Atticus Hall of Thousand Oaks (left) and Aishling Callanan of Peninsula challenged course records at Friday's Palos Verdes Invitational on the grueling 2-mile course just off the Pacific Ocean. (Jeffrey Parenti photos)
PALOS VERDES ESTATES -- On a pristine day overlooking the Pacific Ocean, cross country runners took on a grueling 2-mile winding, dusty course. It is a layout that challenges athletes with hay bales and a mid-race long vertical climb that juxtaposes the glistening blue water behind them with a banner above them at the very top of the hill aptly describing what every runner is experiencing, reading simply: AGONY.
Friday's event on a course that includes two sets of three rows of hay bales for runners to hurdle while navigating dusty, narrow and somewhat uneven trails, is the short course. The three-mile version of this unique layout includes two hills similar to Agony Hill. That one is used for the league meets. Wow!
This meet's format is as unique as is its course, putting teams' No. 1 runners in a separate race from their No. 2s, separate from their No. 3s, et cetera, for varsity, JV, and lower levels. And -- AND -- the boys and girls run in the same race.
In the Varsity 1 race, Peninsula junior Aishling Callanan and Thousand Oaks senior Atticus Hall challenged the iconic layout's all-time standards. Host school coach and AD Brian Shapiro indicated toward the end of the meet that the hot and dry conditions had softened the course to where it was not running exceptionally fast.
Callanan did her level best to belie that evaluation, blowing away the rest of the field's No. 1 runners to win by 51 seconds in 11:28. While it was still 25 seconds off the potentially untouchable standard set by two-time Foot Locker National Champion Claudia Lane of Malibu in 2016, it was still No. 2 all-time.
Hall got a push from Palos Verdes senior Luke Stefanou in the Varsity 1 race, closing strong over a gradual uphill to finish in 9:57.89. Hall's time ranks No. 4 on the 2-mile layout behind on the 9:48 dropped by PV grad Jonah Diaz in 2011.
Stefanou crossed in 10:09.43, which slots No. 6 on the course all-time among PV runners. Long Beach Poly senior Robert Guerrero was third in 10:34.32.
The girls team from Cathedral Catholic, looking like the team to beat in Division III come November, had the race winner in Varsity 2 (senior Lexi Arambulo, 12:27.13), Varsity 3 (sophomore Alexandria Pena, 12:30.06), Varsity 4 (junior Keira Rall, 12:39.22), Varsity 6 (senior Sophia Kisir, 13:16.73), and Varsity 7 (junior Madelyn Basinet, 13:29.37). Bonomi crossed second in Varsity 1 and junior Elaine Hobrock was the runner-up in Varsity 5 by 1.53 seconds.
In the Varsity Boys races, Long Beach Poly, Palos Verdes, and Thousand Oaks each had two division winners with Cathedral Catholic picking up the other first place. PV had three runners-up and two third-place finishers, Poly had two runners-up and two third-place finishers, and TO had two runners-up and one third-place finisher. CC had one third-place as did Bishop Montgomery.
Palos Verdes senior Will Kirk won the Varsity 2 race in 10:14.93 with TO senior Turner Hayes second in 10:33.10. Poly junior Luke Larson won V3 in 10:40.30. PV junior Matthew Farnsworth won V4 in 10:50.49. TO junior Baptiste Garderes won V5 in 11:02.59. Poly senior Eric Brannon won V6 in 11:44.47 and Cathedral Catholic senior Liam Walsh took V7 in 11:16.91.
Photos by Jeffrey Parenti