State on line for local cross-country teams

The message has been sent out to her band of talented runners — visualize one of the toughest courses in the state before attempting to conquer it.

It might be a difficult task, yet Flintridge Prep boys’ cross-country Coach Ingrid Herskind said she’s confident the Rebels can handle it when they take part in the CIF Southern Section finals today at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut.

“It’s a tough course, but we know it and it’s one of our favorite courses,” said Herskind, whose team will take to the rugged 2.91-mile course in the Division V race at 7:45 a.m. “We are really excited because we’ve been running well the last couple of races.

“You have to be able to focus on making the transitions on the course and be able to compartmentalize it. You want to be within striking distance around the midway mark.”

The Rebels come in with plenty of momentum, having won the Prep League championship for the 19th time over the last 20 seasons, winning the Mount San Antonio College Division V sweepstakes race in October and picking up a second-place effort in the Division V prelims Nov. 10 at Mt. SAC. They are expected to challenge rival St. Margaret’s for the division crown with a lineup that will be led by Alan Yoho, who clocked 16 minutes, 53 seconds for a seventh-place finish at the prelims. Yoho will be joined by Ellias Ellison, Aaron Sugimoto, Tyler Fong and Jack Van Scoter.

In addition to the Flintridge Prep boys’ squad, the other local teams that will be on hand in the finals include the Flintridge Prep girls in Division V, the Crescenta Valley High boys and girls in Division I and Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in Division IV.

The Crescenta Valley boys’ team will compete at 8:05 a.m, followed by Flintridge Prep’s girls’ team at 8:25, Crescenta Valley’s girls at 8:45 and Flintridge Sacred Heart at 10:45. The top seven teams in each division will qualify for the State Meet, which will be held Nov. 24 at Woodward Park in Fresno.

Crescenta Valley Coach Mark Evans said both his teams will try to navigate their way through the course, while going up against some of the top teams the region has to offer.

“With the boys, we feel good that we have a shot to move on to state,” said Evans, whose team registered 78 points in its heat at the prelims. “A year ago, we didn’t even qualify for the prelims, so we’ve made a big jump to get back here.

“With the girls, we ran a good race at the prelims. We want this next race to be our best one. The first mile of the course is fast and you have to be in control. You want to be able to maintain your positioning in the middle and then be able to hit that downhill and be able to pass everybody.”

Crescenta Valley’s boys’ team will be anchored by Gabe Collison, who posted the best time of any local with a fourth-place mark of 15:24 at the prelims. He will be joined by Nick Beatty, Aaron Esparza and Matt Manalo.

The Crescenta Valley girls’ team, which finished third in its preliminary heat, will likely be paced by Megan Melnyk, who took ninth in 18:39 at the prelims. Also expected to contribute for the Falcons are Hannah Ruby, Erika Johnson and Haley Witzeman and Cali King.

Flintridge Prep’s girls head into today’s meet following a third-place effort in their heat. The Rebels, who finished second in the Prep League, will be led by Sarah Yoho, Ashley Lara, Lacy Coan and Kate Evans.

“We’re looking to qualify for the state championship,” Flintridge Prep Coach Michael Roffina said. “Our team is very excited. We’re healthy, we’re very excited.”

“I think the key to last week’s race was we ran as a pack and that’s what we need to do again. The key is the pack. We have had a lot of No. 1s, but that’s fine with us. The more the merrier.”

After a third-place finish in the competitive Mission League and a seventh-place effort in the prelims, Flintridge Sacred Heart has been shuffling its lineup because of illness and injuries. The Tologs, who took seventh at the State Meet last season, are without top runner Noëlle Niederhaus, who suffered a season-ending injury during the Mt. SAC Invitational.

Losing Niederhaus has forced Flintridge Sacred Heart Coach Kirk Nishiyama to scramble and assemble a new lineup.

“It’s just a big loss with Noëlle out,” Nishiyama said. “We’ve had a tough year and we just don’t have the depth like we’ve had in past years.

“It would be nice if we can get a top-10 finish.”

The Tologs will have a lineup that will include Kayla Grahm, Jacquie Scherrer, Maddie Peterson, Colleen Degnan and Gabby Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick and Grahm have been ill recently, but Nishiyama said the duo will compete.

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