Hoover High girls' cross-country leads local school quartet to CIF

With league championship races in the rearview mirror, the business of qualifying to the CIF Southern Section divisional championships is on the mind of the four schools and six total local cross-country teams participating in Saturday’s CIF-SS divisional preliminaries at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.

For Crescenta Valley High, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and Flintridge Prep, advancing to the prelims has become old hat.

However, the same cannot be said for Hoover High, which made history last weekend when the girls’ team outlasted Burroughs, 121-128, for fourth place within the Pacific League, which nabbed the program’s first prelims bid since 2002.

“The girls are excited for their effort this year. When we started, our two goals were to have enough girls to field a team and to qualify to CIF and we’ve done both of those,” Tornadoes Coach Jack Sallakian said. “Our goal at CIF is to run [personal bests] and not go overboard and get sucked into a race that isn’t ours. We need to run the way we’ve been doing all year.”

The Tornadoes are participating in the first of three heats of Division III competition at 10:41 a.m. in a tough pack that includes top-ranked Palos Verdes and No. 7-ranked Corona Del Mar. Hoover needs to finish in the top five or have the fastest sixth-place mark of any team in any of the three heats to advance to the following week’s divisional finals back at Mt. SAC.

Senior Lucik Minassian, who finished 16th at the Pacific League finals in 19 minutes, 35.47 seconds, will lead the Tornadoes.

Like Hoover, Flintridge Sacred Heart is also hoping for a top-five finish as the Tologs are competing two races prior to the Tornadoes at 10:16 a.m. in the third and final heat of Division IV girls’ action.

The Tologs are hoping to shake off the rust of a third-place finish at the Mission League finals in a heat highlighted by league champion Harvard-Westlake, which is ranked third in the division.

Despite the tough finish at league finals, the Tologs have a strong one-two punch to lean on up front in junior Kayla Grahn and senior Maddie Peterson, both league top-10 placers.

Perhaps the most movement or news prior to Saturday came from Crescenta Valley, which is making changes to its lineup after the girls finished second at the Pacific League finals and the boys were third.

Falcons Coach Mark Evans announced that league frosh-soph champion Philip Thomas will be moved up to the varsity boys, while junior varsity champion Amanda Burch will be back with girls’ varsity come Saturday.

“I’m optimistic with how we’ll run,” Evans said. “On the guy’s side, I think we can finish third behind (top-ranked) Arcadia and (No. 8) Great Oak.

“As for the ladies, we’re looking good with Amanda and Erika [Johnson] is getting healthier each week with her foot. I think we can sneak in there.”

The Crescenta Valley girls go first in the second of four heats in Division I at 8:09 a.m. and need to place in the top four or post the best fifth-place team time.

As for the boys, they compete an hour later in the first heat of Division I at 9:17 a.m. also needing to place in the top four.

Perhaps the two strongest picks to move past Saturday are the Flintridge Prep boys and girls, as both are coming off a week-long break after winning Prep League team titles.

Both Rebel teams are top-ranked in Division V and both are led by a league individual champion in Sarah and Alan Yoho, although there is a different qualifying standard for each.

Since there are only two heats for girls’ Division V races, Flintridge Prep needs to finish in the top eight in its race at 3 p.m.

The boys, on the other hand, are taking part in the one of three heats in Division V at 1:24 p.m. and are looking for a top-five finish.

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