LA CRESCENTA — As with the beginning of any new season, hope is perhaps the one unifying element among a diverse group of local cross-country teams.
For Crescenta Valley High, the Falcons are excited over the progress of 2012 and the prospects of 2013.
In 2011, Crescenta Valley suffered a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Pacific League and did not advance to the CIF Southern Section Division I prelims.
Last season, the Falcons stepped up in challenging national power Arcadia before finishing runner-up at the Pacific League finals at Crescenta Valley Park and eventually advancing to and finishing
11th at the Division I finals at Mt. San Antonio College.
“We’re proud of what we did last year and think we can do just as well, if not better,” Falcons 19th-year Coach Mark Evans said. “I’m very optimistic because we have a very good team back from a strong group last season.”
All-Area first-team junior Gabe Collison is back to lead a pack that includes seniors Nick Beatty and Matt Manalo.
Collison finished third at the Pacific League finals in 15 minutes, 35.28 seconds, while Beatty was fifth (15:57.37) and Manalo was 15th (16:21.65).
Even though Crescenta Valley didn’t advance to the CIF State Meet in Fresno, Collison continued his season by placing ninth in Division I with a time of 14:18.
The following week, Collison finished 13th (15:30) in state.
“He’s had a good track season and a strong summer,” Evans said of Collison. “I’m looking forward to this season.”
Junior Adam Rowton and senior Andrew Hart are potential fourth and fifth runners for the CIF Southern Section Division I fifth-ranked Falcons, who are also ranked 25th in the state and No. 97 nationally by dyestatcal.com.
In one sense, 2012 was a wildly successful year for the Flintridge Prep boys, who won yet another Prep League championship and advanced all the way to state as per usual.
However, in the same breath it could be argued that this past season was also bittersweet, as the Rebels finished runner-up to St. Margaret’s, 46-61, at the CIF Southern Section Division V finals only to crush St. Margaret’s at the following week’s CIF State Championships, but ultimately take silver to St. Joseph Notre Dame, 86-87.
“Sure, you’re disappointed that you came up a point short, but you can’t be disappointed by the year,” said Rebels Coach Ingrid Herskind, the reigning All-Area Coach of the Year.
Whether or not Flintridge Prep can match or surpass 2012 will be largely dependent on a young group of athletes, as the Rebels graduated four of their seven runners from state, including the one-two punch of Elias Ellison (eighth, 16:10) and Aaron Sugimoto (ninth, 16:16), the team’s top two finishers at state last year.
Yet, even with the graduation, Herskind isn’t concerned, at least at the front of the pack, as the trio of sophomore Jack Van Scoter (10th at state in 16:19), senior Alan Yoho (22nd at state in 16:36) and senior Tyler Fong (38th at state in 16:59) slide over into the leadership role.
“We have three strong runners up front who are more than ready to lead this young team,” said Herskind, whose two-tier program of 30 runners is made up of 21 underclassmen. “It’s after those three where it gets interesting.”
Some of the jockeying for position on varsity will likely include junior Alex Orloff, sophomore Nihkil Poole and freshman Riley Coan.
The Rebels enter this season top-ranked in the CIF Southern Section Division V polls, while dyestatcal.com ranked the Rebels No. 1 in Division V in all of Southern California and fourth in state.
While Crescenta Valley and Flintridge Prep had representation at last year’s CIF preliminaries, St. Francis did not, which troubled Golden Knights seventh-year Coach Pat Donovan.
“We’ve missed the prelims meet the last two years after being there like 10 straight years,” Donovan said, “so our goal is obviously to get back.”
If the Golden Knights do reach the postseason, then it will likely be on the heels of sophomore Chris Rodriguez.
St. Francis’ top runner finished 17th at last year’s Mission League finals in 16:48.5 for the sixth-place Golden Knights.
“Chris has been our best runner and he’s only going to get better,” Donovan said. “The good thing is that we have some solid runners behind him.”
Juniors Adam and Jack Lyons return, as do seniors Max Sinclair and Nick Sanchez, while junior Griffin Taylor is up on varsity after taking 18th in the Mission League junior varsity finals.
As for postseason prowess, fifth-place Hoover was only 30 points away from potentially qualifying to the CIF prelims out of the Pacific League finals.
Reaching the postseason this year may prove more difficult after the graduation of seniors Jeremy Zadoorian (15:59.46) and Kenneth Trejo (16:18.18), who finished sixth and 12th, respectively, at the Pacific League finals.
Yet, Hoover ninth-year Coach Jack Sallakian is convinced this year’s team is more balanced, while he has the luxury of his next three returners back in senior Andrew Alvarado (29th at league finals in 17:36.56), junior Vladimir Climasevschii (33rd, 17:51.24) and senior Daniel Ramos (39th, 19:20.81).
“Last year we had two front runners and everyone was well behind,” Sallakian said. “This year you’re going to see much more pack running.”
Hoping to keep up with the pack are freshmen Stefan Stankowick and Chris Chereque, who will likely take fourth and fifth for the Tornadoes.
Glendale finished two spots behind archrival Hoover in league last season in missing the postseason.
Yet, like the Tornadoes, the Nitros graduated their top two runners in Bradley Day (32nd at league finals in 17:41.15) and Tristan Pacba (38th, 19:03.99).
Veteran coach Bob Bailey has a few potential standouts in senior Brian Shieh, junior Liam Spires and sophomore Paulo Vazquez, while the rest of the team will attempt to sort itself out in early nonleague meets.
“I will be looking closely at our races at the Bosco Tech Invite and at Woodbridge to see who wants to grab the fourth and fifth varsity spots,” Bailey said.