Cross Country: This Week in the Southern Section

Many leagues are winding up their limited season. As we move week closer to the end of the limited cross country season, we also look forward to witnessing how this all translates into the results for the upcoming track and field season. 

Let's look back at the week that was for cross country across the Southern Section:

Beckman Sweeps at the Pacific Coast League 

In easily sweeping their head-to-head matchup against the host school, Portola, the Beckman squads also outdistanced the rest of the league in the overall merge.

Overcoming the top performance of the day by Portola sophomore Jadyn Zdanavage (17:29), Beckman packed in the next five girls for the 20-41 victory. Estella Knobbe (18:07) led the way while fellow juniors, Joy Weber (18:13), Isabella Tasser (18:14) cemented the meet. With that, Beckman came away with five of the top nine times from the three dual meets, outscoring the rest of the league (when combined) with a merged score of only 27 points. Portola was second with 66, with Woodbridge placing third with 75 points. 

In the other dual meets, led by freshman Kaitlyn Carmichael (18:13) and Collette Lowengrub (18:21), University held off Northwood by a score of 24-33.  Meanwhile, Woodbridge controlled the action against Laguna Hills, 19-41 with Sarah Klem (19:01) winning rather handily by a 45-second margin.  

Beckman's boys not only dominated Portola with an 18-42 victory but in the overall merge, they were able to come away with the top team performance of the day. The Beckman senior duo of Joshua Schuld and Zeid Hussain continue to shadow one another as both crossed with the top times (15:36) on the day. In scoring 36 points in the overall merge, Woodbridge (led by Ryan Welton's 15:39) placed second with 57 and just ahead of the 64 posted by the Laguna Hills boys.   

In a thriller, Woodbridge also just edged out the Hawks, 26-29, in their dual meet matchup.  With the Warriors capturing three of the top four spots, Laguna Hills all five scorers in before Woodbridge's fourth to make it much more competitive.  In the final dual of the day, Northwood outdistanced University by a score of 19-39.  

JSerra Continues to Roll in the Trinity League

Servite's Jared Steins continues to shine with another victory (15:24) at the Trinity League duals.  His 15:24 established a new course record on the Santa Margarita on-campus course!  Steins finished well ahead of the JSerra duo of Kennie Arriola (15:50) and Aidan O'Brien (15:54).  Those two would look back to see the next two finishers in the same uniform to secure the victory over Servite, 22-36.  Overall, the top three here posted the fastest times of the day.  

The young Santa Margarita squad made it VERY interesting as their depth was almost enough to topple Mater Dei.  But the Monarchs placed three of the top four, led by sophomore Dominic Calabrese (16:16) and Thomas Campbell (16:24).  The Eagles countered with freshman Zachary Gibson (16:35) but it was not enough as Mater Dei squeaked by with a 28-29 victory!   As has been the case in previous meets, Santa Margarita featured three freshmen in their top four.  

St. John Bosco controlled the pace with an easy 16-42 victory over Orange Lutheran.  JT McCoy (16:11) paced his squad as they placed the first four across the line.  

 Despite several top runners not competing, JSerra's girls ran away with a 15-48 decision over Rosary.  JSerra sophomore, Cameron Murphy cruised to the victory in 19:48.   In other action, Mater Dei girls overcame the talent of Santa Margarita's Kendall Saeger (18:43).   Mater Dei freshman Kylie Hughes (19:28) led her squad as they placed the next five behind Saeger.  

Up and Coming San Clemente Upends El Toro's Boys

In our preseason breakdown, we projected San Clemente to be one of those competing for a State Meet berth.  Last weekend, they revealed a glimpse of that talent in holding on to a 26-31 victory over one of Orange County's perennial powers in El Toro. 

San Clemente's lone senior, Bodey Horspool ran to the victory in 15:02.  A battle of two of the county's best sophomore followed with teammate Juan Chantaca out leaning El Toro's Garrett Hartline, 15:06.1 - 15:07.2.  While Hayden Beauchemin (15:08.7) giving San Clemente three in the top four, the victory looked well on its way to an easy victory.   El Toro's depth made a run at the end in placing all seven in front of San Clemente's fifth scorer but it was too late.  Freshman Brett Ephraim placing seventh overall was crucial in securing the victory for the Tritons.  

NoVi Sweeps In River Valley League Merge

In the River Valley League at Ramona High, the merge of three sets of duals produced a sweep by Norte Vista, winning the boys competition by one-point over Patriot, 48-49, and the girls competition by 10 points over Hillcrest and 22 points over Arlington. 

Individually, Ramona junior Juan Espino was unchallenged running his home 3-mile course in 15:28.20 with NoVi junior Ernesto Ruiz the next fastest boy in 16:18.90. Another junior, Anthony Torres-Mar also ran sub-17 for Norte Vista (16:41.40). Patriot was led by senior Ruben Robles, who was fourth overall in 16:37.30, and junior Aidan Ruiz, who was sixth overall in 16:51.90. 

Hillcrest freshman Sydney Harpster had the fastest time among girls, running the 3-mile campus layout in 20:08.40, with the Arlington pair of junior Karlee Littler (20:26.20) and senior Anna Raspudic (20:32.50) the only other girls to run sub-21. But the next three, and three of the next five fastest were all from Norte Vista: junior Amelia Mercado was fourth overall (21:25.60) followed by a pair of sophomores in Ashley Magana (21:27.00) and Citlaly Ruiz (21:27.10). Another sophomore, Emily Cardenas, was eighth overall in 21:49.90 for Norte Vista, just behind Arlington junior Ocean Rideout (21:39.30). 

Diamondback Squads Dominate Sultana

In a Mojave River matchup, Serrano's girls continue driving forward as one of the best programs in the Southern Section. Junior Tiani Goeson, who posted her first sub-11:00 minute performance over the two-mile distance last month, dazzled once again with her 17:47 victory.  Already cooling down before anybody had crossed, Carly Burns came in at 18:58.  To put it in perspective, Goeson would have placed fifth in the boys race!  With Serrano posting all seven in before Sultana's second scorer, they posted an easy victory here at 17-46.  

The boys did one better in running away with a 16-47 victory.  Anthony Hernandez navigated the 2.9-mile course in 15:44 with teammate, Richard Vasquez, crossing for second in 17:11.  Like the girls, all of Serrano's varsity group came in before Sultana's second scorer. 

Ayala and Claremont Run to Easy Victories

In competing against Glendora, Ayala's boys excelled to an 18-41 victory while their girls went to another level in their 15-48 triumph.   Austin Lemus (15:15.6) and Mason Ma (15:17.4) held off Glendora's John Sesteaga (15:23.6).  For Ayala's girls, freshman Emily Schott continues to fend off all challenges with another victory (17:51.1).   Projected to a squad competing for a State Meet berth again, veterans Cadence Chang (18:03.0) and Shaina Berk (18:25.9) paved the way for the 1-5 sweep. 

For Claremont, they welcomed back senior Rowan Orlijan-Rhyne to the lineup.  He did not take long to acquaint himself with the situation in bringing home the victory (15:40.7).  He, along with his all-underclassmen lineup, dominated Bonita with the 15-50 victory.  This bolsters Claremont with their re-match against Ayala awaiting.  On the girls' side, freshman Denise Jie Yi Chen is only getting stronger with every week.  Her 17:12.9 romp was well ahead of former CIF-SS Division 2 individual champion, Maddie Coles (17:55.8).  

Now, we understand the multitude of dynamics when comparing two teams in different races, but when you merge the results from Ayala and Claremont, and on the same course (and same morning) - both of Ayala's squads out-lean Claremont by scores of 27-28 when being merged.   Stay tuned...!    

Landen Lee Continues to Pace Trabuco Hills

With his only competition seemingly being the clock, Trabuco Hills' Landen Lee rolled once again with a 14:59 performance.  But it was the trio of Ryan Anderson (15:46), Daniel Almada (15:55), and Marc Sailer (15:56) that impressed.  In what looked more like an intra-squad meet, the Mustangs dominated San Juan Hills, 15-50.  Trabuco Hills witnessed 10 boys breaking the 17-minute threshold in this one. 

Dana Hills' Dawson Breaks Away 

With one of the few courses that was already conducted on their campus (for decades!), Dana Hills junior Jai Dawson rolled with a wire-to-wire 14:53 solo performance.  Dawson headlined in 2019 with his sixth-place finish at the State Meet and was the difference in catapulting his squad into the national spotlight.  In the 18-41 team victory over Mission Viejo, Brandon Pizano crossed with a 15:17 effort.  Headlining for the Diablos, sophomore Caleb McDaniel broke up the Dolphins scoring five with his 15:27, third-place showing.  

Baseline League Comes Together 

The boys of Rancho Cucamonga shined brightest as the Baseline League met up for the first time in 2021 with Saturday's meet at Chino Hills High.  Senior Nathan England (14:59) finished well ahead of teammate, Glenn Bell (15:24) while the two posted the fastest times of the day.  In the overall merge, the Cougars would have finished ahead (27-28) of the rest of the league if combined.  Rancho Cucamonga handled Etiwanda, 20-39. 

The other two boys' dual meets were both narrowly contested, with both yielding 26-29 decisions. Los Upland's Efren Martin (16:00) held on for the victory, but it was Los Osos' (led by Steven Song's 16:01) that came away with the win in placing three in the top four. Meanwhile, Damien outmatched Chino Hills in the first four scoring slots to secure the 26-29 victory. Eric Martinez' 15:48 paced the Spartans of Damien.

Rancho Cucamonga's Allie Scimia continues her productive Winter her solo 17:35 performance.  Showcasing her tremendous improvement, she crossed the line over 80-seconds before anybody else.   Scimia paced her group to the 24-32 victory as the Cougars placed four in the top five.   

But for the day, this one went to the girls of Chino Hills. Projected in our preseason analysis as one of the top squads in Division 1, Chino Hills finished well ahead of the rest of the league in the overall merge. USC-bound and two-time State Meet finalist, Jacqueline Duarte (17:59) was very much like Scimia as she crossed well ahead of anybody else to lead her squad to an 18-43 decision over St. Lucy's.  

Los Alamitos and Laguna Beach Split a Pair

In a rematch of what we saw in one of the first cross country in the post-COVID 19 shutdown, Los Alamitos hosted Laguna Beach at Central Park.  On the boys side, in prepping before he takes on the uniform of UCLA, Mateo Bianchi ran wire-to-wire in his 16:07 victory.   Bianchi placed tenth at the 2019 State Meet and was a pivotal member of the 2018 State Championship that set a new Woodward Course record for a Division IV boys' squad.  Bianchi's younger squad was unable to hold off the fast charging Griffins as Los Alamitos placed six in front of Laguna Beach's fifth to secure the 27-29 victory!  The squads were tied at 18 apiece after four scorers.  

The girls of Laguna Beach turned the tables with a 25-30 victory.  Melanie Falkowski continues her successful winter in running away from Los Alamitos freshman Hallie Muniz, 18:02 to 18:21. Coco Reed also excelled for Laguna Beach with her third-place (18:38) finish.  The Breakers (competing in Division 4) matched Los Alamitos by placing each scorer in front of their opponent to secure the five-point spread.   

Capo Valley's Girls Override the Upfront Talent of Aliso Niguel

Aliso Niguel's Emily Richards continues to prove why she is one the most talented girls in Orange County in preparation for moving onto UC San Diego this fall.   Unpressed, Richards (17:31) once again broke the 18-minute barrier on her home-campus course.  Richards was the Seaview League runner-up in 2019 and placed 20th at the CIF-SS Division 1 final. In the end, Capistrano Valley placed six in front of the Wolverines' third scorer for the 25-33 victory.  

The Youth of Dana Hills' Girls Overwhelmes Mission Viejo

Sophomore Allura Markow cruised to a relatively easy victory at Mission Viejo in 19:14.  Freshmen Cooper Murphy (19:44) and Tessa Anderson (20:17) also shined in placing three in the top four in this affair.  The Diablos countered with Ella Stannard, in placing third (20:13).  With the Dolphins placing all five scorers in the top six, it paved the way for the 18-41 victory. 

Valley View Sweeps Elsinore in Riverside County Action

With the Eagles of Valley View being on the radar for a possible Division 1 finals bid, they will have to wait until later this year to pursue that endeavor.  With that, they controlled the action against Elsinore with a 19-41 victory.   Ruben Diaz paced his group with a 15:33 victory as Valley View crossed with the first three to automatically secure the victory.    

The girls competition was closer but with the same result as Valley View had their first three scorers to secure the victory.  Elsinore answered with their depth but in the end, succumbed to a 22-33 defeat.  Valley View sophomore Ari Long won by the largest margin we've seen yet - over 210 seconds (three and half minutes)!    With Long qualifying for the CIF-SS Division 1 finals as an individual as a freshman in 2019, her time of 19:32 would have placed eighth in the boy's race.  

ML King's Squads Hold off Santiago 

With both being projected as CIF-SS Finalist squads in our preseason analysis, it was Martin Luther King of Riverside that emerged victorious in an epic that went down to the last scorer. Despite being ahead 16-20 after four scorers, King held on for the 27-29 victory!   ML King's Francisco Zavaleta (15:17) ran away from a tough Evan Hild (2019 CIF-SS Div. 1 finalist as a sophomore). But, it was a minute later where it got interesting as the Sharks placed their sixth runner to displace King's fifth and make it a much closer affair than projected.

It did not look too different in the girl's affair!  Also coming away with an identical 27-29 score, ML King's girls were able to push away Santiago's depth. Santiago's Diana Bautista ran away to an easy 18:48 victory. But, ML King followed with the next three, led by Audrey Brucken's 19:06 effort and Andrea Guadian (19:08). 

This concluded the action for the Big VII league (yes, there have only been six schools in the league for almost 10 years now!).  This victory provided ML King's boys with the league title while due to Roosevelt's 26-29 victory two weeks ago against ML King's girls - it gives Roosevelt their first girls title in six seasons.   


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Mark Gardner is a regular contributor to MileSplitCA and serves as the Southern Section editor.

MileSplitCA editor Jeffrey Parenti contributed to this report.