Longo Gets Unexpected Challenge At New Canyon Crest Meet

Mission Vista's Bella Longo (875), one of the top returning juniors in the state, placed fourth in Division 3 at the State Meet as a sophomore and is the No. 2 returner in the division. (Credit: DeAnna Turner)



SAN DIEGO -- Mission Vista's Bella Longo expected a tough race from a Canyon Crest runner in the inaugural Ravens Invitational and she got it.

Only instead of Carli Dorostkar, one of the top runners in the state who opted to train through the 3-mile meet at Canyon Crest, Longo, the fourth-place finisher in Division 3 at the State Meet a year ago, found Dorostkar's teammate, Elizabeth Emberger, hard to shake.

Longo countered an uphill move by Emberger by racing hard down the same hill and slingshot that surge to victory in 17:16.32 -- seven seconds in front of the fellow junior.

"I didn't expect that Carlie wouldn't run," said Longo, who a week earlier won a "sprint" at the Vaquero Stampede -- a 1.65-mile race in searing heat.  "I'm looking to run longer distance now. This is better for me because you can relax in a 3-mile race while a 1.65-miler you have to go.

"My fastest time for 3 miles last year was 18 minutes, so I improved a lot. If I get into another 3-mile race, I hope to break 17."

She couldn't get much better competition as Emberger stuck with Longo stride for stride before making her move on her own home course.

"I've never led a cross country race before," said Emberger, who has run in the shadow of Dorostkar, the 2018 San Diego Section Division 1 champion who placed fourth at State. "I usually stay with everyone and this time I decided to lead."

Longo said the team spent a week in Mammoth training this summer and she was ready for the challenge.

"This race was amazing because (Emberger) made me go all out," said Longo, who has grown two inches since last fall, resulting in her missing a couple of weeks of cross country with Osgood-Schlatter. "I could hear her breathing, so I knew she was right there.

"I'm really trying to be ready for State. I'm the No. 2 returnee in Division 3 behind (Del Oro's) Riley Chamberlain (a sophomore who is the defending champion) and I'd like to challenge her this year."

Emberger actually said she got fired up for her race after teammate Andrew Schulz outkicked Mira Mesa's David Millan in the first race of the new invitational -- the boys Senior/Invitational.

Schulz led the whole way until Millan roared down the final hill and made his challenge with 100 meters remaining on the track. Millan pulled alongside and then inched ahead but Schulz dug down and found another gear to win in 15:15.67 to Millan's 15:16.17.

"I wish I'd opened a wider gap late in the race but I knew when we were in the parking lot (about a half-mile to go) that I could kick more if I had to," said Schulz, a 9:27 3200-meter runner in track. "This course is a lot like Dana Hills -- flat with a finish on the track-and I could hear everyone cheering.

"This is the first invitational I've ever won."

Despite the intense competition, Schulz's win not the fastest time of the day.

That honor went to Santa Fe Christian's Ryan Todd who won the Junior race by 36 seconds in 15:12.62.

"I didn't even know there was an invitational race-the coaches put us in the races by our grade," said Todd. "I've worked every day this summer. Running has become my passion.

"It would have been good to be in the invitational because someone could have pushed me. We run state in Division 5 and winning that -- as well as beating (Maranatha Christian's) Riley Burns this year -- are my goals."

One of the fun things about an early-season race that has runners from each grade is you get to see some of the better up-and-coming freshmen.

Remember that name Dorostkar?

 Her twin sisters, Sammi and Nikki, went 1-3 in the frosh race with Sammi's 19:09.32 being faster than the sophomore winning time.  Nikki's 19:36.56 isn't bad, either.