VAN NUYS — As with any season opener, there are a certain amount of questions and coinciding doubt.
For the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and St. Francis High girls' and boys' cross-country teams, there was some speculation as to where each team stood within the highly competitive Mission League.
After Wednesday afternoon's first league meet at Woodley Park, each has an understanding of their place within the standings, as the Tologs took second and the Golden Knights earned sixth.
“Our goal today was packing. We had to stay in a pack,” said Tologs senior Maddie Peterson, who led her squad by finishing seventh in 20 minutes, 15 seconds. “As long as we stayed together we knew we'd be OK.”
The unranked Tologs, who took third in league last year, moved up a spot in this year's first meet in clinching second with 58 points, trailing only CIF Southern Section Division IV second-ranked Harvard-Westlake (36).
Sherman Oaks Notre Dame was third with 82 points, while Chaminade (86), Alemany (107) and Louisville (121) followed.
Flintridge Sacred Heart's pack mentality was evident from the get-go, as Peterson led a foursome of senior Riley Gilmartin, junior Kayla Grahn and sophomore Clare Lund, who crossed the half-mile mark through the first 10 positions.
Harvard-Westlake quickly rallied, though, and positioned itself as the lone team with four runners through the first 10 spots at the half-way point in the race, while Lund, Sacred Heart's fourth runner, was 15th.
Over the final half-mile, though, the Tologs surged, as three runners passed at least one competitor before the finish line.
Ultimately, Gilmartin was ninth in 20:24, while teammates Grahn (11th, 20:42) and Lund (14th, 20:59) crossed through the first 14.
Despite finishing second, Flintridge Sacred Heart was the first squad to cross its scoring five, as freshman Monica Collins took 17th in 21:12. In comparison, first-place Harvard-Westlake's fifth girl, Audrey Wilson, finished 23rd in 21:36.
“We're satisfied with today,” Grahn said. “It was our first race and running against good competition brings out the best in us.”
Harvard-Westlake senior Lizzie Thomas won the event in 18:29.
As for St. Francis, Tuesday was a bit of déjà vu for the young Golden Knights, who finished sixth with 124 points after taking the same spot at last year's league finals.
Loyola romped to a victory with 19 points, as five of its seven runners crossed the finish line first, including race-winner John McAndrews (15:41).
Crespi was second with 76 points, while Alemany was third (91), Notre Dame was fourth (98), Harvard-Westlake (108) was fifth and Chaminade (210) was seventh.
Just like last year, sophomore Chris Rodriguez led the way for St. Francis, taking 15th in 16:53.
“I didn't really run that well and we didn't run that well,” said Rodriguez, who moved up two spots from his 17th-place finish at league finals last season. “I just had a slow start and couldn't really get it going.”
St. Francis placed two additional runners in the top 25 in juniors Adam and Jack Lyons, who were 21st (17:16) and 23rd (17:21), respectively.