San Diego Section XC Season in review

Included among Kristin Fahy's victories in 2018 is a Foot Locker West Region title. (Clark Kranz photo)

SAN DIEGO -- Any time the San Diego Section has an individual state champion, a team state titlist, a Foot Locker West Regional gold medalist, two Foot Locker National finalists and a team in the Nike Nationals, it's a good, no, GREAT year.

At the start of the season, it looked like there could be a handful of runners who could crack the top 10 at the state championships, led by La Costa Canyon's Kristin Fahy. She wasn't the only one, however, with several runners who, with a good year, might emerge.

On the team front, the La Costa Canyon boys were among the favorites early in the season despite moving up to the toughest division in the state -- Division II. 

Fahy was all she was advertised to be, winning everything from Mt. Carmel to Stanford to the section and then the dramatic and thoroughly dominant victory at state that eliminated any doubts she was one of, if not the, best runner in California.

La Costa Canyon's boys were among the best in every meet but the search for that elusive No. 5 runner -- how many teams can relate to that -- proved frustrating as the top four, in no particular order because they took turns being impressive, kept the Mavericks in the hunt. If they had returned in Division III, based on their time, they would have won the state title by more than two minutes.

Jacob Stanford earned All-CIF Section Player of the Year but junior Caleb Niednagel was the best at state and Jacob's brother Garrett had his moments after an early-season injury pushed him behind in his training. Unsung Andy Pueschel would have been the No. 1 runner on most teams but he was a solid No. 4 for the Mavericks.

Instead, coach Bill Vice wins the annual Rodney Dangerfield Award with his seventh -- seventh! --second-place finish.

Instead, it was that Sage Creek girls team that got to the top of the state victory stand. Sisters Skyler (third at State) and Stormy Wallace (sixth at State) led the way to a nine-point victory but Lavanya Pandey, like Pueschel, was a key, placing 15th. Oh, six of the seven runners return for the Bobcats.



 Who else? Fahy's story was so good someone should make a movie. As a junior she was en route to winning the state title when suddenly, with a quarter-mile to go, she went down and couldn't continue. From first to DNF -- the three worst letters in the runners' alphabet.

But the above-mentioned wins, topped by the state championship victory -- the first in almost a decade -- by 22 seconds no less, was the fitting ending to the movie. However, Fahy added some dessert when she proved to be the best runner in the west by winning the Foot Locker West Regional.

But she certainly didn't hog the spotlight. Skyler Wallace (3rd), Mission Vista's Bella Longo (4th) and Canyon Crest's Carlie Dorostkar (5th) all earned Top 5 medals at the State Meet and all but Fahy, who is headed to Stanford, return.



For his sheer consistency and big-meet performances, BYU-bound Jacob Stanford edged his teammates.

Jacob dominated the non-La Costa Canyon runners from San Diego in every meet and really the only one he lost to was Niednagel, the junior who simply said "I feel more comfortable here" when he finished a spot and four seconds ahead at the state meet, placing fourth.

While the boys couldn't match the girls' performances at state, consider that relative unknown Jonathan Velasco of Mission Hills not only won the section Division I, he placed 16th at state, ninth in the Foot Locker West Regional and 20th in the nationals.

Others who maintained their quality running through the state meet included Maranatha Christian's Riley Burns, who was fourth at state in D-V, and El Capitan's Matthew Machnov who was 10th in D-III.



Capturing a state title with a strong finish at the end of the year trumps anything else.

Jacob Feiring's Sage Creek Bobcats talked about being factors at the state meet but they could only exude so much confidence with returning champion Foothill Tech coming in as the favorite. Although Sage Creek beat Foothill Tech at Mt. SAC, they'd heard the stories of how Foothill runs best at the end of the year.

So Sage Creek ago ran well at the end of the year as Pandey, Natalie Huestis and Elizabeth Gerhardt did what they had to do. All five scorers return.

La Costa Canyon's girls also fared well with Fahy and Jessica Riedman leading the way.



When the La Costa Canyon boys placed 11th in the Nike Nationals without Pueschel, it proved that the Mavericks weren't just a three-runner team.

The Mavericks went 4-5-9 in the state Division II finals but Newbury Park of the Southern Section had the faster No. 5 runner. Count just the top four and LCC wins 36-48. But, of course, five count.

Still, losing to Newbury park by 13 points rewarded the Mavericks top three plus Pueschel and James Miramontes who improved virtually every week and as a junior, will team with Niednagel to help rebuild.