Nico Young (1153) and Colin Sahlman (1152) lead Newbury Park early in the Division II Boys race at the State Championships on Nov. 30 at Woodward Park in Fresno. (Credit: DeAnna Turner)
FRESNO -- The 33rd CIF-State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno on Saturday was a day for defenders, newcomers, surprises and historic performances.
Seniors Carlie Dorostkar, Matt Strangio and Nico Young all ran stunning times in winning large-school division titles, with the boys each defending 2018 titles and Dorostkar leaving favorite and 2017 champion Corie Smith behind.
Smith, however, would celebrate her runner-up finish in the Division I girls race with teammates, who all wore distinctive white headwarmers on the gray 40-degree day, and collectively pulled off the morning's biggest surprise by denying Great Oak an eighth consecutive title
Over the 10 division championships on a calm but cold fall day over the iconic 5000-meter course, there would be four individuals who defended titles from 2018 -- including one, JSerra senior Anthony Grover, who won a third consecutive title in Division IV -- four teams that also would defend, and two programs, Campolindo and Newbury Park, that would sweep boys and girls team titles.
Division I Girls
It wasn't that Buchanan wasn't worthy of snapping perennial champion Great Oak's streak of seven consecutive titles -- they projected as the No. 1 threat and had beaten the Wolfpack at Woodbridge. But when Great Oak senior star Tori Gaitan was unable to take the line to defend her individual title because of a lingering illness, Great Oak's streak was more vulnerable than ever.
In a twist of irony, it was Smith who was ill the morning of the championship last post-Thanksgiving Saturday and unable to take the line to defend her title. This time it was Gaitan, the recent NAU commit, who struggled to push through her illness the week before at the Southern Section Final.
Of Coach Brian Weaver's five scorers, Smith was the only one NOT to PR. Sundgren dropped 22 seconds, Hutchison improved by 15 seconds, No. 4 Caroline Mendyk (bib No. 167 below), another freshman, dipped four seconds under her previous best and junior Morgan Hutchison went 10 seconds faster in securing second title for the Buchanan girls and first since 1994 (when the Bears competed in Division II).
The top finisher for Great Oak was senior and UC Davis-signee Audrey Dang, who crossed 10th (seventh among scoring runners) with a 17:50.60 PR showing on the clock. It was the first time she had ever gone under 18 minutes for 5K. Freshman Kelli Gaffney was next, eighth among scorers, at 17:56.60 (a 23.5 second PR), followed by senior Aubrie Nex (15th in 18:10.00), freshman Aishling Fabian (20th, 18:17.30) and senior Arianna Griffiths (21st, 18:18.20).
In steadily separating from Smith, Dorostkar's time of 16:45.4 slotted as the seventh fastest ever at the State Meet and No. 4 performer behind only Claudia Lane (Malibu, 2016-17), Sarah Baxter (Simi Valley, 2012-13) and Julia Stamps (Santa Rosa, 1994-96). Dorostkar, a senior at Canyon Crest Academy (SD), hit the 1-mile mark at 5:15.1, .9 ahead of Smith, the 2-mile at 11:26.4, 6.5 ahead of Smith, and then pulled away for the 14.6-second victory.
All the time devoted to mileage and repeats in training is designed with the goal of spending as little time as possible on the course in the race. No one has spent less time on the course this fall than Newbury Park senior Nico Young, widely considered the No. 1 boys runner in the country.
In winning a second consecutive Division II individual title, Young ran the second-fastest time ever at the State Meet. His 14:28.50 was even faster than his 14:28.90 scorcher on the same 5K layout at the Oct. 12 Clovis Invitational. While both fell short of German Fernandez's still untouchable record of 14:24, they rank as the next fastest times ever run on the course.
Young's victory was followed -- as has been the case all season -- by senior teammate Jace Aschbrenner, who crossed in 14:53.70. Sophomore Colin Sahlman and junior Nick Goldstein were fifth and 10th, respectively, as Newbury Park set a team time record -- 75:28 (an average of 15:06 per boy!).
"I felt really good today," Young said. "I probably could have kicked the last mile and probably the second mile if I was going for the course record, but I think it was controlled.
"From the start of the race I wasn't going to go for it. I actually didn't know what time I was running the whole time. I didn't know how close I was. I bet if I knew I was that close, I probably would have kicked. But it's fine."
Young glided past the 1-mile split at 4:30.5, already 8.3 seconds in front of Aschbrenner, hit the 2.05-marker at 9:53.5, with Aschbrenner 18 seconds back, and stretched the gap to 25.2 by the end. Young average 4:39.2 per mile.
Dana Hills was second by 51 points behind Newbury Park while putting down the third-fastest boys performance of the meet. The Dolphins gapped 51 seconds, had a 15:26 average and a 77.13 team time, earning a post-meet bid to compete at NXN. Senior Carrick Denker was third overall in 14:59.90 with sophomore Jai Dawson sixth (15:09.90) junior Brandon Pizano was 16th among scorers (15:30.40) and senior Omar Garcia was 27th (15:41.80) leading the Dolphins. Garcia picked up nine spots over the final mile. Denker, by the way, picked up 15 places between the 1-mile and 2.05-mile markers and maintained that third-place position the final mile.
Division I Boys
In defending his title, Jesuit's senior star Matt Strangio looked stronger and was much healthier than when he was last on the Woodward Park course for the Clovis Invitational. He was third that day behind Young and Arizona's Leo Daschbach, running what was then the fastest time ever by a Jesuit boy on the course. Strangio was about six seconds faster here, crossing unchallenged in 14:43.50, the fifth fastest time ever at the State Meet and 10 fastest performance on the Woodward Park Course. Clovis North senior Isaiah Galindo was next in 15:00.50.
Great Oak's boys, meanwhile, the top-ranked team in the country, returned from their six-week hiatus to cruise to 46 points and a 98-point team victory over Jesuit. Bellarmine was third, one point back. Of the top 16 individuals in the D-I boys race, 14 were seniors. The only two non-seniors were both juniors at Bellarmine: Colin Peattie, who was fourth, and Nolan Topper, who was sixth. Great Oak junior Mateo Joseph was the next non-senior, crossing 17th.
Coach Doug Soles had decided to rest his top six through the Southern Section Prelims (running his C team in qualifying) and SS Finals (running six B teamers to another section title). The senior-led "A Team" was back on the line Saturday with Chris Verdugo placing seventh, Gabe Abbes in eighth, Aric Reza in 12th and Cole Sawires Yager in 15th. That team heads to Portland for the nationals next weekend looking for the program's second boys title with Newbury Park looming as one of the main challengers.
Division II Girls
A year ago, Newbury Park's girls team didn't run at the State Meet. Saturday, they not only ran, they WON! Sam McDonnell, Hailey Golmon and Fiona Hawkins went 9-11-12 to lead the Panthers' team title in the Division II race won by sophomore Alexandra Klos of Folsom Vista del Lago.
Klos is one of two girls State Meet champions with a soccer background just discovering cross country. She had been one of the top girls in the state since pushing Corie Smith to the end at the Clovis Invitational and knocking off Loomis Del Oro's Riley Chamberlain at Capital Cross.
Klos ran the course Saturday in 17:13.10 nearly 22 seconds in front of Colony junior Amber Rios. Gianna Mendoza, a senior from Presentation (CC) was third in 17:36.4 followed by Cate Joaquin, a sophomore from Sacramento St. Francis (SJ), in fourth at 17:39.7, and Ventura (SS) senior Madeleine Locher in fifth (17:43.1).
Division III Girls
The aforementioned Chamberlain, a sophomore, shook off pressure from Southern Section champion Savannah Scriven and San Diego champion Bella Longo to win a second consecutive Division III title. Chamberlain hit the grass finish only a few strides in front of Scriven -- the surfer turned distance runner from Palos Verdes -- but was able to maintain her pace and finished strong in 17:16.00. Scriven, a senior who was fifth last year, was next in 17:22.50 with Longo, a junior from Mission Vista who was fourth last year, in third in 17:46.80.
North Coast Section champion Paloma Hancock was fifth in 18:04.70 in leading Campolindo to the team title. Campo, third last year, beat runner-up Cathedral Catholic (SD) by 80 points.
Division III Boys
The D-III boys race was wide open in projections and that theme held to form as a duo from Maria Carrillo (NC) went 1-2 but it was rival Campolindo who turned the tables a week after the NCS meet.
A week ago at Hayward, Campolindo runners finished first and third, but Carrillo went 2-4-5-6 and won the team title. This time, Carrillo's Colton Swinth won the race and teammate Rory Smail was second, but Campo went 4-5-11-12-13 to grab the title over Maria Carrillo by 17 points. Agoura, the top-ranked team for most of the season, was third.
NCS champion Dylan Gunn led the way as the Campo won the boys title for the first time in program history. Gunn, a junior, placed fifth overall (fourth among scorers) in 15:33.8.
Senior Dylan Cronin was seventh among scorers in 15:39.1, and then the parade of freshman Alexander Lodewick, senior Cayden Hein and junior Owen Lekki crossed 11-12-13 between 15:48.2 and 15:52.6 giving the Cougars five across for Coach Chuck Woolridge before Maria Carrillo's No. 4! And just barely as Carrillo's No. 3, senior Pierce Kapustka, hit the line .01 ahead of Lodewick!
Division IV Boys
JSerra senior Anthony Grover became the first boy in Division IV to win three titles and just the fourth boy in the 33-year history of the State Meet to win a division title three years in a row. This was the seventh time he had run the Woodward Park course and he had confidently said that whenever he decided to make his move, he knew he would pull away for the win. It played out just like the Wake Forest signee said. He crossed in 15:03.20 personal best for 5K. Runner-up Mitchell Ross of Scotts Valley was 14.30 seconds back.
A trio of juniors led Ventura Foothill Technology to the boys team title in Division IV: Junior Joshua Villasenor was fifth in 15:28.10, Ethan Crouch was 14th in 15:48.00 and Oliver Pick was 16th in 15:52.40. This was the first title for Coach Ken Reeves' boys since 2016 and second overall. Foothill Technology was fifth last year.
Division IV Girls
Foothill Technology junior Brooke Secreto was a surprise winner in the Division IV girls race, pulling away from Sage Creek senior Skyler Wallace and Mayfield junior Audrey Suarez, the defending champion, to a win by nearly 15 seconds. Secreto crossed in 17:33.40 with Wallace next in 17:48.20 and Suarez third in 17:53.30.
For the second year in a row, the Wallace sisters, Skyler and Stormy, a sophomore, led San Diego Section champion Sage Creek to the State Meet title. The Bobcat ladies posted a perfect score at the SDS Final and had just 44 on Saturday. Menlo, missing injured senior Charlotte Tomkinson, was a distance second with 121 points.
Division V Boys
St. Margaret's Jackson Adelman was second in the Division V boys race last year and placed third in the Small Schools race on the Woodward Park course at the Clovis Invitational earlier this season. But on Saturday, Adelman would not be denied, holding off College Prep's Jacob Lehmann-Duke on the grass sprint finish by 3.10 seconds. Adelman crossed in 15:39.90, .40 slower than a year ago, but one place better than a year ago.
In that D-V boys race, senior Ronnie Orosky crossed in seventh (15:50.30), junior Miles Clark was 10th (15:58.30) and senior Thomas Matthew was 13th (16:05.70) as Calabasas Viewpoint (SS) was 17-points better than St. Margaret's to win the title. The Viewpoint boys were stunned and surprised when they learned they had won. Viewpoint was eighth in the this race in 2018.
Division V Girls
As is the case with Alexandra Klos, the D-II girls champion, D-V champion Harper McClain was a soccer player who has been an absolute star in the distances since bursting onto the scene last summer in track. McClain, a junior at St. Helena (NC), won the D-V title by nearly 45 seconds over three-time Southern Section champion Mia Barnett, a junior at Sun Valley Village Christian, who was second here for the second year in a row. McClain crossed in 17:13.40. Barnett, as she had to do the week before on the 3-mile Riverside course, held off St. Margaret's freshman Liesel Blau, who was third in 18:00.00. There were seven freshmen among the top 17 in this race, including Kaiya Brooks of Crystal Springs Uplands, who was fourth overall in 18:11.10.
Led by four-time NCS champion Mira Terdiman, Lick Wilmerding won a second consecutive Division V girls team title after never winning before. Terdiman was 11th overall (seventh among scoring runners) in 18:47.40 (a PR and nearly a 30-second improvement from the 2018 State Meet) with junior Maya Lacamp 14th (10th) in 18:59.90 and senior Elliot Singer 15th (11th) in 19:09.50 as Lick scored 73 points and beat NCS rival San Francisco University 41 points.
MORE STATE MEET COVERAGE
Photos by Jeffrey Parenti, Pat Rhames, DeAnna Turner, Dan Tyree