Crescenta Valley, Burbank High cross-country teams show progress in Pacific League opener

On an afternoon of impressive efforts, the Crescenta Valley High and Burbank cross-country programs were two locals attempting to make their marks at the Pacific League’s first meet at Arcadia County Park.

The Falcons finished runner-up to reigning league champion Arcadia in both boys’ and girls’ races, 26-29. And, 27-30, respectively, while the Bulldogs took third in each event Thursday.

PHOTOS: First Pacific League cross country meet of the season

“We know how good Arcadia is, but we came into the meet and tried not to be intimidated,” said Falcons senior Gabe Collison, an All-Area first-teamer last season. “They’re good, but we’re building our confidence.”

Collison took aim at Arcadia standout Estevan De La Rosa, the Woodbridge Invitational runner-up last weekend, and jumped out to a three-second lead at the one-mile mark.

That advantage grew to five seconds at the halfway point before the Apaches senior made his move.

De La Rosa kicked into gear and replaced a five-second deficit with a five-second lead over Collison by the two-mile mark.

De La Rosa wasn’t done yet, though, and continued his sizzling pace until he finished in a new course record of 14 minutes, 3.88 seconds, which broke the former mark of 14:12.05, held by Ammar Moussa.

Perhaps overshadowed in De La Rosa’s exploits was a strong effort from Collison, who finished second and just missed the course record himself with a mark of 14:12.41.

“I knew how good of a finisher De La Rosa was, so I went out fast and hoped to affect how he’d finish,” Collison said. “He made a move and got out in front. He’s an excellent runner.”

The alternating finish of De La Rosa and Collison was mirrored by their teammates, as the Apaches’ next three runners took third, fifth and seventh and the Falcons nabbed fourth in Nick Beatty (14:45.03) and sixth in Matt Manalo (14:59.91).

Falcons senior Matthew Owens finished 10th (15:13.96), while junior Manav Vats (14th, 15:23.06) was the Falcons’ final scorer.

Burbank senior Elliot Choe finished eighth (15:08.59) and led a tight pack that finished third and which consisted of scorers Joey Salciccioli (ninth, 15:10.84), Gabriel Ellman (12th, 15:15.96), Ethan Moskowitz (15th, 15:23.90) and Connor Thompson (16th, 15:31.06).

“There were a lot of great runners in this race and we just tried our best,” Choe said. “It was fast out here.”

Burroughs finished fourth and was led by junior Shane Thompson (11th, 15:14.28).

“We just didn’t run a good race,” Thompson said. “We didn’t stay together.”

Glendale finished fifth and was paced by Paulo Vazquez (28th, 15:54.68) and Hoover, which was sixth, received a 25th-place effort from junior Vladimir Climasevschii (15:48.18).

As for the girls’ side, the race was primarily a three-person battle between Arcadia’s Veronica Yamane, Crescenta Valley’s Megan Melnyk and Burbank’s Candela Fernandez.

While Melnyk and Fernandez hung with Yamane for half the race, the Apaches senior was motivated by the visit of her former coach, the recently fired Jim O’Brien, and romped to a victory in 17:11.09.

“I miss that guy,” an emotional Yamane said afterward. “I saw him here and wanted to do well.”

Despite Yamane’s torrid pace, Melnyk closed a one-time 25-second gap in finishing runner-up in 17:24.78.

“[Yamane] is real fast and I tried to stay with her,” Melnyk said. “I just thank God for my abilities.”

Melnyk wasn’t the only runner to close a gap, as Fernandez fell from third to fifth midway through the race before finding a second wind and nipping on Melnyk’s heals before taking third in 17:28.18.

“I was just trying to stay up front,” Fernandez said. “These were some very fast runners and I tried to keep the pace.”

The Falcons boasted three additional top-10 placers in Erika Johnson (fourth, 17:57.69), Haley Witzeman (seventh, 18:10.02) and Rebecca Mencia (eighth, 18:11.34).

Senior Arlette Movsesyan was Burbank’s next top runner, taking 12th in 19:01.15.

Lucik Minassian paced fourth-place Hoover by taking 15th (19:22.09), while fifth-place Burroughs was led by Miranda Acosta (23rd, 20:23.43) and junior Caroline Cubero (30th, 21:17) was Glendale’s top placer.

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