High school cross country runners sampled a shorter version of the iconic Mt. SAC course at the Fastback Invitational in September. This weekend, hundreds of teams from Southern California and beyond will descend on the course in Walnut for the 73rd running of this legendary meet. (Raymond Tran photos)
The renovated historic Hilmer Lodge Stadium - "Where the World's Best Athletes Compete" - is the backdrop for the 73rd Mt. SAC Cross Country Invitational, Friday and Saturday on the campus of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.
There are 81 races on the schedule, split almost evenly between the two race days. Competition begins in the morning each day on the iconic 3-mile course.
During construction, which began in 2015, the finish was straight up what was called the "airstrip." The finish now takes one last right-hand turn to the "gauntlet" between the football practice field and the team camps, to end just outside the southwest corner of the stadium.
Nearly 300 of the roughly 440 schools entered are from the CIF-Southern Section, all getting a test on the course that will be used next month for both the CIF-SS divisional prelims and section finals, the State Meet qualifier.
Here's a closer look at some of the marquee races:
First race 10 a.m.
Race 23, Division 4 Varsity Girls Yellow (2:04 p.m.) - This lineup, if it remains as posted, includes JSerra (SS), ranked No. 1 in Division IV, Harvard Westlake (SS), another strong D-IV team, and Holly Barker of Laguna Hills (SS). Barker just became the first freshman to win the Orange County Championships varsity girls sweepstakes race in 26 years and is one of the top girls in the nation for the Class of '25! JSerra has interchangeable parts up front including frosh Brynn Garcia, junior Anastasia Snodgrass, sophomore Georgia Jeanneret, and senior Ashlee Gallegos. Senior Daniela Quintero leads Harvard Westlake. Also, watch for a talented Bishop Amat squad as they look to qualify for the State Meet on this same course next month.
Race 24, Division 4 Varsity Boys Blue (2:18 p.m.) - Top-ranked in the Southern Section for the division, the boys of Laguna Hills look to support the most recent rankings. Up front, look for Harvard Westlake's Will Sheehy to take the pace out as he also looks to lead his team to the State Meet on this same course next month. St. Francis of La Canada is also ranked in the division. But, watch for San Luis Obispo, out of the Central Section. With less than 1600 students but always competitive, they are one of the top squads in California - for Division 2! Mt. SAC allows schools to enter based on their overall school population, as SLO will compete here on Friday afternoon despite being placed in Divison 2 (Central Section allocates schools based on competitive equity) . Lewis Westwood leads the Tigers as he is coming off a 15:53 performance at Clovis two weeks ago.
Race 42, Division 3-4-5 Girls Team Sweepstakes (5:13 p.m.) - This stellar lineup may just be the most talented of the weekend with Cathedral Catholic (SD), La Canada (SS), La Costa Canyon (SD), Oaks Christian (SS), Palos Verdes (SS) and Sage Creek (SD). Sage Creek, led by senior Stormy Wallace, junior Malia Leupold, and freshman Michela Miracco, is the No. 2 ranked team in State Division IV and winner of the last two State Meet titles. La Canada is ranked No. 3 in D-IV right in front of Oaks Christian with Palos Verdes on the top-10 bubble. La Costa Canyon, led by senior Kyra Compton, is the No. 2 ranked team in D-III with Cathedral Catholic, with freshman Chiara Bonomi, senior Lexi Arambulo, and sophomore Scarlett Martin leading, ranks next at No. 3. A pair of sophomores in Arielle McKenzie and Katelyn Matarese lead La Canada. Woodbridge rated race champion Payton Godsey, and sophomore classmate Grace Geyer lead Oaks Christian. Sophomores Natalie Wang and Sophie Stoddart, and freshmen Michelle Nikmehr and Trinity McKenny have been top performers for Palos Verdes.
Race 43, Division 3-4-5 Boys Team Sweepstakes (5:27 p.m.) - Among the entries are four teams among MileSplit's top-10 statewide rankings: Capistrano Valley (SS), No. 3 in D-III, Torrance (SS), No. 5 in D-III, Santa Margarita (SS), No. 7 in D-III, Viewpoint (SS), No. 10 in D-V, plus others like Cathedral (SS), Mission Viejo (SS), and Palos Verdes (SS). Viewpoint, by the way, was the State D-V champion in 2019. ... Also in this field is Dan Abramowicz of West Valley HS in Fairbanks, Alaska, who recently won the Alaska State D-I title. Top individuals expected to take the line also include Mission Viejo junior Caleb McDaniel, Capistrano Valley junior Jack Stevens and senior Umer Warsi, Palos Verdes seniors Luke Stefanou and Will Kirk, Torrance seniors Vinz De Jesus and Daniel Dorantes, and Viewpoint senior Henry Didden. Didden was the No. 4 scorer for Viewpoint at the 2019 CIF-State Championships and is the only returner from that top seven.
Race 44, Division 3-4-5 Girls Individual Sweepstakes (5:36 p.m.) - The field includes Georgia McCorkle of Agoura (SS), who has gone 16:51 for 3-miles, Mia Chavez of Chino (SS), who has a best of 17:03, Sydney Rome of Yorba Linda (SS), who has gone 17:22, Danielle Hollander (Beverly Hills/SS), Kirra Fisk (La Jolla/SD), and Kaitlyn Ray (La Reina/SS).
Race 45, Division 3-4-5, Boys Individual Sweepstakes (5:50 p.m.) - Strong field at the top includes Isaiah Givens (Pasadena/SS), Kenan Pala (Francis Parker/SD), Max Sannes (Big Bear/SS), Bryce Gilmore (Sage Creek/SD), Daniel Winter (St. Mary's/SJ), Ethan Godsey (Agoura/SS), Blake Levy (Cathedral Catholic/SD), Jimmy Byland (Hilltop/SD), Gio Gudiel (Hacienda Heights Wilson/SS) and Nathan Osborn (High Tech/SD). Givens went 14:08 to win at Cool Breeze. Winter recently went 15:29 to win the small schools race on the 5K course at Clovis. Pala is undefeated in five invites this fall. Gilmore shattered the Dana Hills CR last month. Sannes went 14:24 for ninth at Woodbridge, just behind Gilmore and just in front of Godsey. Sannes also shined to kick off the season on this same course at the Fastback Invitational.
First race 7:30 a.m.
Race 59 Division 1-2 Boys Individual Sweepstakes (9:09 a.m.) - This field includes this list of guys with top-50 3-mile times so far this fall: Brennan Foody (Aliso Niguel/SS), James Guerrero (Downey/SS), Brandon Calderon (Vista Murrieta/SS), Christopher Keyler (Beckman/SS), Christoph Waligorski (Redondo Union/SS), Russell Blakely (Grossmont/SD), John Sesteaga (Glendora/SS) and Glenn Bell (Rancho Cucamonga/SS). Foody, Guerrero, Waligorski, Calderon, and Keyler rank between Nos. 1 and 25 for 3-miles in Division 1 with times between 14:26.3 and 14:47.2.
Race 60 Division 1-2 Girls Individual Sweepstakes (9:25 a.m.) - Aishling Callanan (Peninsula/SS), Isabella Duarte (Saugus/SS), Hannah Riggins (Del Norte/SD), Mackenzie Browne (J.W. North/SS), Jacey Farmer (Rancho Bernardo/SD), MacKenzie Rogers and Tessa Buswell (Poway/SD) highlight this field. Callanan, a junior, is coming off a course-record performance on the challenging three-hill challenge that is the Palos Verdes 3-mile course, and her 16:37 from Woodbridge leads this group. Riggins is undefeated in three invites this fall.
Race 61 Division 1-2 Boys Team Sweepstakes (9:41 a.m.) - Another strong list of state-ranked boys teams will battle in this one including in D-I: No. 2 Great Oak (SS), No. 3 Loyola (SS), No. 4 Crescenta Valley (SS), No. 5 San Clemente (SS), No. 7 Bellarmine College Prep (CC), No. 10 Corona Santiago (SS). And from the MileSplit D-II rankings: No. 3 Hart (SS), No. 4 Mira Costa (SS), No. 6 Claremont (SS), No. 8 Santa Ana Foothill (SS), No. 9 Royal (SS), and No. 10 Mt. Carmel (SD). The field also includes rankings bubble teams: Arcadia (SS), Otay Ranch (SD) and Torrey Pines (SD) from D-I, and Santa Barbara (SS) and Thousand Oaks (SS) from D-II. Top individuals include Dylan Bissell, Richard Moreno and Jake Ratkovich of Loyola, Mark Cortes, Ramses Cortes, Carson Smith and Cameron Smith of Great Oak, Parker Simmons and Rowan Fitzgerald of Crescenta Valley, Juan Chantaca of San Clemente, Tanish Chettiar of Bellarmine, Max Levin of Mira Costa, Chris Coles of Claremont, Grant Sweningson of Foothill, Jonah Bazerkanian and Noah De La Rionda of Royal, Owen Conner of Mt. Carmel, Will Kelley of Arcadia, Atticus Hall of Thousand Oaks, Nathan Christmore of Torrey Pines, and Aydan Wohlford of Otay Ranch.
Race 62 Division 1-2 Girls Team Sweepstakes (9:57 a.m.) - Another who's-who of state-ranked teams, including Nos. 1-2 in D-II, Mira Costa (SS) and Anaheim Canyon (SS), Nos. 4-5 in D-I Torrey Pines (SD) and Great Oak (SS), and seven others either top-10 or on the bubble in the large school divisions: Chino Hills (SS), Claremont (SS), Dana Hills (SS), Santa Ana Foothill (SS), Fountain Valley (SS), Redondo Union (SS), Corona Santiago (SS) and West Ranch (SS). Mira Costa is led by Woodbridge record-setter Dalia Frias (15:43.50). Other top-ranked 3-milers in this field include Annika Salz (Torrey Pines, 16:34.90), Frias' teammate Anna Chittenden (16:36.20), Maddie Coles (Claremont, 16:47.40), Kelli Gaffney (Great Oak, 16:47.50), Kaho Cichon (Fountain Valley, 16:58.00), Allura Markow (Dana Hills, 17:05.90), and Denise Chen (Claremont, 17:11.40).