Flintridge Prep cross-country hopes to run down title

LA CAÑADA — In one sense, 2012 was a wildly successful year for the Flintridge Prep boys’ cross-country team, which won yet another Prep League championship and advanced all the way to state as per usual.

However, in the same breath it could be argued that this past season was also bittersweet, as the Rebels finished runner-up to St. Margaret’s, 46-61, at the CIF Southern Section Division V finals only to crush St. Margaret’s at the following week’s CIF State Championships, but ultimately take silver to St. Joseph Notre Dame, 86-87.

“Sure, you’re disappointed that you came up a point short, but you can’t be disappointed by the year,” said Rebels Coach Ingrid Herskind, the reigning All-Area Coach of the Year.

Whether or not Flintridge Prep can match or surpass 2012 will be largely dependent on a young group of athletes, as the Rebels graduated four of their seven runners from state, including the one-two punch of Elias Ellison (eighth, 16:10) and Aaron Sugimoto (ninth, 16:16), the team’s top two finishers at state last year.

Yet, even with the graduation, Herskind isn’t concerned, at least at the front of the pack, as the trio of sophomore Jack Van Scoter (10th at state in 16:19), senior Alan Yoho (22nd at state in 16:36) and senior Tyler Fong (38th at state in 16:59) slide over into the leadership role.

“We have three strong runners up front who are more than ready to lead this young team,” said Herskind, whose two-tier program of 30 runners is made up of 21 underclassmen. “It’s after those three where it gets interesting.”

Some of the jockeying for position on varsity will likely include junior Alex Orloff, sophomore Nihkil Poole and freshman Riley Coan.

The Rebels enter this season top-ranked in the CIF Southern Section Division V polls, while dyestatcal.com ranked the Rebels No. 1 in Division V in all of Southern California and fourth in state.

While Flintridge Prep had representation at last year’s CIF preliminaries, St. Francis did not, which troubled Golden Knights seventh-year Coach Pat Donovan.

“We’ve missed the prelims meet the last two years after being there like 10 straight years,” Donovan said, “so our goal is obviously to get back.”

If the Golden Knights do reach the postseason, then it will likely be on the heels of sophomore Chris Rodriguez.

St. Francis’ top runner finished 17th at last year’s Mission League finals in 16:48.5 for the sixth-place Golden Knights.

“Chris has been our best runner and he’s only going to get better,” Donovan said. “The good thing is that we have some solid runners behind him.”

Juniors Adam and Jack Lyons return, as do seniors Max Sinclair and Nick Sanchez, while junior Griffin Taylor is up on varsity after taking 18th in the Mission League junior varsity finals.

While Flintridge Prep and St. Francis welcome familiar faces back, La Cañada has a new person in charge in longtime Duarte High Coach Nick LaCapria.

“There’s a great tradition at La Cañada that I knew about on the other side of the valley,” LaCapria said. “I know the team has been down recently, but there are some good runners here and we’re hoping to improve.”

The Spartans finished fourth in the Rio Hondo League in just missing out on the postseason to third-place Temple City, 74-80.

While La Cañada did graduate a talented runner in Brandon Newquist, who finished sixth at league finals (16:43), junior Ethan Angold (13th at league finals in 17:12) is back.

“Ethan has been developing well,” LaCapria said. “He looks ready to take the lead.”

Angold will likely be followed by junior Mitchell Trout and freshman Seve Rodriguez.

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