LA CRESCENTA — While having garnered their share of area accolades, success for Crescenta Valley High's Claudia Pham and Burroughs' Anthony Monroy has often understandably been overshadowed by those that finished ahead of them.
But on a humid Saturday morning at Crescenta Valley Park, there was nobody in front of Monroy or Pham at the Staub/Barnes Invitational.
Both runners claimed victory in their respective Division I races, while Pham led an impressive overall effort for the Falcons, who took first as a team with a 31-point tally.
"I didn't expect it to go like that, I didn't think I was gonna be able to take it in the end," said Pham, like Monroy a reigning All-Area Cross-Country Runner of the Year, who won the Division I race in 18 minutes 55 seconds. "It's definitely really exciting."
Like Pham and the Falcons, Monroy has run plenty of races at CV Park, but usually had to contend with former Crescenta Valley standout Zack Torres or current Arcadia standout Amaar Moussa. On Saturday, the course was Monroy's for the taking, as he ran away from the field with a first-place run of 15:33, 19 seconds in front of the second-place finisher.
"I was feeling good, I was like, 'I should get out there and get it,'" said the Burroughs junior, who led the Indians to a fourth-place team finish with 113 points and was the first Indian to ever win a race at Staub. "It feels good, I don't get many first places."
The day's other area first place went to Flintridge Prep's boys' squad, as the Rebels used some stellar pack running that saw their scoring five finish eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th en route to 50 points and a Division III race victory.
"We're happy with how we ran as a team today," said senior Jesse Redding, who took eighth in 17:43.74, stepping up to take his team's top spot with normal No. 1 Jason Bunn finishing sixth among the Rebels, as he's nursing a leg injury. "That was my job today. I think everyone [stepped up]."
Prep fended off L.A. Baptist (69 points) for the win. Following Redding was fellow senior Taylor Beith (ninth, 17:44.84), junior Jake Johnson (10th, 17:51.83), junior Eli Weinstein (11th, 17:52.67) and sophomore Elias Ellison (12th, 17:53.94).
After taking second in its first Prep League meet, also at CV Park, the Rebels believe they're heading in the right direction.
"We're using these last couple races to get in shape," Redding said, "and we think we'll have a really good league finals and postseason."
On the boys' side, at event's end, Burroughs won the super sweepstakes, which combines times for the top-seven varsity runners with the top five from the junior varsity and sophomore races. The Indians had a time of 5:00.43, nudging past Golden Valley's 5:00.46. Golden Valley is coached by Crescenta Valley High graduates Chris and Rob Evans.
For the girls, Crescenta Valley took second in 6:10.04, behind Saugus' 5:56.16.
Beginning the day, in terms of varsity races, was the girls' Division II race.
La Cañada's Meghan Fuelling, a junior and reigning All-Area pick, led a pack of Spartans across the finish line, as she took sixth in 20:24.31. Following just behind her was freshman Anna Frederich (seventh, 20:30.15), senior Courtney Schulte (eighth, 20:31.47) and senior Holly Shreckengast (ninth, 20:34.18).
"That was our focus in our last league meet and it didn't work out too well," said Fuelling of game planning to pack run, which only resulted in a second-place finish in the team's initial Rio Hondo League meet. "Today, we didn't have any purpose and we stayed together and it was great.
"Our coach [Andy Di Conti] just told us to start racing."
Despite the splendid pack running, the Spartans, reigning league champions, were edged by first-place Golden Valley (61 points) and second-place Camarillo, which shared a 64-point score with La Cañada, but took second based on its No. 6 runner's better finish.
Burroughs finished sixth in the race with 150 points, led by sophomore Brice Edrington's 15th-place mark of 21:12.28.
Without the majority of its top runners, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy was ninth with 222, led by junior Stephanie Vargas (22nd, 21:30.18).
Crescenta Valley started strong in the Division I girls' race, with five runners among the top 12 in the early going.
"I felt like we all went out really strong," said CV senior Anneke Kakebeen, who finished third in 19:02. "We had a good pack."
Pham, the first Falcon to win the race since Claire Collison in 2007, battled Highland's Vanessa Lopez (second, 19:00) for first throughout the race, but was able to get her down the final stretch.
"Claudia moved well the second half of the course," said Falcons Coach Mark Evans, whose team won at the meet for the first time since 2007, when it won the race for the third straight year. "Anneke, I thought, looked really good."
Following Kakebeen was sophomore Cali King (sixth, 19:38), freshman Erika Johnson (ninth, 19:41) and junior Brooke Moultrie (12th, 19:49).
"They all ran very well," Evans said.
Within the race, there were also some interesting sidenotes in terms of how the rest of the Pacific League season might play out.
Burbank senior McKenzie Paul continued to impress with a fifth-place finish in 19:23, as the Bulldogs took sixth with 137 points. Still, as well as Paul ran, she took second in the first league meet of the season, but this time around, both Pham and Kakebeen finished ahead of her.
More importantly for the Falcons, though, was that they finished ahead of Arcadia, which took fifth with 107 points, but had bested CV in the first league meet. Granted, Arcadia was without standout Catrina McAlister, last year's Division I Staub winner, but Pham, Kakebeen and King all finished in front of Arcadia's usual No. 2, Glindyll Mancia (seventh, 19:39).
"What our main focus is is to put at least three or four in front of the No. 2 if we want to win league," Kakebeen said. "That was a big step."
In the Division III girls' race, Hoover senior Frances Ramas took sixth in 21:28.08, while junior Renee Lawson was eighth in 21:39.88. The Tornadoes took seventh as a team with 131 points, while Glendale was fifth with 122 points, led by senior Yajaira Hernandez (23rd, 23:00.96).
"My top two girls did pretty well," Hoover Coach Jack Sallakian said.
A huge cluster went out fast in the Division I boys' meet, but by the midway point, Monroy began to build an insurmountable lead.
"When I took the lead, I just kept it," said Monroy, who added that he believes every race he's improving along with his team. "We're doing great, with a lot of improvement."
Golden Valley won the race with 72 points, while Burbank (187) took eighth, Crescenta Valley (189) was ninth, La Cañada (213) was 10th and Hoover (300) finished 12th.
Crescenta Valley junior Mike Duncan finished 11th in 16:18.
Burbank was led by sophomore Sergio Fraire, who was 15th in 16:27, which was the same time clocked for Burroughs' Charlie Camacho, as the junior finished 16th.
Glendale resident Richard Lucas, reportedly battling illness, was 18th in 16:36 for Sherman Oaks Notre Dame.
Hoover sophomore Jeremy Zadoorian was 22nd in 16:41, but Sallakian believes he's got a lot better performance in him.
"He was very, very tired," said Sallakian, who added that Zadoorian acts in a play on Friday nights. "Hopefully when that's over he can be a lot more competitive. He was taking it easy cause he was exhausted."
La Cañada's top finisher was senior Adam Skaggs (26th, 16:46).
The last varsity race of the day was the Division II boys' contest, with Glendale junior Chris Canlas taking fourth in 16:46.58. The Nitros finished seventh with 168 points.
While the humidity might have made for some slower times, Evans was still pleased with how the event turned out.
"Overall, we had 44 teams and I think there's some really good competition," he said. "There was some good racing despite the humidity."