Top Division V boys teams Viewpoint, Santa Fe Christian, St. Margaret's and University HS of San Francisco took the line Friday in the Division 3-4-5 Team Sweepstakes race at Mt. SAC. (Credit: Lizette Adams)
WALNUT -- In the confusion that is the Mt. SAC Invitational when Divisions are tossed together, one thing became apparent -- the Division V boys race at the State Meet should be, well, interesting.
San Diego's Francis Parker held the MileSplitCA top ranking the first two weeks with University of San Francisco HS and Solana Beach's Santa Fe Christian right behind. In a cluster meet just before Mt. SAC, Parker seemed to confirm that rating, albeit only slightly, with a seven-point win over SFC.
There is a question mark because Parker, which do not have a senior among their top seven runners, checked the box they usually check when submitting their entries for Mt. SAC, which is to compete in a good Division V race.
Good, but no Sweepstakes, where both University and Santa Fe Christian would race.
"We've run in the Sweepstakes a few times but at the start of the season, I didn't see it for this year," explained Lancers coach Matt Schellenberg. "I didn't give it another thought until a week before Mt. SAC and when I called (Meet Director) Tim (O'Rourke), he said he was sorry, it was too late. We understand, I wish we'd thought about it earlier."
That's because as the season progressed, it was clear that although they were young, Parker was also very talented. The Lancers not only ran fast, they ran in a solid pack.
So, Francis Parker found itself in the fastest of three regular Division V races and the result was predictable. The team scored just 26 points going 1-3-5-7-10 with runners Nos. 6 and 7 following right behind in 13th and 14th.
That race was not only against other State contenders, it was contested in the heat of the day, resulting in the Lancer runners brushing off their times as meaningless.
Two and half hours later, with the temperature having dropped 15 degrees, University and Santa Fe Christian would not only face each other, but also No. 4 Viewpoint and No. 5 St. Margaret's of the Southern Section.
And they'd be pushed by the best available Division III and IV teams.
That's where it became interesting.
University, led Charlie Kennedy's 17th place finish in 16:04.8, placed sixth overall with an eye-opening 1-4 differential of just 27 seconds. The Red Devils will go to work closing that one-minute gap between No. 4 and No. 5.
Defending State D-V champion St. Margaret's -- with Jackson Adelman (the D-V runner-up at State last year as a sophomore) coming in third overall at 15:17.2 -- was the second best D-V team, with 291 points-almost 100 behind University's 199 but three points ahead of Viewpoint. Santa Fe Christian was next behind Viewpoint with 308 points.
Now, when you try to factor in Francis Parker's overall team time, the Lancers were well behind Santa Fe Christian.
Some will say apples and oranges because of the differences but all of main players were in attendance and the results speak volumes.
"Actually, not being in the Sweepstakes, we had no idea how we'd do," said Parker sophomore Kenan Pala, who won his race in 16:25.3, which would have been 36th in the Sweepstakes race. "We've done very well in super-fast races. Because we were in the Division V race, we actually tried a different philosophy by staying back at the start.
"We would have taken the Sweepstakes race a lot more seriously -- we wanted that. I know we'll be ready by State."
There is no question the Lancers will run where they belong come the end of November, but they'll now face at least four teams that can look back at Mt. SAC and say they ran faster -- lots faster.
Inserted photos: Parker's Kenan Pala (by Jeffrey Parenti) and University's Charlie Kennedy (by Lizette Adams).