 team victory over Desert Christian.

For all but two seconds, Bueckert led, sprinting out of the opening pack and taking a five-second advantage in just 100 meters.

"I've been training really hard, I've been working really hard and I wanted to come out and work," Bueckert said. "I just wanted to go out and run."

Maranatha's winning squad included Jonathan Erickson (seventh, 16:26.74), Miles Schlenker (12th, 16:49.89), Nate Aasland (15th, 16:55.94) and Sterling Shaner (23rd, 17:24.23).

On the girls' side, Glendale's Leana Setian turned in the area's best effort, finishing eighth in the girls' red race in 18:32.22.

"The hills were killing me and I kept trying to push, but they were tough," Setian said.

Her teammate, Fabiola Naranjo, finished 40th in 20:36.27, while Hoover's Samantha Bernardo (68th, 21:06.47) was her team's top finisher in the same race.

In other action, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy's Jacquie Scherrer was the top local finisher in the girls' white race, in taking 18th in 20:58.28, well ahead of La Salle's Noelle Crowley (46th, 22:17.12) and Tologs teammate Olivia Mendoza (56th, 22:36.84).

Maranatha finished eighth in the girls' blue race, led by Bethanie Chin (15th, 20:22.17), while La Salle, unable to finish in the top 10 in the boys' white race, received a solid effort from junior Derek Iwata (27th, 17:04.57).

Host Bell-Jeff had a limited role Saturday, as the boys finished 12th in the blue race, led by Charles Salomon (46th, 18:23.37), while sophomore McKenzie Dowling was 68th (25:13.43) in the girls' blue race, running as an individual.

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