Austin Montez has been a standout for Great Oak so far this winter. (Credit: Scott Padgett)
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We moved into our third week of action in the Southern Section with the cross country season! More programs and leagues have organized affairs to allow for more competition. Before diving in, we have to send out absolute admiration to the athletes, coaches, and administrations that are allowing this to happen! Keep in mind that cross country is still the ONLY high school sport competing in California -- and with success!
Southwestern League Dual MeetsFor the third consecutive week, Thursday afternoons have become monopolized by Great Oak in the Southwestern League dual meets. And for the third week, seniors Austin Montez and Brianna Weidler brought home the fastest times of the day.
In the most recent league 3x2 meet, Great Oak girls outdistanced Vista Murrieta by a score of 18-41. With Weidler torching the Temecula High School course, three sophomore teammates crossed next, led by Aishling Fabian. Special props go out to Kali Kraus and Ameya Teli who have shown incredible improvement since 2019. Great Oak's boys ran off with a 19-43 victory. Montez locked up with Vista Murrieta's Noah Murasmith, who both broke 14:45 for the two fastest times of the day. Altogether, Great Oak witnessed eight boys break 14:55 with six of the top seven being underclassmen.
Chaparral's boys, led by Jacob Bustamante's 14:55 wire-to-wire victory, took home the win, 22-35. Meanwhile, Temecula Valley held firm on their home course with a 25-32 victory. TV junior Paige Thamer left no doubt with her 26-second victory.
Murrieta Valley's girls kicked off the action with a dominating 19-38 victory over Murrieta Mesa. One of the new faces on the scene, freshman Isabel Rosales went unchallenged in an 18:30, 55-second victory! The Nighthawks have shown some nice improvement while their top six are underclassmen. The Nighthawk boys cruised to a 15-48 victory. Juan Rosales, motivated by his younger sister perhaps, paced his squad with all scorers crossing within a 15-second window.
Trinity League Dual Meets
Despite Servite's Jared Steins dominating 15:43 individual win, St. John Bosco ran away with a 22-35 victory by claiming the next four spots. JT McCoy led the Braves with his 16:03 performance after claiming the fastest time in the league last week. St. John Bosco boasted four of the top nine times overall on the day, as Christopher Chavez's 16:26 was fourth fastest overall.
In an affair that came down to JSerra's last two scorers, a young Santa Margarita lineup fell just short 27-28 in their dual meet. Aidan O'Brien (16:19) and Kennie Arriola (16:34) placed JSerra out to the early lead by crossing first. Santa Margarita was highlighted by freshman Zachary Gibson (16:47). Two other freshmen were in the Eagles' scoring five! With only one senior in their scoring five, watch for this group in 2022!
Mater Dei's boys competed together separately (same course) and were led, once again, by sophomore Dominic Calabrese.
On the girls' side, JSerra dominated the league for the second week in a row. The new-look JSerra program, headed by new head coach Chase Frazier, has a young and talented group of new faces where the Lions' top four were not in the program in 2019. Also a talented soccer player, freshman Georgia Jeanneret dominated the Santa Margarita on-campus course in 18:36 while Anastasia Snodgrass (transfer from Mission Viejo) also shined with a 19:17 effort.
On the dual meet side, JSerra ran away with a 19-40 victory over Santa Margarita. Kendall Saeger led the Eagles (19:05) as she looks forward to attending Southern Methodist University this fall.
Missing some pieces from their 2019 CIF-SS Division 4 champion crew, Orange Lutheran succumbed to an improved Mater Dei group, 21-34. OL's Nicole Meyer navigated the course in 19:03 for a 30-second victory. But Mater Dei placed the next four, led by freshman Kylie Hughes (19:33).
Big 8 League Dual MeetsThis was the third Saturday with the league meeting over the course of six races as they returned back to Week No. 1's site, Martin Luther King High.
Corona's Elisa Huerta has been on a roll the past two weeks but sat this one out. With that, ML King juniors Audrey Brunken (19:07) and Andrea Gaudian (19:13) led the Wolves to a dominating performance.
On the boys side, we had ML King's boys projected to compete for a top-ten finish in our preseason analysis. Seniors Francisco Zavaleta (15:30) and Edgar Ortega (15:33) ran away from Corona's Victor Ceja (15:43) to lead their squad to an easy 18-44 victory.
In a great team clash, Santiago held off Roosevelt for a 25-30 victory. With the front-running duo of Evan Hild (CIF-SS Division 1 finalist as a sophomore in 2019) and Brock Adams, Roosevelt closed with three of the next four to make it interesting. Watch out for Roosevelt in 2022, as five of their top six are underclassmen.
Landen Lee Leads Trabuco Hills over TesoroRunning 11 seconds faster than he did on the same home school on-campus course, Landen Lee continued to roll with another victory (14:43.4). With the Mustangs getting their two last scorers across before Tesoro's fifth, they held on for a 26-29 victory. With Tesoro (led by Dylan Manning's 15:24.4 effort) displaying some impressive lower level depth, they prevailed in the overall merge, 28-29.
Redondo and Palos Verdes Trade VictoriesBoth winning in dominant fashion, Redondo captured the action on the girls side with Palos Verdes dominating on the boys end. Held on the iconic (and one of the toughest) courses in California, senior Montgomery Allison led her two freshmen teammates to a dominating 17-46 victory. On the boys side, Redondo was without one of the top returners in the section in Christoph Waligorski. With that, Palos Verdes crossed with the first five on their home course and with a nice, 15-40 win. Owen Ladinig's impressive 17:13 performance led the way.
San Clemente Outlasts Dana Hills in South OC Action!Without Allura Markow, Dana Hills competed shorthanded here, allowing San Clemente the opening it needed for the 25-31 victory. Meanwhile, San Clemente's Kelsie Yamano torched the Dana Hills course in a solo performance of 17:40.1 ... 77 seconds faster than second place!
Conducted separately over at San Clemente High, the Triton men matched their counterparts with a 25-30 victory over their own. Overcoming Jai Dawson's dominating 15:37.8 performance up front, San Clemente placed the next three, headed by vastly improved sophomore Juan Chantaca (15:59.7). We projected San Clemente to compete for a State Meet berth in the preseason but will have to wait to see what this crew can produce in 2022. They only have one senior in the program!
Canyon Overwhelmes Yorba LindaCanyon's girls were one of the top squads in the Southern Section in 2019 and opened up with a dominating 15-44 performance over Yorba Linda (without UCLA-bound Siena Palicke). Canyon introduced freshman Makena Oliva into the mix as she finished ahead of juniors Emma Hadley and Bella Frisone. The older teammates both qualified for the California State Meet, in the 1600 and 3200 meters respectively, in 2019!
Meanwhile, Canyon's boys claimed a 15-50 victory in crossing all seven members before their opponent's top scorer. Andrew Lugo cruised onto Canyon's new all-weather track in 15:25 for a 19-second victory. Keep your eyes open on Canyon freshman, Jaden Goetz as he was their fourth scorer.
El Toro Charge Past Aliso Niguel (Boys) and Trabuco Hills (Girls)Santiago Sanchez of El Toro held off Aliso Niguel's Brennan Foody for the individual win to help pace the Chargers in their 19-40 victory. The next four scorers for El Toro all finished in an 11-second window to seal the win.
Meanwhile, the girls took on Trabuco Hills (on the same course as the boys). With Paulette Dominguez continuing her impressive Winter, she outdistanced the Mustangs' Danica Brinkman, 17:37.9 to 18:06.8. El Toro's depth was the difference here as they place six in the top nine.
Brea and Foothill SplitConducted on a tough 2.6-mile course, Brea Olinda held off Foothill, 26-29. Brea's Kendra Painter crossed first in 15:27 while Foothill's Sophia Dudley led the Knights in this close affair.
On the boy's side, it was not so close with Foothill claiming the top four sports en route to a 16-45 victory. Grant Sweningson (12:50) ran alone for the 28-second victory over teammate Nick Allred (13:18).
Los Alamitos Sweeps Laguna BeachOpening up their season, Los Alamitos hosted this one on their campus. Boasting two freshmen up front in Hallie Muniz (18:13) and Kaitlyn McQuillen (18:33), Los Alamitos held off Laguna Beach. Coco Reed led her squad in defeat with an 18:43 performance.
The Los Alamitos boys came away with a 25-35 win. One of the top returners in the section, Laguna Beach's Mateo Bianchi smoked the course with a 15:49, 30-second victory ahead of teammate Christopher Drews. But, the Griffins secured the victory in placing their entire team into the next seven slots. They were paced by Tyler Austin's 16:24 effort.
Laguna Beach is one of the top programs in Division 4 while Los Alamitos and the majority of the Sunset League compete in Division 1.
Huntington Beach and Marina SplitAlso in the Sunset League, Marina's girls needed everything they had to hold off Huntington Beach! Despite crossing with the first two scorers, Huntington Beach was able to place their fifth scorer ahead of Marina's fourth. Tensions abound, Marina prevailed with a 27-28 victory. Marikay Schwab continued her great winter with a 17:23.8, 32-second victory over teammate Makena Castillo. Without their top returner from 2019, Claire Lewis led her Huntington Beach squad.
The boys of Huntington Beach finished with three of the top four to secure a 24-31 victory. A young squad, featuring only one senior in their top nine (four freshmen in that group), the Oilers were headlined by Nolan Walt's 16:17.4 victory. A great battle to the end, Marina's Vincent Beaument was second, just ahead of HB's Camden Hebert.
Tesoro's Girls Overcome Aliso Niguel's 1-2 Punch
Emily Richards of Aliso Niguel maintained some serious social distancing in this one in motoring to a 17:08, 86-second victory! Her teammate, Lauren Schuerger, placed second but it was the teamwork of Tesoro that prevailed in this one. All five scorers claimed the next spots to secure the 25-33 victory. Tesoro's Joy Yassa led the way for her squad that featured only one senior.
Mira Costa's Frias and Peninsula's Macfarlane DominateA young Mira Costa boys crew, bolstered by veteran Cormac Carew, outlasted Peninsula with a 22-36 victory. But it was Peninsula's Ewan Macfarlane that stole the show with his 14:40, 45-second romp over the Mira Costa on-campus course. Macfarlane qualified for the State Meet as an individual in 2019 and is one of the top returners in the section.
Mira Costa's girls have been one of the top programs in the section over the past decade. We do not anticipate any dropoff whatsoever as junior Dalia Frias was already cooling down when her teammates crossed. Her 16:40 romp would have been ninth overall in the boys varsity race! Her wire-to-wire solo victory was 76 seconds faster than the runner-up, Ella Parsley.
Loyola Takes to the Track to Dominate ChaminadeConducted as a simple 3200-meter race on the track -- Loyola showed off their development. In our preseason analysis, we pointed out that Loyola may not return the numbers to warrant consideration for a team competing for a top-five spot in Division 1. But their tremendous improvement on a year-to-year basis is unmatched and they boasted one of the top sophomore groups in the section in 2019. Dylan Bissell and Arjun Vadgama pushed one another to break 9:27 on the track. Their top eleven feature seven juniors, two sophomores, and a freshman. Here comes Loyola in 2022!
Woodbridge Runs the Show at Pacific Coast LeagueCompeting for the third week in a row, Woodbridge hosted this version of the Pacific Coast League duals. With Beckman opting to sit this one out, the Warriors held firm on their own campus. Led by the trio of Ryan Welton, Joseph Moon, and Russell Stottlemyer, they were the only ones that broke 16-minutes. Merged together, the team scores were: Woodbridge 25, Laguna Hills 56, Northwood 85, Portola 95, University 101.
On the girls' side, once again, Portola sophomore Jadyn Zdanavage (State Meet qualifier in 2019) put on a clinic with her 18:09, 18-second victory over University's Collette Lowengrub. But much like their male counterparts, the girls of Woodbridge dominated in producing five of the top 11 efforts on the day. Merged together, the team scores were: Woodbridge 40, Northwood 72, University 81, Laguna Hills 85, Portola 92, Irvine 143.
Ayala Leaves No Doubt in the Palomares LeagueProducing five of the six times, when merged, and being able to outscore the rest of the league (combined) is a pretty strong definition of domination. Ayala's boys achieved that feat in scoring only 18 points with all results merged. Austin Lemus and Mason Ma cruised in together, both eclipsing the 15:30 mark. Ma recently moved in from Chino Hills as this was his Ayala debut.
When merging the girls, Ayala emerged with a score of 22, well ahead of Claremont's 35 points. Freshman Emily Schott put on a show, distancing herself to a 17:41.8 victory. Teammate Shaina Berk was next in 18:05.7
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Inserted photos by Raymond Tran.
Mark Gardner is a regular contributor to MileSplitCA and serves as the Southern Section editor.