Cross Country: This Week in the Southern Section

Race highlights as Redlands East Valley and Yucaipa take the line in a Citrus Belt League battle.

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With many leagues beginning to wrap up the abbreviated cross country season, many athletes will simply transition to the oval for the upcoming Track and Field season!

Serrano Perseveres in the Snow

Originally schedule to be held on Wednesday, the dual meet was snowed out as Serrano's home course in Wrightwood (4,300-foot elevation) received a fresh patch of powder last week.  Rescheduled to Friday, where the athletes still experienced some snow, Serrano junior Tiani Goeson conquered her home course in 18:41.  Sisters Carly and Siena Burns were able to hold off the trio from Oak Hills (led by Grace Dorado) to secure the 21-38 decision.

On the boys' side, junior Anthony Hernandez continued his undefeated winter, clocking a 16:26 victory.  With Ricardo Vasquez hammered the tough course in 16:51 for the Diamondbacks as they rolled to a 17-38 win.  Of Serrano's nine boys that competed, only one is a senior.  

Sonora and Troy in the Fast Lane at the Freeway League Finals

Headlined by the duo Mia Bergman (16:41) and Elizabeth Stetina (16:48), Sonora captured the Freeway League title.  In the overall merge, Sonora began with three of the top five and scored 41 points.  The battle for second place witnessed Buena Park holding off Troy, 51-52. 

On the boys' side, the battle for the title came down to Troy and Sonora.  Off the strength of their fifth scorer, they leapfrogged Sonora for the 35-36 victory!  Sonora sophomore Alexandro Vielma controlled the pace in running away with a 15:31 victory over teammate, Jeremiah Echeverria (15:46).  But Troy, led by Jacob Shirota's 15:51 third-place finish, was able to place all five scorers in the next nine.  

Citrus Hill and San Jacinto Share Victories at Mountain Pass League Meet

Conducted over the course of three separate dual meets, Citrus Hill came out ahead when merging all results together.  Competing against West Valley, Citrus Hill easily captured the dual meet and scored 47 points in the merge.  But, it was Perris' Juan Diego Sanchez who torched the course in 16:08, more than 25-seconds faster than anybody else. 

With only three teams having enough scorers to qualify, the girls of San Jacinto defeated Tahquitz, 25-44. Damara Castrejon led the way for the Tigers as her 19:47 finish was 50 seconds ahead of anybody else.  

Redlands East Valley and Yucaipa Shine Brightest at Citrus Belt League

Slated as our 2020 preseason favorite to capture the CIF-SS Division 3 title, the boys of Redlands East Valley handled Yucaipa in their head-to-head dual meet, 20-36.  In posting three of the five fastest times on the Beaumont High course, REV easily outdistanced everybody in the league.  REV's Matt Hornung ran solo in 15:16 clocking while teammate, Simon Opsahl placed second with a 15:43.  In our own scoring the overall merge, REV would have finished with 33 points.  Meanwhile, Yucaipa would have out-leaned Citrus Valley, 68-69 with Beaumont, not too far behind with 74 points.   

Crossing in a 23-second bubble, Yucaipa's girls rolled with ease in placing the five times of the day.  Sophomore Cali Good (19:05) brought home the victory, just ahead of teammate Kaitlyn Townsend's 19:09 effort.  Good, rising up through the JV ranks in 2019, has developed into the Thunderbirds' top performers.  Eleven of the top 13 girls hailed from Yucaipa.

Capo Valley's Boys Hold on for Sea View League Title

With Trabuco Hills' Landen Lee pacing the group on his own campus and bringing home the expected victory in 14:51, it was the action behind him that drove the action at the Sea View League Finals.  

Capo Valley's Thomas Mordy overcame early race nerves to place second in 15:04, keeping a 10-meter advantage over Tesoro's Dylan Manning all throughout.  This proved to be crucial with Tesoro's Grahm Breiter's surge over the last 300 meters yielded him a fourth-place finish.  But, the trio of Brandon Mordy, Jack Stevens, and Nathan Trueman made mid-race moves to pack ahead of Tesoro's pack and made the difference in their slim, 36-38 victory.   Tesoro's depth almost prevailed with their sixth scorer ahead of CV's fifth, but once Diego Vergara crossed, the two-point advantage stood.   In our preseason analysis, we had Capistrano Valley pegged to compete for a State Meet berth.   

Tesoro's Girls Pack Up the Sea View League Title

While the boys' final was hosted at Trabuco Hills High, Aliso Niguel High was the site for the girls.  In an overwhelming fashion where there was never a doubt, Emily Richards torched her home course in 17:17.  She had already started her 'cool down' before anybody else was in view, with Capistrano Valley's Madeleine Heller crossing as the runner-up in 18:35 ... 78 seconds later!   

The Tesoro quartet of Joy Yassa, Kate Benade, Talia Richland, and Emily McGettigan all crossed in a 15-second window, well ahead of any other squad's third scorer.  Extra attention should be paid to Yassa and her incredible improvement over the past year.  Those four were enough to Tesoro with 42 points, ahead of San Juan Hills' 51 and Capo Valley's 57.  San Juan Hills was paced by Emili Peo's fourth-place finish.  

Claremont's Girls Prevail while Ayala's boys dominate at Palomares League Finals

Led by one of the top freshmen in California, Clairemont's Denise Jie Yi Chen scorched the course in 17:11 for a 27-second victory.  Coming back from a dual meet loss to Ayala last month, Claremont's girls prevailed with a narrow 29-31 victory over that same Ayala group.  With junior Maddie Coles placing third overall, it was senior Angie Gushue (17:59.0) who made the difference in crossing just ahead of Ayala's Shaina Berk (18:00.0) to secure the win.  Ayala's girls were led by freshman Emily Schott once again in her second-place performance (17:38.8).  

The Bulldogs of Ayala capped off a great winter with a dominating performance on the boys side.   Placing six before any other team's third scorer, Austin Lemus (15:11.4) once again brought home the victory to undefeated in the league.  But, he needed everything within him to take the win as Claremont's lone senior, Rowan Orlijan-Rhyne (15:12.7) gave him a battle. With Mason Ma (transfer from Chino Hills) and Nathan Tsai coming across next, Ayala finished with six of the top nine, scoring only 23 points to Claremont's 44.  Glendora's John Sesteaga also impressed with his fifth-place finish.  

Beckman's Girls Own the Show at Pacific Coast League Duals

Conducted over the course of three dual meets at University High School, Beckman's girls, who we slated in the preseason to compete for a State Meet berth, put on a show of strength.  Once again, Portola sophomore Jadyn Zdanavage ran solo, recording the fastest time of the day (17:36.8).  

The Beckman duo of Isabella Tasser (17:56.3) and Estella Knobbe (18:06.0) paced the Patriots.  With Northwood sitting this one out, in our personal merged scores, Beckman dominated with only 38 points.  Woodbridge, led by Sarah Klem's 18:33 performance, placed just ahead of University, 73-75.  University featured two stars upfront as freshman Kaitlyn Carmichael (17:49.1) continues to come into her own while senior Collette Lowengrub (17:50.9) continues to shine.  Lowengrub placed second in 2019 and captured the league title in 2018 for the Pacific Coast League. 

Moving to the boys, with Beckman sitting out its top stars and Irvine taking the weekend off, Woodbridge ruled the action.  In their one-on-one dual meet with University, the Warriors ran away with a 23-38 victory.  In our own merge, Laguna Hills would have placed second overall, just ahead of University. 

Mira Costa and Palos Verdes Split

In the much-anticipated match-up between South Bay powers, Mira Costa hosted the Sea Kings of Palos Verdes. On the boys' side, it lived up to the billing as Palos Verdes held on for the 26-29 victory over Mira Costa.  Mira Costa was headlined by Cormac Carew, who rolled to a 14:59 victory. But, Palos Verdes placed four in the next five spots to secure the victory. PV's Owen Ladinig placed second (15:12) while teammate Collin Lantz (15:19) held off MC's Colin Beale (15:21) for that third spot. In an eight-second span, four came across but solidifying the victory saw those first two represent Palos Verdes, led by Jon Ward (15:25).  

The girls' competition was not so close as the Mira Costa uniform represented the first nine athletes to cross.  One of California's best, Dalia Frias owned the course in rolling to a solo victory in 17:10. Frias placed third at the 2019 Division I State Championships as a sophomore.  The all-underclass Mira Costa crew put on a display as Heather Jensen (17:53) and Anna Chittenden (17:56) crossed together while their last four all competed as a pack, ahead of Palos Verdes' top scorer.  

Servite's Steins Remains Undefeated but the Eagles Soar

Servite junior Jared Steins has been on a tear this winter, remaining undefeated in Trinity League action.  But, it was the Eagles of Santa Margarita that claimed the team victory, 25-32.  Steins left everyone behind with his 14:56 effort.  But, Santa Margarita placed the next three across the line (two freshmen) to pace themselves to the victory. 

Santa Margarita's girls ran to a 20-35 victory over Rosary.  Once again, Kendall Saeger ran to an easy victory. Her 17:47 effort was more than 2.5 minutes in front of the runner-up, Rosary freshman Sage Baumgartner!  

Chavez and McCoy Pace St. John Bosco over Mater Dei

St. John Bosco junior Christopher Chavez claimed the victory this time out as his 15:05.2 was countered with his teammate, JT McCoy's 15:14.1. Despite Mater Dei answering back with three in the next four spots, the Braves held on with the 23-32 victory.

JSerra Dominates Orange Lutheran

The new and revamped JSerra girls' squad had no problems defeating Orange Lutheran, 19-36. Freshman Georgia Jeanneret (17:48.3) overcame OL's Nicole Meyer (17:53.9). Sophomore Anastacia Snodgrass (18:17.9) paced the rest of the team in capturing the next four spots.   

The JSerra boys ran strong up top with seniors Kennie Arriola (15:17) and Aidan O'Brien (15:23) as they captured the win, 20-37 over Orange Lutheran.  Lutheran sophomore Tayne Patel (15:53) paced his squad in finishing third.  

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