Maybe the only cross-country race of the season in which winning takes a back seat to qualifying was at Saturday’s day-long CIF Southern Section Divisional Preliminaries at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.
La Cañada High’s and Flintridge Prep’s boys’ and girls’ teams, along with Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy all attempted to qualify to the following week’s divisional finals with some moving on and others falling short.
At the end of the day, both Rebels squads moved on, along with the Tologs and the Spartans’ Anna Frederich.
The Flintridge Prep boys and girls were their usual dominant selves on Saturday afternoon.
For the boys, sophomore Nikhil Poole led a five-pack that took positions fourth through eighth with a mark of 16:42, which was immediately followed by sophomore Jack Van Scoter (16:42), senior Alan Yoho (16:43), senior Tyler Fong (16:43) and freshman Riley Coan (16:48).
With those places, the Rebels easily rolled to a 30-77 victory over Ontario Christian, while their team time of 1:23:38 was second-fastest in the division to Thacher (1:23.25).
The Rebels’ girls were also a winner in the first heat of Division V, claiming a 41-100 victory over Thacher with the division’s best team time of 1:39:09.
While senior Sarah Yoho did not participate due to soreness, the Rebels didn’t miss a beat thanks to junior Ashley Lara, who was third in 19:18, right ahead of freshman Natalie O’Brien (fourth, 19:29).
Lacy Coan (eighth, 19:40), Maia Cohen (15th, 20:15) and senior Kate Evans (18th, 20:27) took the Rebels’ last three scoring spots.
While the Rebels enjoyed a cakewalk, Flintridge Sacred Heart was in a fight to the finish and qualified by nine points, as the Tologs held off Costa Mesa, 126-135, for fifth place and the final qualifying berth in the third heat of Division IV.
“I’m very proud of the girls and we had some people step up today. We’ve had injuries that have hurt us, so to make the finals again is special,” Tologs Coach Kirk Nishiyama said. “We can’t forget what a privilege this is.”
Junior Kayla Grahn paced Flintridge Sacred Heart in a race won by Mission League rival Harvard-Westlake (64 points) by taking 15th in 19:51, ahead of fellow Tologs Maddie Peterson (20th, 20:09) and sophomore Clare Lund (28th, 20:54), both of whom later participated in the Division I-A girls’ volleyball playoffs.
“You want to talk about stepping up. Our two volleyball girls did that and so did Kayla, who led us once again,” Nishiyama said. “But I can’t forget about freshman Sara Vargas. She got us some important points, especially since we won by nine.”
The aforementioned Vargas was 29th in 20:55, while freshman Katie Gullick (38th, 21:36) rounded out the Tologs’ scoring.
La Cañada’s girls had aspirations of advancing to the divisional finals for a second straight year.
However, that goal came up short as the Spartans needed to place in the top five and instead took seventh with 182 points, which was only a handful behind the 178 points scored by fifth-place El Dorado.
Despite the setback, the Spartans will be represented next week by Rio Hondo League champion Frederich, who took fourth in 18:12 and qualified as an individual.
Frederich’s teammate, junior Colleen Mispagel, missed by two spots as she took 10th in 18:50, while La Cañada’s next finisher was Eloise Dimase-Nordling (40th, 20:14).
As for the La Cañada boys, a surprise qualifier to the prelims, the Spartans concluded their year by finishing 13th in the third heat of Division III with 365 points.
Junior Ethan Angold paced the Spartans by placing 29th in 16:16.