Leo Daschbach and Anthony Grover led a fast Team Sweepstakes race at Mt. SAC. (Credit: Jeffrey Parenti)
WALNUT -- You Got This!
The most commonly heard phrase of encouragement echoed for two long days across the hot and dusty iconic trails, turns and challenges that was the 72nd Mt. SAC Invitational over the weekend in a foothill community east of Los Angeles.
You Got This! easily outnumbered the often-heard 'Clear The Course!' from Mt. SAC staff monitors, as well as the sometimes mind-bending 'You're Almost There!' from coaches and supporters when 'Almost' may have seemed like 'Forever.'
Yet for 78 races in just under 16 hours over two days where temperatures peaked into the 90s, high school athletes from across the state and beyond took on the venerable 3-mile course famous enough to be known not just by name but by fragments of the winding, twisting, climbing challenge: Valley Loops, Switchbacks, Crossover, Poop Out Hill, Reservoir Hill, Airstrip.
It is a kind of poetry for runners to take on the Mt. SAC course and on this weekend, many of the best from CA and beyond came to write their own personal verse.
Who Got This?
Great Oak Got This!
In the biggest of the team races, the dominator that is the Great Oak program took home not only Varsity Team Sweepstakes Division 1-2 titles for both boys and girls, but also JV Nationals (Division 1-2) for both genders and Freshman (Division 1-2) for both genders.
Coach Doug Soles' boys went 5-6-11-12-21 for 55 points to better San Jose Bellarmine (141), West Torrace (212), Torrey Pines (216) and Thousand Oaks (218) among the 21 scoring teams in that race. Seniors Gabriel Abbes (14:54) and Chris Verdugo (14:59) led the Wolfpack with junior Christian Simone (15:13) and senior Aric Reza (15:15) not too far behind.
Great Oak's boys, the best in the land, have now won at the Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary, NC, the Clovis Invitational at Woodward Park in Fresno, and the Mt. SAC Invitational. Not too shabby for the lads from Temecula.
While the predictable outcome of the team competition became a sub-plot, the individual portion of the Boys Team Sweepstakes rose to top billing.
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Who Got This?
In an epic finish, Leo Daschbach Got This!
Leo Daschbach, a senior from Highland (AZ), who we last saw a couple of weeks ago crossing between Nico Young and Matt Strangio on the Woodward Park course at the Clovis Invitational, this time was shoulder-to-shoulder with JSerra senior Anthony Grover as the duo emerged through the dust off the Saddle -- which separates Poop Out and Reservoir hills -- to a left-hand turn through a chute toward the 350-meter Airstrip finish.
Daschbach, who came in still holding the 5K national lead from the Nike Desert Twilight in late September, won the sprint with Grover to cross in 14:32. Grover, who was fifth at Clovis, crossed in 14:36. Daschbach had an announced two-mile split at 10:01 and closed in 4:31, an epic final mile for this layout. And Grover, a Wake Forest commit, was right there stride for epic stride.
Thousand Oaks senior Michael Mireles, who posted what now ranks as a U.S. No. 6 time for 3 miles on the flat-n-fast Woodbridge circuit, was third here in 14:41!!
Bellarmine junior Colin Peattie was next in 14:52 as the top six all went sub-15. Junior Nolan Topper added to the Bellarmine total, placing eighth (15:07), just behind Ridgeview senior Alex Cuevas (15:07). In the last three weeks, Cuevas has run at Clovis, Rough Rider (also on the State Meet course at Woodward Park) and at Mt. SAC.
Who Got This?
Have we met? Yo, Great Oak Got This?
The Wolfpack girls, with Saugus, one of their top challengers to their State D-I title defense, in the field, went 6-9-11-12-17 for 55 points. Saugus was next with 118 followed by Simi Valley (137) and Sacramento St. Francis (140) in a 15-team field.
Senior Tori Gaitan led Great Oak (17:56) followed by senior Arianna Griffiths (18:05), a pair of freshmen in Kelli Gaffney (18:10) and Aishling Fabian (18:13) and senior Audrey Dang (18:32). Griffiths, a varsity mainstay throughout most of her time at GO, who had been injured most of the season, had her third strong race since returning.
Junior Hannah Fredericks led Saugus, placing 13th in 18:16.
Who Got This?
Freshie from Arizona Got This!
Lauren Ping, a freshman from Phoenix (AZ) Desert Vista HS, dueled with Carlie Dorostkar of Canyon Crest Academy (SD) for most of the race, finally pulling ahead to win in 16:47. Dorostkar was second in 16:50, which would hold up as the second-fastest time of the meet.
Emma Hadley, a sophomore at Anaheim Canyon (SS), was third in 17:32. Junior Jill Walker led Simi Valley (17:39) and the usual sophomore-senior duo of Cate Joaquin (17:52) and Isabella Fauria (18:10) led St. Francis.
Tiani Goeson, a sophomore at Serrano (SS) crossed right behind Gaitan in seventh (18:00).
Who Got This?
How much time ya got?
- Landen Lee, a junior at Trabuco Hills (SS), won the Division 1-2 Boys Individual Sweepstakes in 15:06, which would have placed seventh in the Team Sweeps race. Ewan MacFarlane, a junior at Peninsula (SS), was second in 15:08.
- Hana Catsimanes, a senior at San Clemente (SS) headed to Wake Forest, won the Division 1-2 Individual Sweeps in 17:22, which was the third-fastest on the course for the weekend. Riverside North freshman MacKenize Browne was second in 17:55 (her sister Makayla Browne, a junior, was seventh in 18:22), followed by Emily Richards, a junior from Aliso Niguel (SS) in 18:02 and Annika Salz, a sophomore at Torrey Pines (SD) in 18:07. Another young runner from San Diego, Hannah Riggins, a freshman at Del Norte, was fifth in 18:11.
- Speaking of San Diego ... on Friday, senior Skyler Wallace led Sage Creek (SD) to the Division 3-4-5 Team Sweepstakes title while running 17:28, the fourth fastest of the two-day meet. She led all throughout while her squad, the defending CIF-State champions for Division IV, went 1-5-6-14-19, including senior Lavanya Pandey (18:12) and sophomore Stormy Wallace (18:16).
- Also in that Division 3-4-5 Team Sweeps field, Mia Barnett, a junior at Village Christian (SS), used a huge kick to place second in 17:56 just ahead of freshman Liesel Blau of St. Margarets (SS) (17:56) while junior Brooke Secreto of Foothill Technology (SS) was fourth (17:57). That time is new Mt. SAC school record for the Dragons of Foothill Tech. Barnett is a two-time CIF-SS Division 5 champion, and was runner-up at State last November.
- Also Friday, Kendall Kramer, a three-time Alaska state champion from Fairbanks West Valley HS, won the Division 3-4-5 Individual Sweepstakes race in 17:36. Kramer, an Olympic Development-level XC skier, said this was her final high school race. Alaina Zamorano, a junior at El Cajon Christian (SD) was second (18:10) followed by Sydney Morrow, a sophomore from South Pasadena (SS) in 18:14 and Diane Molina, a senior from Costa Mesa (SS) in 18:16.
- Using a strong kick with 300 meters to go, Pasadena sophomore Isaiah Givens won the Division 3-4-5 Individual Sweepstakes race in the early evening on Friday. His time of 15:11 beat Keith Murray, a senior at Moorpark (SS), who was second in 15:12. Sebastian Sawyer, a senior at Oak Park (SS), was third in 15:23.
- A week ago, Bakersfield Highland (CS) junior Jacob Yagers was winning the sprint with Garrett MacQuiddy of Westmont (CC) at the Rough Rider Invitational. In the penultimate boys race on the course early Saturday evening, Yagers blistered the 3-mile layout in 15:07 to win a Varsity Division 2 race while leading his team to the race victory. Stockdale senior Juanathan Reyes was second in 15:15. Matthew Berry (16:17), Mario Gutierrez (16:23) and Jacob McNitt (16:27) also placed top-11 for Highland.
- In the Boys Division 3-4-5 Team Sweepstakes on Friday, Jordan Black a senior from North Phoenix Prep (AZ) won in 15:07 with Arroyo junior Saket Sama second (15:09), St. Margaret's junior Jackson Adelman third (15:17 ) and the Agoura senior duo of Ryan Koepnick (15:19) and Beau Bordelon (15:24) leading their team to victory.
- Did we mention that Great Oak got this? In the first race on the course Saturday morning, the Wolfpack freshman boys went 1-2-3-4-5 aka Nathan Lennox (16:04), Mark Cortes (16:09), Austin Elkins (16:10), Ramses Cortes (16:31) and Nick Gaffney (16:51).
- Add Great Oak: Loyola (SS) won the team race in the Division 1-2 Sophomore challenge but GO's Cameron Smith ran away with the individual crown in 15:56.
- Next Add Great Oak: In that Boys JV 'National Championship,' the Wolfpack didn't just go 1-5, they went 1-8!! Here are the scorers: Leandro Candray (senior, 15:25), Parker Smith (senior, 15:38), Kyle Reden (junior, 15:51), Scott Kiehn (junior, 15:55) and Carson Smith (sophomore, 15:56).
- And, in the JV Girls 'National Championship,' Great Oak went 1-2-3-4-5(-6-8) and Saugus went 10-11-12-16-20. Scoring for GO: Kendall Harrison (senior, 19:02), Ivy Johnson (senior, 19:07), Chloe Taggett (junior, 19:13), Isabelle Buncab (senior, 19:18), and Sophie Rodriguez (junior, 19:28).
- Overall, Great Oak won six race titles, tied with Torrance for the most over the two days. Torrance won the first four Division 3 races on the schedule on Friday. Redondo won five, all Saturday afternoon. Convent & Stuart Hall, a North Coast Section school based in San Francisco, also won five race titles, all on Friday afternoon.
- And for anyone who may have witnessed a less-than-graceful tumble to the asphalt late Saturday: No worries. All good. I Got This!
Inserted photos by Lizette Adams, Raymond Tran and Jeffrey Parenti