Southern Section Girls 2019 Season Review
Division 1 Team Champion: Great Oak
(Note: This article was updated on 12/27 to correct athlete placement in Division I)
With Saugus moving back into Division 1 for the first time since 2007, the Southwestern League powerhouses of Great Oak and Vista Murrieta had additional competition. But, as has been the case since Saugus moved to Division 2, Great Oak captured an unprecedented EIGHTH straight Division 1 Title in qualifying for the State Meet for a 12th year in a row! Unfortunately, they were not able to capture another State Title as they ran against a juggernaut in Buchanan. But, as has been the case for quite awhile, they concluded their season with another top ten finish at the Nike Cross Nationals.
In overcoming an on campus tragedy the week of the CIF Prelims, Saugus was able to emotionally rebound and earn the runner-up plaque and match that same effort in placing third at the State Meet. This was the Centurions' 15th consecutive trip to Fresno while claiming a top-two finish in 11 of those seasons! Vista Murrieta, despite missing their top scorer from their nationally ranked 2018 squad, ran up their run to 11 straight years of State Meet qualifying as this was their fourth time in the past five seasons they concluded with a top-three finish. The Broncos placed sixth at the State Meet the following week. San Clemente produced their best performance of the season in placing fourth while the biggest surprise at the divisional finals was Tesoro. Ranked 12th in the official CIF-SS rankings going into the postseason, they roared to a fifth place finish and backed it up with a strong seventh place finish at the State Meet. Yucaipa qualified for their first State Meet trip since 2016. Mira Costa was able to overcome a poor performance at the divisional finals to qualify to Fresno for the fifth straight season (11th in the past 13 seasons). They made up for it the following week in placing fifth at the State Meet. At the California State Meet, the Southern Section claimed five of the top seven spots.
Individually, Great Oak's Tori Gaitan was the defending champion but fell ill during the postseason. As the Great Oak group stayed in a tight pack all throughout, San Clemente's Hana Catsimanes took advantage of the relatively conservative pace through the first two miles. Over the last 800 meters, she ran away from Mira Costa's Dalia Frias, Hannah Fredericks of Saugus and La Quinta's Akemi Von Scherr.
Frias had the best success at the State Meet, placing third before qualifying for the Foot Locker Nationals two weeks later. Tesoro senior Clara Meade, who finished 14th at the divisional final, improved to eighth place at State with a huge 5K PR (17:49.90) while Great Oak's Audrey Dang was the only other girl from the section to place in the top 10 in D-I on the Woodward Park course that day.
Division 2 featured many of the top squads in the section in 2018 and claimed five of the seven spots in our Final Top 40 rankings in 2019 as well! They also claimed six of the top eight spots at the California State Meet and four of the top five.
When we ran our preseason numbers, we realized that Newbury Park's girls were going to be better than most anticipated. Once the season started, they came out of the gates roaring and when inserting Hailey Golmon into the mix in October, there was no one that could stop the Panthers as they also rushed to the State Title and a NXN berth!
Claremont was seeking a fourth straight title but could not match Newbury Park in the fourth and fifth scoring slots and settled for a second-place finish. As they were unable to duplicate the effort at the State Meet, finishing seventh, Serrano saved their best performance of the season for Fresno. With the Diamondbacks claiming their sixth top-four finish in the past seven seasons, they finished just ahead of El Toro. Both switched positions a week later. Meanwhile, despite a frustrating season, Canyon of Anaheim reached the State Meet for a fifth straight season, placing fifth at both postseason meets. Simi Valley came on strong over the last month in placing sixth in the division (eighth at the State Meet) while Ventura placed tenth at the State Meet in advancing to Fresno for the third time in the last four years.
Individually, defending champion Maddie Coles of Claremont was determined to repeat. As she won as a freshman in 2018, it was another freshman that stole the show in 2019. JW North's MacKenzie Browne ran away from a very talented field for the individual title. With Browne unable to come close to the same performance at the State Meet, Colony's Amber Rios moved up from seventh with less than a mile to go to place second! Ventura's Madeleine Locher placed fifth at the State Meet (third at the divisional finals) while Jill Walker of Simi Valley wrapped up a great season in crossing the line in seventh. A nice surprise came from Dana Hills' freshman Allura Markow, who was the last individual qualifier, emerged with an eighth place finish. The Southern Section dominated up front with 10 of the top 14 finishers at the State Meet!
Entering the season, Palos Verdes was favored to repeat for their third straight title and seventh of the decade! But, midway through October, the girls from Brea Olinda joined them atop the rankings from their strong performance at the Clovis Invite. Projected to be the tightest battle at the SS-Finals came to fruition with Palos Verdes holding on for another title with a 70-84 advantage. A week later though, both squads tied for that third spot on the podium at the State Meet with Brea Olinda claiming the edge in breaking the tie on the sixth scorer.
Yorba Linda placed third and qualified for their second trip to the State Meet. Meanwhile, with their best performance of the season, the girls from Arroyo advanced onward to Fresno for the first time in school history. South Torrance placed fifth, and in their third straight trip, peaked well with a seventh place finish at the State Meet. Neighboring Torrance also qualified with a sixth place finish and placed ninth at the State Meet. Finally, in a great battle for that last spot, Portola won on a tie-breaker with Granite Hills for their first State Meet appearance. In its third year as a school, Portola placed fifth in their league but was the only squad to move onto Fresno.
Individually, Savannah Scriven was the favorite all season long and shined at her best during the postseason. She not only rolled to the divisional title, ahead of her teammate, Samantha Steman, but she was runner-up at the State Meet as her time qualified her for a NXN spot. Steman held off Yorba Linda's Siena Palicke for that second at the finals. But Palicke would place fourth at the State Meet with Steman crossing in sixth. These were the only three individuals in the top-10.
If all the five divisions to project on the finish for the divisional finals, this was by far the most challenging. Without any clear cut favorite, we consistently leaned more towards Orange Lutheran, Laguna Beach and Mayfield. In the end, Orange Lutheran rolled to a 61-point victory to claim their first divisional title since 2005, which was also the last time they qualified for the State Meet. At the State Meet, they placed third to earn a spot up on the podium.
Laguna Beach earned runner-up honors at the divisional finals while a revamped Covina squad finished in third. Mayfield, finished only four points behind Covina for fourth place, thus qualifying for their fifth consecutive trip up to Fresno. El Segundo was consistent all season and finished in fifth while the two-time defending champions, Foothill Technology placed sixth. Finally, Costa Mesa qualified for its first ever State Meet appearance in grabbing that last spot. Covina shined at the State Meet, moving up from eighth at the mile mark to a fourth place finish, just ahead of Laguna Beach and Mayfield. All seven Southern Section squads occupied the third through ninth place spots at the State Meet, the best showing of all divisions.
Individually, Audrey Suarez was coming off a great Track season and looking to defend her State Title! With limited and smart racing schedule, she went wire to wire to capture the individual title. But, over the last mile of the race, Brooke Secreto of Foothill Tech closed in on her in impressive fashion to finish only four seconds behind. A week later, Secreto would make a strong move with a mile to go. While Suarez did not an answer, Secreto pulled off one of the biggest upsets at the State Meet for the victory. Orange Lutheran's Sophia Gutierrez was third at the divisional finals but in qualifying for her third State Meet appearance, Costa Mesa's Diane Molina rolled with a strong fifth place finish. Another step up performance at the State Meet was Laguna Beach's Jessie Rose. Eighth at the divisional finals, she match that same place up in Fresno to conclude her season on a high note.
St. Margaret's was the overwhelming favorite to defend their 2018 divisional title. With the help of a new freshman, Liesel Blau, they had no problem whatsoever in claiming another championship, and did so with an overwhelming 54-116 victory over Linfield Christian. While the Southern Section qualifiers were overwhelmed themselves at the State Meet, St. Margaret's earned a spot back on the podium again with a third place finish.
After placing eighth a year ago, Linfield Christian's runner-up effort earned them their first State Meet appearance since 2011. With their eighth place finish up in Fresno, they were the only other team to finish in the top-10. Cate's third place finish qualified them for the State Meet for the first time since 2005. With Valley Christian (Cerritos) advancing for the first time ever, only seven points separated the last four squads to advance from the Southern Section. Sage Hill moved on for the fourth time in five seasons. Meanwhile, Xavier Prep and Village Christian tied for sixth place, with the former earning that placing by way of a faster sixth scorer.
Individually, Village Christian's Mia Barnett sat back with freshman Blau at the divisional finals for the first two miles. But a race savvy veteran placed several well timed surges in to roll to a 20-second victory and earning her THIRD divisional title in as many years! While Barnett would settle for the runner-up spot at the State Meet, she emerged with her best performance to date in winning the Foot Locker West Regionals the following week.
Blau would finish less than two seconds behind Barnett at the State Meet to place third, Meanwhile, Linfield Christian's Ryley Burns crossed in fifth place for a huge step-up performance. Unfortunately, these three would be the only sectional representatives to finish in the top 19 at the State Meet.
Photos by Patrick Corsinita, Jeffrey Parenti, Raymond Tran, DeAnna Turner
ALL SOUTHERN SECTION TEAMS
With our All-Southern Section, we placed more emphasis on performances at the California State Meet. With that, we did take into consideration the results from the divisional finals. (The girls' selections were MUCH tougher than the boys as some of those performed extremely well at the SS-Finals were not able to duplicate those same efforts at the State Meet.)
Dalia Frias, So. (Mira Costa)
Madeleine Locher, Sr. (Ventura)
Amber Rios, Jr. (Colony)
Savannah Scriven, Sr. (Palos Verdes)
Brooke Secreto, Jr. (Foothill Technology)
Audrey Suarez, Jr. (Mayfield)
Jill Walker, Jr. (Simi Valley)
Carly Corsinita, Sr. (Capistrano Valley)
Audrey Dang, Sr. (Great Oak)
Kelli Gaffney, Fr. (Great Oak)
Tiani Goeson, So. (Serrano)
Allura Markow, Fr. (Dana Hills)
Sam McDonnell, So. (Newbury Park)
Clara Meade, Sr. (Tesoro)
Maribel Aguilar, Sr. (Serrano); Mia Barnett, Jr. (Village Christian); McKenzie Browne, Fr. (JW North); Hana Catsimanes, Sr. (San Clemente); Maddie Coles, So. (Claremont); Isabella Duarte, So. (Saugus); Makayla Fick, Sr. (Vista Murrieta); Hannah Fredericks, Jr. (Saugus), Hailey Golman, Sr. (Newbury Park); Angie Gushue, Jr. (Claremont); Emma Hadley, So. (Canyon, Ana.); Fiona Hawkins, Jr. (Newbury Park); Diane Molina, Sr. (Costa Mesa); Aubrie Nex (Great Oak); Hailey Rutter, Sr. (Saugus); Azalea Segura-Mora, Sr. (Claremont); Brianne Smith, Fr. (Quartz Hill); Samantha Steman, Sr. (Palos Verdes)
ALL SENIOR TEAM
Hana Catsimanes (San Clemente)
Carly Corsinita (Capistrano Valley)
Audrey Dang (Great Oak)
Hailey Golman (Newbury Park)
Madeleine Locher (Ventura)
Clara Meade (Tesoro)
Savannah Scriven (Palos Verdes)
ALL JUNIOR TEAM
Mia Barnett (Village Christian)
Angie Gushue (Claremont)
Fiona Hawkins (Newbury Park)
Amber Rios (Colony)
Brooke Secreto (Foothill Technology)
Audrey Suarez (Mayfield)
Jill Walker (Simi Valley)
ALL FRESHMAN TEAM
Liesel Blau (St. Margaret's)
McKenzie Browne (JW North)
Aishling Fabian (Great Oak)
Kelli Gaffney (Great Oak)
Allura Markow (Dana Hills)
Brianne Smith (Quartz Hill)
Jadyn Zdanavage (Portola)