Flintridge Sacred Heart cross-country advances to CIF

ENCINO — Trying to put together a set lineup throughout the season proved to be a difficult task for the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy cross-country team.

Numerous off-the-course commitments, injuries and illness seemed to set the Tologs back whenever they were ready to participate in a Mission League race. That often left Flintridge Sacred Heart Coach Kirk Nishiyama scrambling to make alterations to the lineup.

Flintridge Sacred Heart showed again it could overcome the obstacles Thursday afternoon, as it received a pair of top-10 finishes and took third overall in the league final at Woodley Park.

St. Francis finished sixth in the boys’ race.

“It’s been a very challenging year for lots of different reasons, but the girls have continued to work hard,” said Nishiyama, whose team recorded 72 points and will advance to the CIF Southern Section Division IV prelims at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut on Nov. 10. “I thought we were able to run well [Thursday].

“We wanted to get a top-three finish and we were able to. I think we will be OK at CIF, if we are able to stay healthy.”

Flintridge Sacred Heart, which took sixth in the CIF Southern Section Division IV final and seventh in the Division IV State Meet last season, had two athletes earn all-league accolades. Gabby Fitzpatrick finished ninth in 19 minutes 26.95 seconds on the 3.1-mile course and Maddie Peterson was 10th (19:33.77) in the field of 41.

“For me, it was about being able to stick toward the front of the pack,” said Fitzpatrick, a senior. “I was able to do that and get all-league.

“It’s a flat course and we generally run well as a team on it. We expected third in league because Harvard-Westlake and [Sherman Oaks] Notre Dame are really strong. Now, we just have to keep working hard for CIF.”

Also competing for the Tologs were Kayla Grahn (14th, 20:02.61), Jacquie Scherrer (15th, 20:12.86), Maddie Lewis (24th, 21:00.95), Colleen Degnan (25th, 21:04.49) and Nicole Linden (32nd, 22:05.58). Flintridge Sacred Heart competed without Noëlle Niederhaus, who Nishiyama said suffered a season-ending injury during the Mt. SAC Invitational in October.

Kazia Mermel of Notre Dame won the race in 18:23.61, followed by Lizzie Thomas of Harvard-Westlake (18:35.49) and Harvard-Westlake’s Trista Dordi (18:47.52).

Harvard-Westlake captured the league championship with 26 points, followed by Notre Dame (33). Louisville was fourth (122 points), Chaminade took fifth (136)  and Alemany was seventh (152). The top three teams advanced to the CIF prelims.

St. Francis didn’t post any top-10 finishes. Its best effort came from Chris Rodriguez, who turned in a mark of 16:48.52 for 17th in the 45-runner event.

Bowen Waugh clocked 17:06.17 to place 26th for the Golden Knights, who received a 27th-place effort from JD Kieffer (17:09.49) and a 33rd-place performance from Adam Lyons (17:28.83). Also competing for the Golden Knights were Robbie Palmer (37th, 17:47.11) and Jack Lyons (39th, 18:11.21).

St. Francis was without Nick Sanchez and Max Sinclair. St. Francis Coach Pat Donovan said Sanchez became ill before the race and Sinclair has been battling a hip injury.

Josh Lewis of Loyola won in 15:34.99, followed by Harvard-Westlake’s Ben Weissenbach (15:37.05) and Joe Joe Cortes-Adams of Crespi (15:37.49).

Loyola won the league crown with 27 points, followed by Harvard-Westlake (62), Crespi (87), Alemany (102), Notre Dame (117), St. Francis (140) and Chaminade (215). Loyola, Harvard-Westlake, Crespi and Alemany advanced to the prelims.

Donovan said the Golden Knights struggled during parts of the season. It carried over Thursday.

“It was a rough go, there’s no other way to put it,” Donovan said. “We were hoping coming in that our top guys would run in the low 16s.

“To do anything in terms of looking at the possibility of the playoffs, we needed a top-three finish [Thursday]. The cards were not stacked in our favor, but they gave it their all.”

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