Gushue, Briscoe win titles at inaugural Temecula Twilight

Angie Gushue of Claremont sprints to the finish at the Temecula Twilight Invitational (Credit: Clark Kranz)


TEMECULA -- Claremont junior Angie Gushue wasn't used to running at the front and hadn't won a race since early in her freshman year. And when she pulled away early and held off a late push to cross first in the Varsity Girls race at the inaugural Temecula Twilight Invitational on Saturday night, 'tears of joy.'

Yucaipa senior Justin Briscoe had scanned the entries to the Varsity Boys race and knew he had a chance to win but that talking about it wouldn't get it done. When he pulled away early and left the pack in the dark on the 1.5-mile two-loop fast track at Galway Downs to cross with a season best, he said he was humble and thankful that it all came to fruition.

The first-year meet in a bucolic setting in the southeast edge of Temecula attracted 30 schools to compete on the course layout of co-meet directors Coley Candaele of Vista Murrieta and Bill Reeves of Claremont. The cozy layout in a unique setting was mostly flat with long straights, minimal turns along a trek across manicured soccer fields, dirt paths, alongside a horse track and through a tunnel. A tunnel? Yes, a tunnel!

The course is designed for maximum spectator viewing with half a dozen passes within steps of the start/finish area. Temperatures forecast between the mid-80s and low-60s were comfortably between that range. All in all, it was reminiscent of other evening 3-mile XC events -- the early-September Cool Breeze at Pasadena's Brookside Park (meet directed by Reeves), and Woodbridge, held at the SilverLakes Sports Complex in Norco with the envious reputation as the fastest 3-mile meet in the land. 

Gushue was one of two individual champions for Claremont and Briscoe was one of four individual champions for Yucaipa.

Great Oak, with its A teams on the East Coast, putting on an impressive sweep of Race of Champions team titles at the Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary, NC, nonetheless displayed its tremendous depth winning five of the eight team titles with two second-place finishes and one third. 

The Wolfpack had only one individual champion in Mark Cortes, who won the Freshman Boys race in 15:26.7 to lead a 1-2-3-5-7 show of force in a 73-point team victory. Nick Gaffney (15:46.4), Ramses Cortes (15:47.6) and Austin Elkins (16:38.3) rounded out the top four for Great Oak.

Gushue said, other than league meets where the team runs in a pack up front, she hadn't led a race or won since Cool Breeze early her freshman year.

"It's the best race I've had in my life," Gushue said of Saturday night's performance. "It was really exciting and just being in the front, I'm usually not in the front.

"I was a little shocked, because it doesn't usually happen. I was really just trying to remain confident and say, 'OK, I can stick in the front. I can do it.' Once I was halfway and still in the front, I was like, 'OK, only halfway more to go and I'd won the race.' I just tried to remain positive."

Running up front and feeling pressure late helped her break 17-minutes for the first time, crossing in 16:56.1, well under her previous 3-mile PR of 17:20.60.

But Yucaipa senior Danielle Gee (17:00.1) and Covina senior Katelyn Vuong (17:05.5) didn't make it easy. 

"I could start hearing the girls and people cheering for them," Gushue said. "That kind of scared me a little bit. 'OK ... I need to pick up the pace for the kick.' That really propelled me to finish."

And once she crossed the Finished Results' purple carpet with the victory?

"I was so overwhelmed with joy," Gushue said. "It was just a happy moment for me, especially knowing I broke 17. It was the first time I've broken 17. I was so excited. Definitely tears of joy at the end."

Led by Gee's runner-up placing and sophomore Kaitlyn Townsend seventh-place finish in 17:42.9, Yucaipa was a 29-point team winner over Vista Murrieta, which had Ole Miss-bound senior Makayla Fick (17:16.8) and junior Aniya Pretlow (17:29.6) finish 4-5. Freshman Joelle Upshur was ninth in 17:44.3 as the top finisher for Great Oak, which placed third 10 points behind Vista Murrieta. 

Overall, Yucaipa had a stellar night with two team champions, one runner-up placing, and four individual champions, plus Gee's Varsity Girls second-place finish.

The parade began for the Thunderbirds at Sophomore Girls where Savannah Ganter sprinted from a pack late to win going way in 19:07.6 with Riverside Prep's Patricia Ramirez second in 19:18.3 and Claremont's Riley Zitar third (19:31.2).

(Ganter, center, is pictured with Zitar, left, and Ramirez)

Tiffany Terry, fifth in 19:47.3, Eryka Veana, eighth in 19:54.8, and Audrey Selvaggio, ninth in 19:57.9, helped Yucaipa to 21 points and a 42-point victory over Great Oak.

In the next race, Yucaipa's Ryan Horspool held off a couple of Great Oak runners to win Sophomore Boys in 15:49.7. Jaxon Kaeller was second (15:52.1) and Samuel Dickinson third (15:52.9) in leading Great Oak to the team title.

Making it three individual titles in as many races, Yucaipa junior Clarissa Clark was an :08 winner over Menifee Heritage sophomore Dakota Zamarripa, crossing in 18:49.7 to win JV Girls. Despite Great Oak going 3-4 with juniors Arianna Gaff (19:00.8) and Caroline Jilek (19:07.7) it was Yorba Linda with an eight-point team victory over the Wolfpack. Yorba Linda had four of the top 10 scorers in senior Kailey Cook (19:32.5), senior Roxane Fournier (19:41.2), junior Kaylee Worrell (19:58.2) and sophomore Victoria Campbell (19:58.4).

Claremont senior Jaden Clark snapped the Yucaipa winning streak by outpacing a pair of Great Oak seniors to win the JV Boys race in 15:28.1. The Wolfack duo of Carson Baldevia (15:47.2) and Benny Perez (15:47.4) helped lead Great Oak to a 43-point team victory over Clark's Claremont Wolfpack.

Gushue's victory made it back to back individual wins for Claremont before Briscoe took the line for the final race of the night and claimed the final individual title back for Yucaipa. 

He talked about how his previous 3-mile PR from Woodbridge a year before stood as one of the faster times for that distance in the Varsity Boys field. 

"I saw that I was one of the fastest people going in," Briscoe (pictured) said. "That really got me the confidence, got the idea in my head of going out there and trying to win it."

And it wasn't long into the race before Briscoe took charge. 

"We got up to about a mile and a half down the course and I just went for it from there," he said. "I was telling myself, I'm feeling good at a mile and just go for it, and that's what I did tonight."

Pre-race, apparently Briscoe talked enough about his chance for winning that prompted his coach to remind him to let his legs make the statement.  

"My coach was like, 'Stop talking about it and just go out and do it,' " Briscoe said. "When I'm actually doing it, it feels really good to bring it to reality."

Briscoe crossed in 14:40.7, a season best and the fastest 3-mile race on his resume not on the Woodbridge course. But it wasn't a time for 'I told you so.'

"I was more so being humble, being glad that I'm able to do this," Briscoe said.

More than 13 seconds back was the runner-up, Woodcrest Christian senior Braulio Alvarez (14:53.3) and Great Oak senior Joshua Abrenica in third, also under 15 minutes (14:57.5). Great Oak went 3-5-7-10-12 for a 40-point team victory over Woodbridge as junior Kyle Reden (15:02.9), senior AJ Tabanao (15:09.6) and freshman Nathan Lennox (15:15.4) placed top-10 for the Wolfpack. 

Junior Ryan Welton (15:08.5) and senior William Talbert (15:13.3) placed sixth and eighth, respectively, for Woodbridge. Claremont, led by senior Brandon Apresa's ninth-place finish (15:14.4), was third. 

Hayley White of Escondido Charter (pictured) ran away to win the Freshman Girls race, the first race of the event. She crossed in 18:27.9, well ahead of Riverside Poly's Grace Bonzoumet (18:42.3). Great Oak then went 3-4-5-6-9-(10-11) for 16 points and a 40-point team victory over Yucaipa. Hannah Miller (18:44.1), Meilani Castillo (19:10.5), Cailin Osborne (19:15.7) and Ameya Teli (19:21.4) led the Great Oak freshman girls.

More Temecula Twilight Coverage

Photos by Clark Kranz and Jeffrey Parenti