Flintridge Prep cross-country zeroes in on state glory

What is the goal and dream for nearly every team and individual cross-country runner has become a reality for the Flintridge Prep boys’ and girls’ cross-country squads, along with the Crescenta Valley High boys and La Cañada High’s Anna Frederich.

All of the aforementioned competitors earned a berth to Saturday’s CIF State Cross-Country championships at Fresno’s Woodward Park.

Flintridge Prep’s girls are slated for the Division V championships at 11:45 a.m., while the boys conclude the day at 1:25 p.m.

Flintridge Prep is attempting to become the first school since Palos Verdes in Division III to win both a boys’ and girls’ team title in the same season in 2011 and the first-ever Division V program to complete the feat since the creation of the division at the state level in 1996.

“I think this is something that’s equally exciting for both programs,” Rebels co-Coach Mike Roffina said. “Our girls are ready to do their best and they’re going to run their best race possible. They’re ready.”

Roffina’s team is coming off an unlikely romp at last Saturday’s CIF Southern Section Division V championships, where the Rebels defeated Woodcrest Christian, 52-117.

The score was shocking given that Flintridge Prep was without No. 1 runner Sarah Yoho for a second straight week.

Yoho, the Prep League champion, has sat out since Nov. 2 because of a hip injury, but declared herself fit for state earlier this week.

“I’m running Saturday. I have to run. This is the most exciting thing ever,” Yoho said. “We have a team with five freshmen that has a chance to win a state championship. I have to do my part.”

Those freshmen certainly stepped up in Yoho’s absence as freshman Natalie O’Brien led the way, taking fourth in 19 minutes, 4 seconds, while three additional Rebels finished within the top 10 spots.

Overall, four of Flintridge Prep’s seven runners were freshmen.

Flintridge Prep currently enters the finals top-ranked in Division V, according to prepcaltrack.com, ahead of Branson, which is also dealing with health issues.

The Rebels are attempting to win their first-ever girls’ state championship.

On the flip side, the Flintridge Prep boys are attempting to move further up the totem pole as the Rebels already own four state titles, but are looking for their first since 2004.

“We feel that we have a legitimate chance to win a championship and hopefully got the nerves out at [CIF Southern Section] finals,” Rebels Coach Ingrid Herskind said. “At state, everyone is running their best and we’re going to have to do the same to win.”

Flintridge Prep’s recent state adventures have been bittersweet, as the squad was edged out last season, 86-87, by St. Joseph Notre Dame for the Division V state crown.

Not surprisingly, the Rebels are second-ranked heading into Saturday behind No. 1 Notre Dame.

Herskind’s confidence only grew after Saturday as the Rebels captured the Division V title, 56-79, over Thacher despite a stumble from one runner and a pair of false starts.

Maybe the most exciting part of the race will be upfront, as Rebels senior Alan Yoho, the CIF Southern Section Division V champion (15:10), is preparing to become Flintridge Prep’s first-ever individual state champion.

“My expectation is to win and I also want to lead this team to a championship,” said Yoho, who ran a 15:23 at Woodward at the Clovis Invitational on Oct. 12. “If I do my best, that should happen.”

Doug Hall turned in the highest-ever finish for a Rebels boys’ or girls’ runner when he took second in Division V in 1997 in a time of 16:04.

Yoho, and his top challenger, defending champion Trevor Reinhart of Marin Academy, will also take aim at the divisional course record time of 15:28, set by Billy Gaudreau of St. Margaret’s in 2011.

While Flintridge Prep has some time to warm up, the Crescenta Valley boys will not be as fortunate.

The Falcons lead off local action at 9:40 a.m. in the prestigious Division I championships as Crescenta Valley is making its first trip to state as a team since 2007.

“We’ve had some great workouts this week and I think we’re ready,” Falcons Coach Mark Evans said. “I really believe these guys knew that they were a good team and it’s nice to have a little vindication in being here.”

The Falcons’ advancement came as somewhat of a surprise as the squad upset four teams en route to taking fifth at the CIF Southern Section Division I finals with 166 points.

Crescenta Valley boasted two top-20 finishers in seniors Gabe Collison (13th, 15:09) and Nick Beatty (17th, 15:11).

“The biggest thing for us is that we were finally healthy,” Evans said. “I thought at the beginning of the year that we were a top three, four or five team and we looked like that early on at the Woodbridge Invitational. Then we had injuries and sicknesses and the flu and other things that slowed us down all year.

“We were finally healthy out there Saturday and you saw the result.”

While La Cañada High senior Anna Frederich ran unattached at the CIF-SS Division III finals last Saturday, she was hardly alone.

The two-time Rio Hondo League champion had an army of supporters with her as she finished third in a personal-record time of 17:57.

She’ll have a smaller cadre backing up her during the Division III state final at 10:40 a.m.

“My goal was to get to state my senior year and I had to really push,” said Frederich on Saturday. “I’m so proud that I was able to make it. That’s everyone’s goal and I was able to do it.”

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