The St. Francis High cross-country team was able to attain a goal it has spent the last two years pursuing.
Along with Flintridge Prep's boys' and girls' cross-country teams and Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy making strong showings and convincingly qualifying for the CIF finals, those were the local storylines that dominated Saturday's CIF Southern Section Cross-Country Preliminaries at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut.
Because Division III boys only ran three heats, a fifth-place finish would automatically qualify the Golden Knights, and that's exactly what they got in 1:22.50, with senior Kyle Palazzolo leading the way in fourth overall in 15:47 to get the team back to the finals for the first time since 2008 with a score of 123.
"The conditions weren't exactly perfect, but my guys came in and did exactly what I was hoping they could do on a good day," said St. Francis Coach Pat Donovan, whose top five was rounded out by junior Colin Peterson (17th, 16:15), senior Tyler Kawachi (30th, 16:46), freshman Matt Evans (31st, 16:47) and senior Danny Velladao (50th, 17:15). "We had this date circled on our schedule all season and they came out there [Saturday] and proved that."
The Rebels' boys' and girls' teams both got the job done with second-place finishes in their respective Division V heats.
Prep's Prep League-champion boys were runners-up in 1:27.18 with a score of 67 points behind Lancaster Desert Christian (46, 1:26.27).
Senior Jason Bunn was the Rebels' top finisher in 16:57, followed by junior Jake Johnson (13th, 17:24), senior Jesse Redding, junior Eli Weinstein (20th, 17:42) and sophomore Elias Ellison (24th, 17:46).
Led by a fourth-place individual finish from sophomore Kaitlyn Kelleher in 20:00, the Rebels girls' team clocked a 1:45.32 and finished with 62 points to Chadwick's score of 42 points and time of 1:42.59.
Freshman Sarah Yoho finished just five seconds behind Kelleher to take fifth, while freshmen Audrey Levy (25th, 22:27), Galey Caverly (26th, 22:37) and Kate Kennedy (44th, 23:19) rounded out Prep's top five.
"We have a very young team that's running really well and we're encouraged and enthused about next week," Prep girls' co-Coach Michael Roffina said. "I think they had their best race of the season [Saturday]."
Sacred Heart finished third in its Division IV heat with 73 points in 1:43.48.
The Tologs were led by junior Paulina Antaplyan in ninth place in 20:02, freshman Riley Gilmartin in 11th in 20:13 and junior Stephanie Vargas in 12th in 20:31.
Casey Basso (21st, 21:13) and Amanda Aguilar (30th, 21:49) comprised the rest of the Tologs' scoring five.