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This article was updated to correct the number of times the Chino Hills girls program has qualified for the State Meet.
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This Saturday, the Southern Section returns to the iconic Mt. San Antonio College course for the first time since 2015 to conduct its annual postseason cross country championship meet! Held at this venue from 1981, the tradition and history of this championship course is unmatched in the record books of the Southern Section!
A week ago at the two-day preliminary meet, with all of the top squads resting key scorers or simply doing what was needed to qualify, last weekend did not provide much more evidence of each team's true potential. But, after surviving the extreme heat and arid conditions of last weekend's preliminary rounds, the 16 qualifying teams for each division have been set and ready to embrace a setting expected to be some 25-30 degrees cooler under cloudy skies all throughout.
STATE MEET QUALIFICATION
DIVISION I GIRLS
Newbury Park captured the Division 2 CIF-SS Title in 2019 and is
the overwhelming favorite to take home the championship plaque this weekend. With their impending clash with Buchanan waiting
in the wings next weekend, University of Alabama-bound Sam McDonnell is the
runaway favorite for the individual title with her best performance coming at
Clovis with her 17:02 victory. Depending
on the overall effort put out this weekend by the Panthers, Ailish Hawkins (17:45 at Clovis) and Tiffany Sax (17:57 at Clovis) are projected for top-10 finishes
with Morgan Nygren and Lexi Darley rounding closing out the scoring. We may not witness their best as they have their eyes set more on the State Championships but the eighth-ranked team in the nation will still produce the top team time on the day. Milesplit National Girls Team Rankings
Great Oak has won an unprecedented EIGHT straight titles and ten in the past 11 seasons. This will be their 13th straight season of qualifying for the State Meet and is the most successful program in Southern Section history for the division. But even with their best race of the season, they will be hard-pressed to challenge Newbury Park. Kelli Gaffney is coming in with a 17:22 performance from the Mt. SAC Invite. Resting out several top scorers last weekend, they will provide the traditional depth and enough firepower to secure another CIF-SS plaque.
The battle for third will be between Redondo Union, Santiago, and Chino Hills.
Led by Lyla Fedio (17:48 at Mt. SAC Invite) and an improving support crew, Redondo is in a position to qualify for their first State Championships since 2014 after placing ninth in 2017 and 2018. The tight pack that we witnessed in September from this group is back to full health and ready to roll.
This is Santiago's best squad yet as they just missed the State Meet in 2016 with an eighth-place finish. Led by freshman Rylee Blade, the Sharks project to be secure after four scorers. Once that fifth crosses, it will be enough to lock in their first trip to Fresno. Meanwhile, a program that has steadily improved over the past several seasons, Jenna Gallegos and Karis Brown are looking to lead the Huskies of Chino Hills to their fourth State Meet berth and first since 2008.
Seemingly in the shadow of Great Oak for the past 15 seasons, Vista Murrieta has made the State Meet the past 11 postseasons, including three runner-up finishes. Isabella Smith headlines for the Broncos and with the program's habit of peaking at the right time, do not be surprised to see them break up the trio highlighted above.
That seventh, and last spot for advancing onward to next week, has been a question mark all season long but Huntington Beach has emerged as the late-season favorite. Led by Makenzie McRae, this would be the first-ever State Meet appearance for the Breakers but their success hinges upon their fourth and fifth scorers in looking to hold off the much-improved Rancho Cucamonga and Roosevelt squads.
Also of note and not to be overlooked, Saugus qualified for
the divisional finals for the 18th straight season after placing
second in 2019. The Centurions collected SIX divisional titles over an 11-year period while in Division 2. Isabella
Duarte is a lock for the State Meet as an individual...that is unless Saugus finds
a way to continue the tradition and advance to Fresno for the 16th
season in a row!
1. Sam McDonnell (Newbury Park)
2. Kelli Gaffney (Great Oak)
3. Isabella Duarte (Saugus)
4. Ailish Hawkins (Newbury Park)
5. Lyla Fedio (Redondo Union)
6. Tiffany Sax (Newbury Park)
7. Isabella Smith (Vista Murrieta)
8. Makenzie McRae (Huntington Beach)
9. Rylee Blade (Santiago)
10. Brianne Smith (Quartz Hill)
others: Nicole Alfred (Rancho Cucamonga), Karis Brown (Chino Hills), Lexi Darley (Newbury Park), Jenna Gallegos (Chino Hills), Morgan Nygren (Newbury Park), Ashlynn Viramontes (Katella)
DIVISION II GIRLS
With defending champions, Newbury Park, moving over to Division 1, they were conveniently replaced by Mira Costa who now stands as the favorite to take home their first title since earning the Division 3-A titles in 1981 and 1982.
Powered up front by one of the best in the nation, Dalia Frias (15:43 to win the Woodbridge Invite and 16:42 at the Mt. SAC Invite), the Mustangs will not only produce a top-10 finish for the 16th straight season, Mira Costa will qualify for the State Meet for a sixth consecutive trip. Presenting the top trio in the section, Ella Parsley and Anna Chittenden provide Mira Costa with an advantage that the rest of the division will not be able to overcome. Sitting two scorers last week, the marked improvement of Heather Jensen and Lucca Franz has provided the punch to place them in the national rankings.
Led by seniors Emma Hadley and Isabella Frisone, Canyon of Anaheim Hills will also advance onward to Fresno for a sixth straight time. They may need a hiccup here and there from Mira Costa to capture the title, but the Comanches have been solid all season as Makena Oliva has stepped in to turn this formable group into one of the best in the section.
With Denise Chen and Maddie Coles leading the way, Claremont should
cruise to their eighth straight State Meet but in regard to holding on for
a sixth straight top-three finish, they will have to hold off the likes of Dana
Hills and Westlake.
Allura Markow is projected for a top-ten individual finish but it will be the scoring pack of Dolphins that will prove to be the difference if they are to leapfrog Claremont. Dana Hills has not been to the State Meet since 2017, but with Cooper Murphy back, they project well in advancing.
Westlake has stayed off the radar for most of the season before emerging as a legitimate State Meet squad this past month. Laura Castagna and Kalista Traversa are prepared to lead the group to only its second State Meet appearance in the past 14 seasons.
El Toro seeks their fifth straight State Meet appearance but will need to return back to the form we witnessed at the Orange County Championships. Darla Medina and Kasey Lynd figure heavily here while the Chargers will look to keep the pack nearby. While after earning their first-ever Foothill League Title, West Ranch will also be in the hunt for a top-five finish. Alexis Fernandez and Hayden Washington have been stalwarts for the Wildcats who last made the State Meet in 2018. Fernandez qualified as an individual back in 2018 as a freshman.
As the top teams have been consistently ranked all of 2021, Peninsula, Ayala, and Ventura look to play spoilers. While Ventura features arguably the top freshman in the nation in Sadie Engelhardt (17:02 at the Clovis invite), Peninsula's counters with the much improved Aishling Callanan (17:15 at the Mt. SAC Invite) who has ascended into one of the best in California. Meanwhile, Ayala will also be in the mix after advancing to the divisional finals for the 19th straight season as they last made the State Meet in 2018.
Others looking to break into the top ten includes Citrus Valley, which qualified to the divisional finals for only the second time in school history while Murrieta Valley advances after placing tenth in 2017.
The last race of the morning may produce the most fireworks as Frias and Englehardt will match up for a third time this season. The Duke University-bound Frias is ranked sixth in the most recent Milesplit national rankings with the Ventura freshman sitting at #13. Milesplit Top Girls
1. Dalia Frias (Mira Costa)
2. Sadie Englehardt (Ventura)
3. Aishling Callanan (Peninsula)
4. Ella Parlsey (Mira Costa)
5. Denise Chen (Claremont)
6. Alexis Fernandez (West Ranch)
7. Anna Chittenden (Mira Costa)
8. Emma Hadley (Canyon, Ana.)
9. Maddie Coles (Claremont)
10. Allura Markow (Dana Hills)
10. Isabella Frisone (Canyon, Ana.)
others: Mackenzie Browne (JW North), Heather Jensen (Mira Costa), Makena Oliva (Canyon, Ana.), Emily Schott (Ayala), Hayden Washington (West Ranch), Jadyn Zdanavage (Portola)
DIVISION III GIRLS
All from that championship squad from the Sea Kings has since graduated but this revamped version, led by Natalie Wang, will carry on the tradition with its 14th consecutive trip to the State Meet. But first, the group seeks their third straight CIF-SS Division 3 title and their EIGHTH in the past 11 trips to the postseason. A vital key to their success has been freshman Michelle Nikmehr while the gifted University of Washington-bound Anna Terrell will bring her speed to the course as she also holds the school record for the 400 meters!
Crossing as their third scorer in 2019, Kendra Painter-Hayes leads the 2021 edition for Brea Olinda. With Taylor DeBarros and Cassandra Apahidean providing improved support, the Wildcats are clicking at the right time and will be right there competing for their first title while also making their way to the State Meet for the third time in the past six seasons.
The Pioneer League is well represented as we have three squads vying for trips up to the State Championships next weekend! One of the most improved squads in the division South Torrance, headlined by Maddie Mummery and Chloe Esponda, walked away with the league title two weeks ago over the Sequoia Gonzales-led Torrance squad. Meanwhile, North Torrance and West Torrance also advanced a week ago and will be trying to sneak into one of those seven spots to the State Meet.
Dos Pueblos has come on strong this past month, throwing their same into the State Meet conversation. Phoebe Wolfe-Lyons has been the catalyst up front for the Chargers. This would be the first in school history that a Dos Pueblos girls would advance to the State Championships. In what will come down these squads' fifth scorers, Agoura, Yorba Linda, and Santa Margarita all have three of the best in the division scoring in the low single digits to kick off the action.
Agoura features the pre-race favorite in Georgia McCorkle (17:37 at the Mt. SAC Invite) while Yorba Linda counters with Sydney Rome (17:44 at the Mt. SAC Invite). Yorba Linda is in the running for their third straight trek to Fresno while Agoura last made the State Meet in 2008.
Led by freshman Sophie Polay, the Eagles of Santa Margarita are one of the pleasant surprises of the division coming in off the grid to now challenge for a State Meet spot and return back, as they did in 2018. Also, watch for the Madison Parrone-led Oak Park crew.
Chino's Mia Chavez (17:49 at the Mt. SAC Invite) will challenge McCorkle and Rome for the individual title as she looks to improve her 16th-place finish at the 2019 State Meet.
2. Mia Chavez (Chino)
3. Sydney Rome (Yorba Linda)
4. Madison Parrone (Oak Park)
5. Sophie Polay (Santa Margarita)
6. Marjourie Lopez (Shadow Hills)
7. Elizabeth Stetina (Sonora)
8. Natalie Wang (Palos Verdes)
9. Katie Hornung (Redlands East Valley)
10. Sequoia Gonzales (Torrance)
others: Lily Ball (West Torrance), Ella Boyer (Esperanza), Melisse Djomby-Enyawe (Corona del Mar), Kendra Painter-Hayes (Brea Olinda), Nicole Reeves (Esperanza), Nataly Toledo (North Torrance)
DIVISION IV GIRLS
The girls of JSerra have been the class of the division, immediately coming out of the gates as one of the top squads in the Southern Section, let alone this division. Coming off a monster track season, expectations were high for the Lions and they have lived up to them. The talented duo of Georgia Jeanneret and Anastasia Snodgrass has carried over that success from this past Spring, but the addition of freshman Brynn Garcia has been where this squad ranks amongst the top five in the section. With a well-rested Ashlee Gallegos ready to roll They look to create a new streak similar to what we saw when they qualified to the State Meet in 12 straight seasons. Motivated as can be, this would be their sixth divisional title in the past 11 postseasons.
With Division 4 possessing more loaded than we've ever seen, La Canada would normally be primed for the team title with Arielle McKenzie (17:58 at the Mt. SAC Invite) as one of the top young talents in the section. With fellow sophomore, Katelyn Matarese providing ample support, this will be the Spartans' first trip to the State Meet since 2017.
2. Payton Godsey (Oaks Christian)
3. Arielle McKenzie (La Canada)
4. Georgia Jeanneret (JSerra)
5. Daniela Quintero (Harvard Westlake)
6. Brynn Garcia (JSerra)
7. Grace Geyer (Oaks Christian)
8. Anastacia Snodgrass (JSerra)
9. Ashlee Gallegos (JSerra)
10. Katelyn Matarese (La Canada)
others: Emma Arredondo (Bishop Amat), Sarah Colebrook (Oaks Christian), Melanie Falkowski (Laguna Beach), Danielle Hollander (Beverly Hills), Sydney Morrow (South Pasadena), Brook O'Brien (JSerra), Angelina Vasquez (Barstow)
DIVISION V GIRLS
Can Linfield Christian, runner-up in 2019, or Viewpoint pull off the upset remains to be seen? Headlined by Ryley Burns, Linfield has been consistent all season and is a lock for another trip to the State Meet. Emma Lakatos and Scarlett Welsome will provide that mid-range scoring needed to secure a trip to next weekend.
Meanwhile, our runaway favorite for the individual title, JiaLian Mackey (17:49 at the Mt. SAC Invite) will have her Viewpoint team off to a great start. As she waits to see their pack cross the line, this should be the team's first trip to the State Meet since 2017. Freshman Ella Katz has improved to provide solid support in that second scoring slot.
That battle for those final three spots to the State Meet will be a dogfight between Xavier Prep, Flintridge Prep, Cate, and Chadwick while the improved La Reina squad lurks in the shadows.
1. JiaLian Mackey (Viewpoint)
2. Leisel Blau (St. Margaret's)
3. Ryley Burns (Linfield Christian)
4. Julia Gerolmo (Crossroads)
5. Kaitlyn Ray (La Reina)
6. Aubrey Eaton (Providence)
7. Anna Disorbo (Cate)
8. Claire Babbitt (Mary Star of the Sea)
9. Ashleigh Schein (Xavier Prep)
10. Jacelyn Gonzaga (Sierra Canyon)
others: Sarah Bendzick (St. Margaret's), Brianna Delgado (Paraclete), Isis Diaz (Sierra Canyon), Maddie Doi (Windward), Emma Lakatos (Linfield Christian), Amelia Kang (St. Margaret's), Grace Mangali (Chadwick)
DIVISION I BOYS
The men of Newbury Park will add another accolade to their continuously growing resume in securing the Division 1 title after claiming titles in Division 2 in 2018-2019. With the fact that the group will simply do what is needed to capture the title, we still suspect their incredible quartet of Colin and Aaron Sahlman along with twins, Leo and Lex Young to place in the top ten overall. We also have Hector Martinez and Daniel Appleford penciled in as with the guns firing, the top team in the nation can score under a minuscule 20 points, which would easily be a new Division 1 team score record.
Under the five-divisional format, the record is
currently 43 points, established by the 2010 group from Arcadia. The greatest margin
of victory (again under five divisions) is 69 held by the Long Beach Poly crew
that captured the title in 1997. Even racing at 80-90%, we have Newbury Park eclipsing that mark. Watching how comfortable they looked look last Saturday, their front five was simply on a threshold run where the goal was to allow other teammates to finish up ahead. We may never see a high school team this talented ever again as they might just monopolize the action this weekend!
Meanwhile, a great showdown ensues between Great Oak and Loyola for that second spot. The Cortez twins, Ramses and Mark, have come on strong this past month to lead the Wolfpack and what will be their 11th State Meet appearance in the past 12 seasons! Of the last five teams that earned the last five Division 1 titles, this squad is just as talented as some of those. Brandon Wilk and Austin Elkins have also progressed well while the return of Nick Gaffney has added an extra punch to their depth.
With a tradition unmatched, Loyola has advanced to every State Meet over the past 13 seasons and in 17 of the past 18. Richard Moreno is carrying the torch for the 2021 Cubs while a solid quartet, led by Jake Ratkovich, Dylan Bissell, and Nathan Mars. Few programs can boast about their ability to always compete at their best in November!
But, clipping on the heals of those two is Crescenta Valley and San Clemente. Arguably, the top five squads in California hail from the Southern Section as these two have continued development over this past month.
Crescenta Valley opens with the strongest 1-2 punch in the section (outside of Newbury Park) of Rowan Fitzgerald and Parker Simmons while we expect San Clemente to place the trio of Juan Chantaca, Hayden Beauchemin, and Rory Catsimanes not too far behind. With a healthy Fitzgerald back, these two are separated by less than 5 points and interchangeable on paper.
With only two more spots up for grabs, we see Vista Murrieta emerging with one of them while Santiago of Corona has the inside track on their first trip to the State Meet in school history. The Broncos have survived an inconsistent season and will look to Lance Denhalter and Brandon Calderon to guide them back to the State Meet, as they did in 2019.
The Sharks of Santiago have seen their duo of Tyler Kaan and Evan Hild interchange leadership roles this season as they are collectively, one of the top pairs in the section. This squad is a State Meet squad after four scorers - Will their fifth scorer be enough to seal the deal? Stay tuned...
But, with any type of hiccup from those two highlighted just above, there is a logjam of teams ready to pounce on the opportunity. Of those, Redondo Union looks to have the inside track within this tier with Christoph Waligorski looking to defend his individual title from his sophomore year from the 2019 finals! The Seahawks are coming off an excellent performance at the Bay League Finals.
Valencia, led by Joseph Pohlot, has come on strong this past month and is ready to play spoiler here along with the Glenn Bell-led Rancho Cucamonga crew. Long Beach Poly and Aliso Niguel will look to break away from this pack and steal a spot to the State Meet.
1. Colin Sahlman (Newbury Park)
2. Leo Young (Newbury Park)
3. Lex Young (Newbury Park)
4. Aaron Sahlman (Newbury Park)
5. Rowan Fitzgerald (Crescenta Valley)
6. Richard Moreno (Loyola)
7. Daniel Appleford (Newbury Park)
8. Christoph Waligorski (Redondo Union)
9. Hector Martinez (Newbury Park)
10. Parker Simmons (Crescenta Valley)
others: Juan Chantaca (San Clemente), Ramses Cortes (Great Oak), Mark Cortes (Great Oak), Lance Denhalter (Vista Murrieta), Dev Doshi (Newbury Park), Brennan Foody (Aliso Niguel), Evan Hild (Santiago), Tyler Kaan (Santiago), Jason Parra (Millikan), Joseph Pohlot (Valencia, Val.)
DIVISION II BOYS
The drive for the Division 2 title has been intriguing. But, by the end of September, Mira Costa emerged from the fray to move in as the divisional favorite. But, hold on - the crew from Claremont has other plans and this will now be one of the more tightly contested races we have on Saturday's docket!
Mira Costa's interchangeable line-up has developed into one of the top teams in the Southern Section. A strong group of underclassmen elevated the group to compliment the veterans Seamus O'Meara and Max Levin. Andrew Martin has been right in their shadows all season long but while this squad lacks the true front runner that other squads possess, a sub-40 second scoring gap will be key in outlasting their competition.
Chris Coles (14:56 the Mt. SAC Invite) has deservingly captured the headlines for Claremont while the all-senior group has welcomed back Jason Miranda for added support. Jude Robledo and Ruben Denson add to the supporting cast as this group is now tapping on the shoulders of Mira Costa. Claremont has advanced to the last six State Meets with all yielding top-five finishes at the divisional finals.
Hart endured a season-ending injury to their top runner early on but with that, they remain one of the best squads in the division. They will have to go through Thousand Oaks for a top-three finish though. Hart's Owen Ahten, Carson DeSpain, and Paul Mangione have maintained a strong foundation for the Foothill League Champs while this will be their first trip to the State Meet for the first time since 2011.
Meanwhile, Atticus Hall has been the catalyst for Thousand Oaks' success as one of the best in the division. A healthy Turner Hayes along with a tight-knit group to finish out the scoring will be the key to leapfrogging Hart. The Lancers look for their third consecutive State Meet trip.
Behind those four, we have a traffic jam for those three remaining spots for next weekend's State Meet! Highly touted and one of our top-ranked squads early in the season, Ayala has endured some hurdles along the way to emerge back into the State Meet conversation. Driving that resurgence. Mason Ma has developed into one of the best in the division as the Bulldogs look to advance to Fresno for the first time since 2012.
But, watch out for Ventura - the same squad that impressed in having all five cross the line at prelims within a seven-second bubble! Staying off the grid this season the Cougar look poised to secure a spot onward and earn their way back to the State Meet for the first time since 2017 when they won the Division 2 title. Mason Jekogian has led the pacing for the group throughout most of the season while sophomore Henry Hammel capture the Pacific View League title two weeks ago.
Led by Jai Dawson, Dana Hills has emerged back into the State Meet conversation over the last several weeks while Royal has been as consistent as any team in the division. Jonah Bazerkanian has been solid all throughout while we need to also watch for Foothill. Jacob Robison has impressed as of late with the team producing their best races of the season recently. We project that two of these squads will be left sitting at home next weekend.
Looking to play spoilers here are the likes of Tesoro and El Toro but they must leapfrog several of the nine teams profiled above.
1. Chris Coles (Claremont)
2. Jai Dawson (Dana Hills)
3. John Sesteaga (Glendora)
4. Atticus Hall (Thousand Oaks)
5. Jonah Bazerkanian (Royal)
6. Mason Ma (Ayala)
7. Owen Ahten (Hart)
8. KC Barber (Westlake)
9. Seamus O'Meara (Mira Costa)
10. Bille Issa (West Ranch)
others: Carson DeSpain (Hart), Turner Hayes (Thousand Oaks), Max Levin (Mira Costa), Andrew Martin (Mira Costa), Jude Robledo (Claremont), Ethan Romero (Citrus Valley)
DIVISION 3 BOYS
The Division 3 boys will kick off the action this Saturday in temperatures that will still be in the mid-50s! That will only allow the top-tiered talent a greater opportunity to go after that 15-minute benchmark for the Mt. SAC Course.
Going into 2021, West Torrance was projected as one of the top squads for Division 2 but in moving back to this division, they have been the standard since the season began. The front-end trio of Conor Gibson, Matthew Frey, and Hayden Green have been exceptional and the framework for success for the Warriors. Not only will this be the team's seventh consecutive trip to the State Meet but all projections have them earning a fourth divisional title in that span.
Much to the chagrin of those in Division 3, Capistrano Valley also moved in from Division 2 with their best team in school history. Jack Stevens has headlined for the Cougars who look to qualify for their very first State Meet berth in school history. Umer Warsi and Luke Corsinita have provided consistent support all throughout.
Torrance and Palos Verdes both come out swinging with solid 1-2 punches with Palos Verdes getting the early nod as Luke Stefanou and Will Kirk are projected to finish in the top ten. But, Torrance has proven to be more formidable in those late scoring slots while Vinz De Jesus and Daniel Dorantes have used West Torrance as measuring sticks of sorts in the Pioneer League.
A trip to the State Meet would be the 13th in the past 14 postseasons for Palos Verdes while it would be the first in school history for Torrance!
Both these squads need to watch out for the youth of Santa Margarita, who has been performing like seasoned veterans. With their top four all underclassmen led by the sophomore trio of Zach Gibson, Liam Raney, and Parker Herbert - this squad will be in the running for the division title in 2022! The Eagles have not made the State Meet since 2006, the same year that most of their top runners were born!
St. John Bosco and Brea Olinda will be fighting for the last two spots to the State Meet. The Braves open up with Christopher Chavez and Aiden Aldana while the Wildcats counter with Manny DeBarros and a strong supporting cast that would give them the inside track of finishing in the top five. St. John Bosco has made the State Meet in three of the last four postseasons but most would not know that Brea Olinda is looking to add to their streak of 11 consecutive State Meet trips!
But, do not count out our defending champions, Agoura. Ethan Godsey looks to be rounding back into form while the rest of the group has developed a tight-knit pack that will put Agoura right in the mix for another trip to the State Meet.
Pasadena's Isaiah Givens is the favorite for the individual title as do not be surprised if he dips under the 15-minute mark, as he did in his 14:54 performance at the Mt. SAC Invite. He cruised in just under 15:12 for the top time in the section at last weekend's preliminaries.
1. Isaiah Givens (Pasadena)
2. Luke Stefanou (Palos Verdes)
3. Jared Steins (Servite)
4. Conor Gibson (West Torrance)
5. Ethan Godsey (Agoura)
6. Christopher Chavez (St. John Bosco)
7. Jordan Galindo (Savanna)
8. Will Kirk (Palos Verdes)
9. Alexandro Vielma (Sorona)
10. Elias Wiggins (Buena)
others: Aiden Aldana (St. John Bosco), Alejandro Delatorre (Jurupa Hills), Vinz De Jesus (Torrance), Daniel Dorantes (Torrance), Matt Frey (West Torrance), Hayden Green (West Torrance), Matthew Galindo (Savanna), Eric Martinez (Damien)
DIVISION 4 BOYS
No division has been more volatile in regard to the CIF-SS weekly rankings than this one! But, as the regular season came to a close, the Phantoms of Cathedral proved why they are the favorites for the divisional crown.
The sophomore duo of Emmanuel Hernandez and Emmanuel Perez added to the veteran experience of Julian Umana, who projects to be their only senior scorer this weekend. This will be their seventh consecutive trip to the State Meet and if everything holds true to form, they will add another divisional title to match the one they earned in 2017.
But, this will not be handed to them as Laguna Hills has developed into one of the most improved squads in the division. This is the first time they qualified for the divisional finals since 2014. They are a lock for their first State Meet since 2006 as the group employs a pack running attack, led by Diego Martinez, Lucas Rael, and Jaedan Cornejo.
Big Bear will be off to a great start with Max Sannes, one of the best in California after rolling to 14:48 at the Mt. SAC Course last month. With Dennis Cordova and freshman Kael Jex expected to run to top-20 finishes, it will all come down to the back-end scorers on whether Big Bear can finish with Laguna Hills.
Orange Lutheran impressed last week with a slim 26-second scoring gap while being led by Noah Lockwood and despite losing a key scorer earlier in the season, we project the Lancers to right there competing for a top-five finish. If so, this will be their first State Meet appearance since before any of their athletes were born in 2002!
Our 2018 team champions, Laguna Beach is led by Mael Metis and Christopher Drews and primed for a fourth consecutive trip to the State Meet. Will Sheehy leads his Harvard-Westlake squad that will also fight for one of those seven spots. Burroughs, led by front runner, Yaseen Sardar, will also be in the mix. Also, watch for Foothill Tech as they once again came off the grid to run their best race of the season last weekend and advance for a seventh straight season.
1. Max Sannes (Big Bear)
2. Michael Camilo Torres (Fillmore)
3. Alex Alvarez (La Salle)
4. Yaseen Sardar (Burroughs)
5. Brady Nakamura (South Pasadena)
6. Luis Gio Gudiel (HH Wilson)
7. Emmanuel Hernandez (Cathedral)
8. Emmanuel Perez (Cathedral)
9. Will Sheehy (Harvard-Westlake)
10. Mael Metis (Laguna Beach)
others: Dennis Cordova (Big Bear), Aidan Ermisch (JSerra), Diego Martinez (Laguna Hills),
DIVISION 5 BOYS:
The action for here features some fresh new teams to the Division 5 stage! For starters, this is the first time that Providence of Burbank has even made the divisional finals and with that - they are favored to capture the title!
The Prep League Champs are headlined by two of the division's best in Xander Penaflor and Aidan Urbina as both are projected to finish in the top ten. Connor Flynn and Henry Virtue have stepped up to compliment those two as the Pioneers possess all the tools needed to hold off the rest of the division. They came out firing early in the season and have not let up whatsoever.
But, first, they need to hold off Viewpoint who placed third in 2019 before going to capture the State Title the following week. Henry Didden leads the Gold Coast League Champs as they have been just about as even with Windward all season. With Joseph Habis providing solid support, where Viewpoint gets the nod over Windward with superior depth to counter the upfront scoring of Windward. Windward is one of those new faces we referenced above. Progressing well these past few seasons with Luke Zanuck and Ben Weitz finding enough support to turn them into a squad primed to qualify to its first-ever State Meet.
For the 12th time in the past 13 postseasons, St. Margaret's will book their tickets to the State Meet. In that span, they have earned four titles and were the runner-up in 2019. Everett Capelle and Kevin Shen have been the headliners in front for the 2021 version for the Tartans.
With Andrew Grinsfelder leading the way, the Seawolves of Pacifica Christian (SM) scored a perfect 15 to capture the Liberty League title two weeks ago. With their top four being underclassmen, they look to improve upon their sixth-place finish that qualified for their first State Meet in 2019. Mooney Warfield, Sam Gandolfi, and Joshua Mitchell will provide that extra punch to make it happen.
Chadwick has the inside track to work their way back to their first State Meet trip since 2012. Joshua Thomas is the heavy favorite for the individual title, Henry Pullara provides strong support for the Dolphins. Everything hinges on how the back-scoring trio moves up through the race to secure a top-seven finish.
The fight for those last two spots to next week's State Meet will be a fight between the powers of Flintridge Prep, Woodcrest Christian, Sage Hill, and Crossroads. Reflecting on some serious history here, Flintridge Prep has qualified for the State Meet for the last 25 seasons, going back to 1997! They will need their best performance of the season to continue the longest streak in the Southern Section!
1. Joshua Thomas (Chadwick)
2. Henry Didden (Viewpoint)
3. Xander Penaflor (Providence)
4. Eyan Turk (Woodcrest Christian)
5. Aidan Urbina (Providence)
6. Ben Weitz (Windward)
7. Luke Zanuck (Windward)
8. Rabbit Barnes (Midland)
9. Everett Capelle (St. Margaret's)
10. Brent Roetcisoender (Desert Christian-Lancaster)
others: Connor Flynn (Providence), Hugo Guckert (Crossroads), Owen Hinz (Temecula Prep), Dominick Schraeder, Kevin Shen (St. Margaret's)
Mark Gardner is a regular contributor to MileSplitCA as the Southern Section editor
Photos by Josh Barber, Jeffrey Parenti, Raymond Tran