Flintridge Prep cross-country claims four crowns

WOODLAND HILLS — In only a two-race span over an hour’s time, the Flintridge Prep cross-country program turned Saturday afternoon’s Prep League Finals into practically a Rebels’ postseason awards banquet.

That was due to Flintridge Prep’s total domination at Los Angeles Pierce College, as both the boys’ and girls’ squads won team titles, while the brother-and-sister combo of Alan and Sarah Yoho captured individual crowns in what was the Rebels’ first step into the 2013 postseason.

“We are ecstatic to win our first title in seven years,” Flintridge Prep girls’ co-Coach Mike Roffina said. “This is the fastest team I’ve ever coached and they’re so young, which is amazing. This is only the beginning of what we hope will be a strong run toward a CIF state title.”

With due deference to the perennial power Flintridge Prep boys, perhaps it’s fair to say Roffina’s girls stole the show Saturday.

The CIF Southern Section Division V top-ranked Rebels upset two-time defending league champion Mayfield Senior School, ranked No. 4 in Division IV, by a 26-40 score to win the program’s first championship since 2006, and fourth this century.

The Rebels’ lead was tenuous at the mile mark as Flintridge Prep’s No. 5 runner, Maia Cohen, was 10th, only two spots ahead of Mayfield’s fifth scorer, Julia Novak.

Yet, the Rebels expanded their advantage to 10 points at the two-mile mark before winning by 14.

As for the individual battle, senior Sarah Yoho also aspired to knock off a two-time incumbent in Pasadena Poly’s Evan Gancedo.

Yoho led Gancedo by six seconds at one mile, but Gancedo shaved that deficit to four seconds a mile later.

“I saw Sarah before the last 400 meters and just told her, ‘go win it,’” Rebels co-Coach Jillian Riehl said. “As soon as I said that, she picked up speed.”

Yoho eventually outlasted Gancedo in winning with the fifth-fastest time in Prep League history in a mark of 18 minutes, 52 seconds. Gancedo, whose Panthers finished third with 72 points, earned the silver in 19:06, while Mayfield’s Katherine Tighe was third in 19:12.

“This was my last year. I had to win it,” Yoho said. “Plus, you saw how my brother finished. I told myself, ‘you have to win this or else’s he’s the winner.’”

While Roffina was certain of the last time his squad won a team title, he admitted was unsure of the previous instance the girls’ program boasted an individual champion.

“Sarah might be the first. I really have no clue,” Roffina said.

Following Yoho were scoring teammates Ashley Lara (fourth, 19:16), Natalie O’Brien (sixth, 19:21), Lacy Coan (seventh, 19:25) and Cohen (eighth, 19:43).

As for the aforementioned Alan Yoho, there was little drama as to how he and his teammates would do after the first mile.

The Flintridge Prep boys absolutely romped to a 20-61 victory over Chadwick for the program’s 21st league championship in 22 years, while Yoho’s winning time of 15:18 tied for the best mark ever in Prep League history with Poly’s Wesley DeVall.

“This was our first step in trying to win state,” Alan Yoho said. “I was as interested in my finish as I was in our fifth runner’s finish. Our goal isn’t just league, but CIF and that’s coming up.”

Poly’s Will Hubsch (sixth, 17:03) actually flew out to a sizable lead through the first 400 meters before tiring out during the up-hill climb, where Yoho and sophomore teammate Jack Van Scoter (second, 15:46) began to take over.

Despite being second, Van Scoter lost ground to Yoho, who was “in demon-race mode,” according to Van Scoter.

“I was just trying to keep up, but he was in his own world,” Van Scoter said of Yoho, a senior. “So, I just had to do my best.”

Yoho eventually led by 30 seconds before Van Scoter trimmed two seconds over the last 100 meters.

Even with the sizeable gap, Van Scoter still finished with the fifth-fastest mark in league history.

The Rebels weren’t too far from perfection, as Tyler Fong (16:30) and Nikhil Poole (16:38) were third and fourth, respectively. Alex Orloff was Flintridge Prep’s final scorer, taking 10th in 17:20.

“This is just the beginning,” Alan Yoho said. “From here on out, every race is huge and we’re going to be ready.”

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