RECAP Orange County's Best Shine Bright at Dana Hills Invite

Senior Allura Markow, running on her home course, held off JSerra sophomore Brynn Garcia to win the Girls Invitational race at the Dana Hills Invitational. (Raymond Tran photo)


The 48th edition of the Dana Hills Invite, with its picturesque backdrop also overlooking the Pacific Ocean and 4,400-plus entry list, has served as an early season primer for many of the top squads from Orange County and the San Diego Section. With an on-campus course that finishes in the bowl of the stadium, the last 1000 meters run downhill with the last 500 meters on the track.

With some of the top names and programs from the San Diego Section, the top two programs in Orange County defended their home turf with San Clemente's boys holding to form while MileSplit's top girls squad in the Southern Section (CIF-SS overall rankings here) JSerra held off a determined Dana Hills squad for the win in the Division 1 race. 

For the second week in a row, the trio of Juan Chantaca (14:47.6), Brett Ephraim (14:50.3), and Rory Catsimanes (14:51.0) drove home together, crossing within a four-second bubble for San Clemente to lead the charge on a dominating victory.  Meanwhile, junior Taj Clark displayed tremendous improvement over last week at Woodbridge with his 15:03.3 finish.  Twin brother, Pierce rounded the scoring with his 15:23.6 effort.  

In the overall merge, San Clemente scored only 60 points, well ahead of Great Oak, who was running its 'B' squad (the Wolfback varsity seven competed Saturday at the Bob Firman Invite in Idaho).  Dana Hills placed third overall in the merge, and despite not running one of their top scorers, Tesoro placed fourth overall.  

A Division II state meet qualifier in 2021, El Toro senior Garrett Hartline came up with his best performance this season in placing third at 14:45.9.  Fountain Valley's Benjamin Prado placed sixth (14:50.8).  

The overall boy's winner was Godinez (SS) junior Jayden Hernandez (pictured as he crosses the line). Continuing to upgrade himself into one of the top stories of the early season, he won the Laguna Hills Invitational two weeks ago before unloading a 14:30.6 last weekend at the Woodbridge Classic.  With a stellar 15:35.5 at Dana Hills as a sophomore a year ago (placing 38th), he moved away from Tesoro sophomore Griffin Kushen (14:44.5) for the 14:35.1 victory.  

The girls of JSerra of Capistrano Valley made a splash a week ago in placing fourth at the Woodbridge Classic, in an affair littered with nationally ranked squads.  Facing off, once again, against Dana Hills - the Lions ran away with the 45-88 team victory over the hometown Dolphins. 

Sophomore Brynn Garcia (16:39.8; interview above) placed second overall, with the freshman duo of Summer Wilson (17:07.1) and Kaylah Tasser (17:08.7) placed fifth and sixth, respectively. While resting out senior Anastasia Snodgrass, the most encouraging signs were the finishes from Georgia Jeanneret (17:50.0) and Brooke O'Brien (17:59.9).  A more patient approach paid dividends for the juniors to provide additional firepower for the defending Div. IV state champs.  

Ranked a top Division 3 in the Southern Section, Dana Hills' runner-up finish was driven by senior Allura Markow. She moved away from JSerra's Garcia with 600 to go and was able to hold off the sophomore to the 16:38.3 victory.  Impressively, she rebounded well and ran faster than she did a week ago at Woodbridge.  (Breaking down our numbers, this invite ran about 30-40 seconds slower for the girls than the Woodbridge invite) 


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As Dana Hills seeks the state title for Division III, the continued development of Zoe Ott, as she was their third scorer with a lifetime best of 17:55.8 while Annie Ivarsson (17:47.8) and Cooper Murphy (18:06.1) also placed in the top 30 in the Division 1 race.  

Representing the San Diego Section, La Costa Canyon's Gioana Lopizzo crossed in third (16:45.3) while Poway's Tessa Buswell was fourth (17:02.8).  Canyon Crest Academy placed third as a team in the Div. 1 race with Dasha Zerboni (17:40.5) leading the way with her 12th-place finish.  

Mark Gardner is a regular contributor to MileSplit

Photos by Raymond Tran