Crescenta Valley High cross-country finds satisfaction at Mt. SAC

WALNUT — If there’s one certainty in regards to the 66th annual Mt. San Antonio College Cross-Country Invitational, it’s that results can be interpreted several different ways.

PHOTOS: Locals participate in the Mt. SAC Invitation Cross Country meet

For the Crescenta Valley and Glendale high programs, both entered with starkly different resources, yet each walked away with a measure of satisfaction.

The CIF Southern Section Division I sixth-ranked Falcons boys were the lone area team entered in an elite race Saturday and tied Santa Monica with 258 points, which merited 11th place in the Division I and II Sweepstakes.

“I’m definitely satisfied with the results today,” Falcons Coach Mark Evans said. “We were without Matt Owens, who we want to make sure is healthy for the Pacific League Finals (Nov. 7), but we had some great efforts, obviously from Gabe Collison, Matt Manalo and Nick Beatty.”

Collison took center stage in a loaded field, which included CIF State Division I runner-up Estevan De La Rosa of Arcadia and San Diego Section champion Steven Fahy of La Costa Canyon, and earned fifth with a personal-best time of 15:02.

“You try as best as you can to stay up front with the pack,” said Collison, whose time was second-best in the area to Flintridge Prep’s Alan Yoho (14:58), who ran on Friday. “There’s so much speed out there that you’re tempted to go faster than you should, but you have to stick with your plan.”

Collison had some early struggles, as he was 10th climbing up the switchbacks, but closed to fourth place down the crossover, ahead of Pacific League rival De La Rosa, who was fifth.

Yet, De La Rosa appeared to gain strength over the second half of the race and passed Collison en route to taking second in 14:51, three seconds off the pace of race-winner Blair Hurlock of Concord De La Salle.

Collison’s teammates crossed the finish line nearly a minute after the senior, as Manalo was 37th in 15:51 and Beatty was 45th (15:58).

As for the Crescenta Valley girls, the Falcons finished sixth with 126 points in their Division I race, which was won by Ventura, which tallied 79 points.

Crescenta Valley was without senior Erika Johnson, who was held out for precautionary reasons.

Even so, Falcons junior Megan Melnyk turned in the highest finish of any area runner Saturday by taking fourth in 18:32.

“There were a lot of good runners today and I just tried my best,” said Melnyk, who was a little off her personal record time of 18:25. “I was happy with how I ran.”

Melnyk was fourth up the switchbacks and moved into third at the crossover, which serves as the race’s unofficial halfway point. Marina High’s Eileen Stressling eventually caught and passed Melnyk over the last 500 meters in taking third in 18:24.

Without No. 2 runner Johnson, Haley Witzeman (24th, 19:45) and Rebecca Mencia (25th, 19:46) filled in the next two scoring spots for the Falcons, while Samantha Bernardo (19:57) was 29th.

While Glendale didn’t field a complete team, the Nitros still had individuals running in a pair of races.

Nitros junior Liam Spires was his school’s lone participant and took 33rd in his Division I race in 16:33.

“It’s different running by yourself. After all, this is a team sport and so you’re used to someone pushing you from your team,” Spires said. “The good thing is at the least the Burbank guys were in this race. I knew them.”

Burbank won the competition, 40-98, over El Rancho.

As for the Nitros girls, Kaitlyn McCraw (66th, 23:33) led the two-girl contingent in a Division I race.

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