Maddie Peterson leads way for FSHA Tologs

ENCINO — With two of its top athletes out of the lineup because of a previous engagement, the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy cross-country team found itself in a tough spot Thursday afternoon during the second Mission League meet at Woodley Park.

The Tologs were without Gabby Fitzpatrick and Noëlle Niederhaus, leaving coach Kirk Nishiyama to hope they could still pick up no worse than a third-place finish. With Maddie Peterson on board, the short-handed Tologs met Nishiyama's goal.

Peterson clocked 19 minutes 54.79 seconds to finish seventh overall in the girls' competition on the 3.1-mile course. Flintridge Sacred Heart finished third with 98 points.

In the first league meet Sept. 6 at the same venue, Peterson took 12th in 20:59. Peterson left the site Thursday pleased that she bettered her performance.

"When we have a full team, things will be exciting," said Peterson, who later Thursday participated in a league volleyball match against Louisville. "I think I went out there and met my goals and try to stay up with certain runners.

"In the first mile, I pushed it pretty hard. The second mile was easier. I then ran as hard as I could in the third mile. Hopefully, I can improve more and keep getting times under 20 minutes."

In the boys' race, St. Francis High received a 16th-place finish from JD Kieffer (16:34.84) to place sixth with 125 points.

Kayla Graham finished 13th in the 41-member field for Flintridge Sacred Heart, which finished third in the first league meet with 73 points in 20:07.72. The Tologs, who placed third in league, sixth in the CIF Southern Section Division IV final and seventh in the Division IV State Meet last season, saw Jacquie Scherrer take 22nd (21:24.94), followed by Riley Gilmartin (27th, 22:26.98), Nicole Linden (29th, 22:36.80), Olivia Mendoza (30th, 22:38.73) and Emily Beeve (31st, 22:44.87).

"We knew coming in that we were going to be without Gabby and Noëlle, but we had a good performance from people like Maddie, Kayla and Jacquie," Nishiyama said. "I think we have a team that's on the right track."

Kazia Mermel of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame won the race in 18:20.33, followed by Lizzie Thomas of Harvard-Westlake (18:28.04) and Stephanie LaFace of Notre Dame (18:56.48). Notre Dame, ranked No. 3 in the latest CIF Southern Section Division IV poll, finished first with 26 points. Harvard-Westlake, seventh in the division, placed second (42 points), Louisville was fourth (111), Alemany was fifth (134) and Chaminade took sixth (136).

St. Francis Coach Pat Donovan said the Golden Knights are still trying to find their identity at the midpoint of the season.

"We are looking for that niche," said Donovan, whose team took sixth for the second league meet in a row. "They are running strong and I'm happy with that.

"For us to be consistent, we need our guys to be around 15 seconds or so faster. We need our 1-2 guys to run 16-flat."

Unfortunately for St. Francis, that didn't occur Thursday.

Max Sinclair turned in a mark of 16:48.91 to place 22nd, followed by Nick Sanchez (24th, 16:50.65), Chris Rodriguez (30th, 17:10.24), Griffin Taylor (33rd, 17:24.23), Adam Lyons (36th, 17:34.92) and Robbie Palmer (39th, 17:56.26) in the field of 49.

Josh Lewis of Loyola, ranked No. 1 in Division II, won the race in 15:25.01, followed by Ben Weissenbach of Harvard-Westlake (15:27.84) and Joe-Joe Cortez-Adams of Crespi (15:41.40). Loyola had five top-eight finishes to win with 24 points. Crespi was second (72 points), Harvard-Westlake took third (81), followed by Alemany (98). Notre Dame was fifth with 110 points and Chaminade finished seventh (224).

charles.rich@latimes.com

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