The Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy cross-country team proved to be capable of quite a formidable finishing kick this season, and not just in the sense of closing out races with a bang.
With a third-place showing in Division IV at Saturday's CIF State Meet at Woodward Park in Fresno, the Tologs put an exclamation point on their season with the best state-meet performance in program history, continuing a campaign in which the team hit its peak late with a third-place finish at the CIF Southern Section finals at Mount San Antonio College a week earlier and carried it through to the biggest meet of the year.
"We were thrilled, obviously," Tologs Coach Kirk Nishiyama said. "That's the first time we've ever been on the [medal] stand, so we're really happy."
With junior Paulina Antaplayan leading the pack with a 14th-place finish in 19 minutes 3 seconds, Sacred Heart scored 183 points to edge Harvard-Westlake by just three points, with Junipero Serra (75 points) and La Reina (147) taking the top two spots.
"At the end of the race I figured we were in the top five, but I didn't know," Nishiyama said "They did what they needed to do, so we're really happy."
Freshman Riley Gilmartin was 31st for Sacred Heart in 19:35, followed by junior Stephanie Vargas (61st, 20:06), junior Nora Welsh (80th, 20:24) and freshman Casey Basso (89th, 20:29).
"Paulina and Riley were consistent both this week and last week and what happened this week, we have some depth this year, so some other people stepped up today," Nishiyama said. "Steph Vargas ran well, Nora Walsh came in fourth for us and Casey came fifth. It's nice to see other people step up for us.
"League finals, we ran terribly and I think it really changed when got 11 girls together and they really became a team. They really worked hard together the last month."
Flintridge Prep's boys' and girls' teams also competed in Division V, with the Rebels' boys slipping slightly from last year's third-place finish to fourth and the girls' squad finishing 10th.
Prep's boys' team, which was coming off a third-place showing at the CIF finals, scored 142 points to finish behind St. Margaret's (69), Woodcrest Christian (104) and Desert Christian (123).
"We had a good race. It was a solid race, it's just we had a couple guys coming out of spot and Woodcrest definitely had a much better day than they had at CIF finals," Prep boys' Coach Ingrid Herskind said. "Definitely, we wanted to get that third spot. We're disappointed, but overall pleased with where we had come from in the season, considering we weren't even ranked the last time we were on the Fresno course."
Senior Jason Bunn led Prep with a 20th-place finish in 16:36, with sophomore Elias Ellison in 33rd in 17:00 and juniors Eli Weinstein (41st, 17:10), Jesse Redding (42nd, 17:13) and Jake Johnson (52nd, 17:22) rounding out the top five.
The Rebels' youthful girls' team built on its sixth-place finish at the CIF finals by finishing fifth among Southern Section squads in their race and continued to build toward a strong future.
"It's about building a foundation for the future, which is very important," Prep girls' Coach Mike Roffina said. "And our kids know that, that's what I like about it. They're not down on themselves, they didn't have unrealistic expectations and they were ecstatic [to finish 10th]."
Freshman Sarah Yoho finished 27th in 20:05 to lead the Rebels' 240-point showing. Sophomore Kaitlyn Kelleher finished 35th in 20:13, with freshmen Kate Evans (59th, 20:54) and Audrey Levy (90th, 21:52) and Gayle Caverly (95th, 22:06) filling out the top five.
"We were hoping to be in the top 10," Roffina said. "We ran great and I think it was a great first go for a very young team and we're very happy with the results."
Loyola senior Philip Kostelnik, who resides in Glendale, finished 28th in 15:51 to help the Cubs capture the Division II title with 77 points.
Glendale resident Richard Lucas, a senior at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, helped his team finish fourth in Division IV with 160 points with a 28th-place finish in 16:25.