Cross Country: This Week in the Southern Section

Watch the Sunset League Finals Girls Varsity Surf Division 3-mile championship race

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The abbreviated winter cross country season is coming to a close in the Southern Section. Here's a recap of league championship meets from the past week where we witnessed some great action!

Dominguez and Dawson Lead their Squads to South Coast League Titles

Kicking off the action under cloudy skies at Dana Hills High, the girls took to the on-campus course that also serves as the site for their invitational. This past winter, we were tuned in to how Paulette Dominguez of El Toro had been setting new time-trial records -- all of that hard work came to fruition with an impressive 17:32.1 victory and individual league title over some of the best in Orange County. 

Dominguez, a senior, moved away from San Clemente's Kelsie Yamano (17:45.1) in leading her girls' squad to one of the more dominating performances we've witnessed over the past two months. The Chargers' trio of Carly Miller, Darla Medina, and Madison Greene packed up to claim first-team all-league status and propel El Toro to 26 points. Miller displayed incredible improvement over her 2019 freshman season while dropping more than a minute from last racing on this course five weeks ago.  

On the note of improvement, Trabuco Hills' sophomore Danica Brinkman placed third overall in rolling to an 18:05.8 effort. This is over two minutes faster, on the same course, than she ran at the 2019 invitational.  Brinkman paced her squad to a second-place finish, just four points ahead of San Clemente, 58-62.  

San Clemente's boys, slated for a State Meet spot before the cancellation of the postseason, came in unbeaten after having taken down Dana Hills and El Toro in their respective dual meets.  Unfortunately, due to a positive COVID-19 test, the squad was unable to compete.   That left it between the other aforementioned powerhouse programs.  

Neither disappointed as the Dolphins used the home-field advantage in catapulting over the Chargers, 31-37.  With El Toro holding a slight advantage coming down into the stadium, the Dolphins came from behind once they hit the track.  Dana Hills junior Jai Dawson paved the way with his 14:56.9 victory with teammate Gianni Viola (15:03.3) passing El Toro's Santiago Sanchez (15:04.9). Dawson and Viola were integral components to their run to national prominence and a runner-up finish at the 2019 Division II State Meet.  

The title for Dana Hills was secured within a seven-second window where the two uniforms battled one another. Brandon Pizano and Ryan Broadhead of Dana Hills finished at the top of that window to help cement the team's victory. Aliso Niguel, highlighted by Brennan Foody's fourth-place finish, placed third just ahead of Mission Viejo (led by sophomore Caleb McDaniel's sixth-place finish).

Edison's Boys, Fountain Valley's Girls Surf to Sunset League Titles

With the Sunset League split up into two divisions of four squads (based on competitive strength from previous seasons), the tougher Surf Division saw Edison's boys run away with the league title. 

Competing in two cohorts (a term that is a sign of the times), Edison's lead trio of Jeff Ritter, Wylie Cleugh, Raoul Kelly captured third through fifth places to pave the way.  Meanwhile, Christopher Chan and Luke Fowler crossed together to close out the scoring for the 33-49 triumph over Laguna Beach.  The heavy favorite, Mateo Bianchi of Laguna Beach, ran away with the 24-second victory ahead of Newport Harbor's Chett Clark.  Bianchi is headed off to UCLA this fall.  Newport Harbor fell just two points shy of Laguna Beach. 

Fountain Valley's girls, paced by league champion, Kaho Cichon moved away from Laguna Beach over the latter half to secure the 38-52 league championship over Los Alamitos.  While Cichon was runner-up in 2019, she looks sharp and ready to go into the track season to improve upon her 2:15 personal best in the 800 meters.  The Barons supported Cichon with three of the next nine, highlighted by Lauren Berg's fourth-place performance.  While representing Laguna Beach, runner-up Melanie Falkowski has come a long way, with a full two-minute improvement from what she ran on this same course in 2019.  Los Alamitos' freshman Hallie Muniz placed third overall to pace her Griffins to the second-place team finish.  

Marina's Girls, Fountain Valley's Boys Ride the Wave to Sunset League Titles

The junior duo of Makena Castillo and Marikay Schwab led the way with a convincing 1-2 finish to secure the Wave Division of the Sunset League Finals.  The depth of Huntington Beach closed the gap, but Marina prevailed with the 32-42 league title decision. 

HB was led by juniors Claire Lewis and Quinn Roldan's fourth and fifth-place finishes.  Both girls displayed marked improvement since the 2019 finals.  Meanwhile, placing third with 50 points, Corona del Mar was headlined by freshman Melisse Djomby Enyawe's third-place finish.

For the boys, Dezi Hernandez of Fountain Valley held off a determined Nolan Walt of Huntington Beach for the individual title, 15:34.0 - 15:35.2.  But the margin for the team title was not as close with Hernandez's teammates taking care of business in placing their other four scorers in the next eight spots. With sophomore Benjamin Prado placing third overall and junior Shane Hill right behind him, Fountain Valley outscored the rest of the league, combined, in scoring only 24 points.  Huntington Beach claimed second place as a team with 45 points with Marina in a distant third with 68.  

Chino Hill's Girls, Rancho Cucamonga's Boys Claim Baseline League Titles

On our preseason breakdown, the girls of Chino Hills were slated to compete for a State Meet berth.  With the postseason being canceled, the Huskies validated their talent by capturing the Baseline League title.  Fully recovered from ACL surgery in the fall of 2019, USC-bound Jacqueline Duarte paced her pack, keeping Karis Brown and Jenna Gallegos in tow, as the trio captured the next three spots behind Rancho Cucamonga's Allie Scimia.   

Scimia is arguably one of the most improved girls in the Southern Section as her individual title was never in doubt in a commanding 66-second gap ahead of Duarte.  Scimia placed 14th at the 2019 Baseline League Finals.

Meanwhile, the Cougars of Rancho Cucamonga made it more of a nail-biter than anticipated, coming across with their own trio, led by freshman Madilyn Siana's sixth-place finish, all crossed to close the gap to a slim 20-22 advantage in favor of Chino Hills.  With the Huskies pushing all seven ahead of Rancho Cucamonga's fifth, the 34-42 league title bout was secured.  St. Lucy's placed third with 74 points, ahead of Etiwanda's 82.  

The boys' action was not as close as the black and purple tops of Rancho Cucamonga easily outscored the rest of the league, combined as the Cougars dominated from the get-go. The only real question was whether Glenn Bell or Nathan England would prevail for the league individual title. Bell took the win this time around while Russell Mercado completed the 1-2-3 sweep.  With six of the top nine representing Rancho Cucamonga, their 21 points left the real battle for second place to the rest.  

Damien, led by junior Eric Martinez' fourth-place finish, finished second with 83 points, nine points ahead o Chino Hills. 

Fitzgerald leads the Royal Romp at the Coastal Canyon Championship

Angus Fitzgerald's stock continues to soar as he has been one of the brightest stars in the Southern Section ... on the course AND on the track!  After his 4:15.47 for the full mile several weeks ago, Fitzgerald completed an undefeated cross country season with his 34-second victory over fellow Highlander, Matthew Russell.  The onslaught did not end there with Royal placing all seven in the top 11 and scoring a minuscule 20 points. Camarillo, led by Johnny Slone and his third-place finish, placed second as a team with a distant 59 points, ahead of Moorpark's 75.      

Moorpark's Depth Overcomes Oak Park for Coastal Canyon Title

Oak Park junior Madison Parrone propelled her way to the socially distant league title in an overwhelming 69-second victory to claim the individual title.  But it was the depth of Moorpark's girls that proved to be the difference in the 39-49 league title victory.  After three scorers across, Moorpark held a slim two-point lead over both Oak Park and Camarillo.  But the lady Musketeers placed their sixth ahead of both other squads' fourth to expand the gap. Moorpark was led by Chloe Denham's third-place finish with teammate, Sabrina Kievman placing fifth. Camarillo's Kimberly Willard led her squad to a third-place team finish with her runner-up individual effort.  

Beckman Boasts Two League Titles in the Pacific Coast League

We want to thank Beckman coach, Tyler Dutchover, for providing us this breakdown of this last round of Pacific Coast League dual meets.

Beckman claimed a share of the boys' title with their victory over Woodbridge.  Along with Woodbridge, Laguna Hills share the title with Beckman.

Meanwhile, the girls of Beckman claimed their third straight league title.  Portola sophomore Jadyn Zdanavage completed her undefeated season with the fastest time on the day (17:23.6).  Irvine High hosted this final affair.   

Dual #1:
Race Winner: Adam Lam (16:37) Portola
Team Score: Portola 22 Irvine 37
Portola and Irvine opened up the final day of Pacific Coast League Cross Country action with solid times and a few personal bests.  Portola's Adam Lam (16:37) edged out Irvine's Ansh Yadley by one second (16:38) to take the win for Portola and lead them to a resounding 22 -37 win.

Dual #2:
Race Winner: Caden Hornyak (15:26) Northwood
Team Score: Laguna Hills 28, Northwood 29
A fantastic race by Northwood frontrunners Caden Hornyak (1st, 15:26) and Aaron Li (3rd, 15:44) put pressure on the Laguna Hills pack, but the Hawks group was once again successful.  Fresh off its first loss of the season to Woodbridge, Laguna Hills responded to secure a spot as co-league champions, led by Lucas Rael (15:41), Keaton Knowles (15:48), and Timothy Lacanienta (15:49).

Dual #3: 
Race Winner: Joshua Schuld (14:15) Beckman
Team Score: Beckman 24, Woodbridge 31
In the final race of the day, Joshua Schuld (14:15) and Zeid Hussain (14:28) once again dominated Pacific Coast League action.  Woodbridge's front three runners (Ryan Welton, 14:59; Joshua Moon, 15:08; and Russell Stottlemyer, 15:24) peaked to perfection to put pressure on Beckman's top five.  However, Beckman took the next three places to secure five in the top eight.  Their win creates an odd predicament for the league title; Laguna Hills beat Beckman (Schuld and Hussain were in Arizona racing during a league date last month), Woodbridge beat Laguna Hills, and Beckman beat Woodbridge, meaning the three teams share the 2021 Pacific Coast League title.


Dual #1: 
Race Winner: Jadyn Zdanavage (17:23) Portola
Team Score: Portola 18 Irvine 38

In the first race of the day, Jadyn Zdanavage shot to the lead as she had done in all other Pacific Coast League races.  She was rewarded for her quick early pace with a five-second personal best in 17:23, leading Portola teammates Kaeli Smith (18:56) and Kate Hayashi (19:26) to the top three places.  Irvine's Erika James broke up Portola's pack with a 19:26.

Dual #2:
Race Winner: Genevieve Megow (18:54)  Laguna Hills
Team Score: Laguna Hills 22, Northwood 34

In the second girls' dual of the day, the top girls from Laguna Hills demonstrated impressive improvement throughout, dropping more than one minute each during the curse of the season.  Genevieve Megow (18:54) and freshman Giselle Rubio (19:00) led the way for Laguna Hills, giving it a solid 22-34 win over Northwood.  Northwood's Madison Mason secured third place with 19:09.

Dual #3:
Race Winner: Isabella Tasser (17:43) Beckman
Team Score: Beckman 18, Woodbridge 43

In the final dual, Isabella Tasser (17:43) and Estella Knobbe (17:58) raced to the front to take an early lead over Woodbridge's Sarah Klem (18:00).  Together with Joy Weber (17:49), Beckman took the top three places and seven of the top none.  With this win, Beckman's girls took the Pacific Coast League title for the third straight year. 

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

Photos and race videos by Daniel Hernandez and Angel Pena.