MEETS ON TAP Previewing Mt. SAC Invitational Sweeps Races

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With the 74th edition of the Mt. SAC Invitational taking off this Friday morning, over 13,500 athletes representing over 500 schools, will take to the hills of one of the most iconic cross country courses in the United States!  

Dispersed over the course of 84 races, representing five separate divisions, some of the top squads in California will convene at Mt. San Antonio College this weekend.  Running continuously over the course of two days, there will be three separate races competing on the same course!  Our friends at Finished Results will have live results all throughout, including a timing mat at the one-mile and two-mile marks!  

Two revolutions around Valley Loop, winding your way up through the Switchbacks to escalate down off that first hill, overlooking the new stadium, moving to the 'cross-over' only to find yourself on the cusp of Poop-Out Hill.  Once you somehow reach the peak of Poop Out, you find yourself with one last mile to go, only to realize that you have one more ascent in Reservoir Hill.  After you reach that peak, you have 800 meters to go to pay dirt!  As you approach the gauntlet, a 100-meter straightaway,  you make one last rush to the finish line! 

Only the Mt. SAC course offers these fabled landmarks!

Friday will feature schools that represent Divisions 3, 4, and 5.  As the sun sets, we bring out the best in the Individual and Team Sweepstakes races. And then Saturday, the morning schedule features the Individual and Team Sweepstakes races in the mid-morning.  





Will anyone this weekend challenge the fastest times over the past decade at Mt. SAC: 14:23.20 (boys), 15:49.00 (girls)?

FRIDAY SWEEPS (Divisions 3, 4, 5)

Girls Team Sweeps
(Race No. 42 - 5:13 pm)

Several of the top programs in the San Diego Section, regardless of division, headline this one. Four of the top five squads for Division III in California take to the same stage! Ranked second and third in our most recent MileSplit CA rankings, Cathedral Catholic and La Costa Canyon will battle it out.  As we approach the postseason, this provides more insight into the two SD Section powerhouses while LCC's Gioana Lopizzo is expecting to pace the field out front.  Meanwhile, Alexandria Pena and Scarlett Martin headline for Cathedral Catholic.

Also, watch for University City (SD) which is fifth in the statewide rankings for Division III.  Centurions are led by Jenna O'Beirne and transfer Winter Moritz.  Dana Hills (SS) is ranked fourth but will compete without the services of their top girl, Allura Markow, who is resting for the upcoming postseason. 

La Jolla (SD), currently ranked sixth in the statewide rankings for Division IV features one of the top freshmen in the state in Chiara Dailey while teammate, Kirra Fisk also looks for a top-five finish for the Vikings.  

South Torrance (SS), led by the duo of Chloe Esponda and Karissa Kira will look to put their full unit together this Friday to support being ranked sixth in the state for Division III.  Meanwhile, also watch for South Pasadena (SS).  This will only be their second invite for the season, as Abigail Errington and Amelie Geoffron both broke 17:30 at the Woodbridge Invite last month.  

Boys Team Sweeps (Race No. 43 - 5:27 pm)

A preview of next month's CIF-SS Finals will ensue here in this affair. Unfortunately, sickness sweeping through the Santa Margarita (SS) squad will see the Eagles sitting this one out but the field remains loaded. The boys of Dana Hills, led by soph Evan Noonan, come in a slight favorite in their first year competing on a Friday for the Mt. SAC Invite. Garrett Woodruff impressed last weekend while Jack Jones continues to work his way back up toward the front of their scoring pack.

We get our first head-to-head matchup in 2022 between them and the powers of West Torrance (SS) and Thousand Oaks (SS).  Both squads have limited their invitational racing schedule as this may clarify the most recent CIF-SS team rankings here.  The interchangeable lineup of Thousand Oaks saw soph Oliver Clippinger-Zimmerman lead the group.  Meanwhile, West Torrance will counter with Aaron Cohen and Yudai Shimizu leading the way.  

Matching up against those Division III squads, arguably, the top three squads in California for Division IV will also match up.  St. Francis (SS) moved into the top spot in the state after their impressive performance at the Clovis Invite.  The duo of Hayden Owen and Luke Metcalf lead the Golden Knights.  Meanwhile, almost even in our state rankings, St. John Bosco (SS) and Aidan Aldana will also lace it up.  But, up front, expect the junior tandem of Emmanuel Hernandez and Emmanuel Perez of Cathedral (SS) to be leading the pace in this battle.

A young and much improved Yosemite team makes the trek down to Mt. SAC as the top team in California for Division V.  Sophomore twins, Ben and Jack Olney along with fellow soph Ford Stegge will look to pull off the upset and take down some of the powers in Divisions III and IV!

Other ranked squads to watch out for include Agoura and Moorpark along with University City, coming up from the San Diego Section.

Girls Individual Sweeps (Race No. 44 - 5:36 pm)

This race is geared more toward those squads with a top front-runner to allow some of the top individuals to match up against one another. With that, Calabasas (SS) junior Arielle McKenzie is the favorite.  With some early season success, along with a limited racing schedule, the La Canada transfer owns a 17:28.8 lifetime best on the Mt. SAC course when she was runner-up at the Division 4 finals in 2021.  

Shadow Hills (SS) senior Marjourie Lopez has one of the top three-mile times in the division (17:06.2) as she has run under 17:30 on four different courses this season. Beverly Hills (SS) senior Danielle Hollander advanced to the State Meet in 2021 when she ran 18:19.4 on this course placing seventh at the CIF-SS Finals. Her 16:54.2 at the Woodbridge Invite ranks as one of the top times for Division IV in the state.  

Other individuals to watch include Ella Boyer of Esperanza (SS) along with Xavier College Prep (SS) freshman, Chloe Elbaz.  Barstow (SS) senior, Angelina Vasquez, was a State Meet qualifier for Division IV a year ago.  

Regarding the team competition in this one, Bishop Amat (SS) is projected to make the State Meet next month. One of the most improved girls in the Southern Section, senior Emma Arredondo rolled to a 16:56 at the Woodbridge Invite last month while teammate Sophia Ebiner also shined with a 17:19 in the same race. 

Yorba Linda (SS) will be right there with Bishop Amat as well, as they also project to advance to the State Meet.  The Mustangs will feature Sydney Rome up front, who comes back to Mt. SAC with a 17:48 resume when she placed third in 2021 to advance to the State Meet as an individual. 

Boys Individual Sweeps (Race No. 45 - 5:50 pm)

The heavy favorite here is West Ranch senior Bille Issa. His sixth-place finish (13:58) at the Woodbridge Classic moved him into the conversation as one of the best in California while he backed up that claim with his 15:04.4 performance at Clovis two weekends ago. He is now the early favorite for the Division III individual title next month.  Can anybody help push Issa under that coveted 15-minute barrier?  

Templeton junior Joshua Bell is up for the challenge, as he is also coming off a strong performance (15:15.1) at Clovis and comes in equipped with a 15:07.0 effort from last year's Mt. SAC Invite!   

Coming off their best performances of the season at the Clovis Invite, Jonah Billings (15:41) of Foothill Tech and La Costa Canyon's Jacob Niednagel (15:43).  Other top individuals to watch for include Mission Viejo's Caleb McDaniel, who is coming off a 14:52 from the Orange County Championships.  Also of note, Damien's Diego Urdiales has put together a solid season, including a 15:07 performance at the Woodbridge Invite.  

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SATURDAY SWEEPS (Divisions 1 and 2)
Boys Individual Sweeps (Race No. 59 - 9:09 am)

The ongoing battle between two of California's best in Long Beach Poly's Cameron Rhone and Millikan's Jason Parra reveals another chapter this weekend. Both juniors have gone back and forth all season long with Parra coming in with a 15:06 best from last year's Division 1 final where he advanced to the State Meet as an individual.  Rhone clocked in at 15:33 in that same race in 2021 but is one of the more improved athletes in the section, as evidenced by his 14:59, third-place finish at the Portland Invite a month ago. But, this will be much more than a two-man race, as with the cooler temps, we will see a number of individuals run under 15:00 in this one!

Watch for Grossmont (SD) senior Russell Blakely placed third (15:13) in this same race a year ago. Saugus (SS) senior Jacob Fredericks comes in with a 15:30 best for the Mt. SAC course but comes in strong after his 15:16.9 clocking at the Clovis Invite two weeks ago.  

Santa Ana's Jimmy Dominguez placed ninth in this race last year, before rolling out a 15:22 effort to advance to the State Meet out of Division 1.  Meanwhile, Westlake's KC Barber crossed in tenth place in 2021 with a 15:33 best for the Mt. SAC Course.  

Much improved from running a 16:44 at Mt. SAC last year, Godinez (SS) junior Jayden Hernandez placed sixth at last weekend's Orange County Championships (14:32). Hernandez owns three sub-14:35 performances in 2022.

Owners of the longest-running streak of CIF-SS finals appearances, the crew of Loyola will be one of the favorites to capture the team title here.  Jake Ratkovich and Harrison Lavery lead the Cubs for the senior-laden crew.  

Girls Individual Sweeps (Race No. 60 - 9:25 am)

One of the top talents in the San Diego Section, Poway (SD) junior Tessa Buswell placed second a year ago in this same race with a 17:45 performance.  Last month, the junior posted a 16:20 at the Woodbridge Classic.  Also returning from 2021, JW North (SS) senior Mackenzie Browne placed sixth a year ago (18:12).  

Competing in the Team Sweepstakes race in 2021, Redondo Union (SS) moves over with front-running Lyla Fedio for the 2022 edition.  The junior rolled to a 17:43 at the divisional finals to lead the Sea Kings to a fourth-place finish in Division 1.  She captured the Central Park Invite (17:18) by an overwhelming 27-second margin three weeks ago.  

But, aside from those top talents, the favorite may very well be Clovis West (CS) freshman, Cameron Macias. One of the top freshmen talents in the nation, she held her own against a veteran field in running 16:41 at the Woodbridge Classic.  Two weeks ago, she placed fourth at the Clovis Invite with a 17:29 performance for the eighth-fastest effort for a freshman in course history!

Etiwanda (SS) senior Janelle Avilez has become one of the top girls in the division as she headlined with a 17:02 effort at Woodbridge and placed third at last weekend's Inland Empire Challenge (17:12).  

Westview sophomore Kaitlyn Arciaga will also be in the running for a top-five finish.  El Camino (SD) McCall Dame comes in with a 17:04 performance at the Woodbridge Invite but also, watch for Liberty (CS) junior Nicole Bridges who broke the 17-minute threshold at the Woodbridge Invite.

Boys Team Sweeps (Race No. 61 - 9:41 pm)

In what should be a Division I State Meet preview in five weeks, the top four squads, and six of the top eight, in California match up against one another. The Tritons of San Clemente (SS) have employed a front trio, unmatched by any other in the division. Juan Chantaca is coming off capturing the title in last weekend's Orange County Championships.  But, Brett Ephraim and Rory Catsimanes were seconds behind him.  Meanwhile, they have added more depth to their back-end scoring as evidenced in their runner-up finish (to Newbury Park) at the Clovis Invite two weeks ago.

Great Oak (SS) seeks to regain that top spot with a victory at Mt. SAC!  Hoping to field a full squad this weekend, six different boys have scored in their top four in the last month with the last two outings being sporadic for the Wolfpack.  Gabriel Rodriguez looks to regain that top spot while Mark Cortes has been their most consistent this fall.  With all cylinders clicking, Great Oak can overcome San Clemente but the Tritons have been far more consistent.  

Can Crescenta Valley (SS) pull off the upset?  Parker Simmons (15:16.6 at the Clovis Invite) has been their top Falcon this season while Luke Cheney and Harrison Connors have interchanged with one another in those next two scoring slots.  They have held that third slot in the rankings all season long.  Meanwhile, Torrey Pines (SD) makes the trip up north as the top squad from the San Diego Section.  Much improved as a team, Ryan Thomas has been the catalyst up front, running a 14:17.7 at the Woodbridge Classic.  

Also representing the Southern Section for Division 1, watch for Trabuco Hills (SS) and Redondo Union. Both squads have been interchangeable this Fall but both are projected to advance to the State Meet next month.  Sophomore Carsten Williams leads Trabuco while Aaron Thomas of Redondo has become one of the top boys in the division in 2022. 

Looking to break up this Division 1 showdown, the CIF-SS Division 2 defending champions Mira Costa (SS). Having yet to field their full squad all in one race, the Mustangs are primed for a strong postseason push like we witnessed in 2021. Andrew Martin returns as their top scorer with a 15:22 best from last year's divisional finals at Mt. SAC.  

Also representing Division 2, the interchangeable line-up of Ayala (SS) also looks to ramp it up as they approach the postseason.  Arguably, no team stepped it up more with their runner-up finish (to Mira Costa) at the 2021 finals.  Nathan Tsai was their top scorer this season at the Clovis Invite two weeks ago.   

Arcadia (SS), Tesoro (SS), and Santa Barbara (SS) also expect to vie for a top-five finish.

Girls Team Sweeps (Race No. 62 - 9:57 pm)

One of the surprise storylines of the season thus far has been the ascension of Rancho Cucamonga (SS) and its rise into the national spotlight. A squad that has never made the California State Meet is now one of the best in the state while continuing to improve. More so, the race-savvy, pack running tactics are remarkable, employing a 13-second scoring gap at the Portland Invite and easily capturing the Inland Empire Champs a week ago with a 15-second scoring margin. They are currently second in California and on top of the CIF-SS Division 1 ranks. Nicole Alfred and Madilyn Siana have paced the Cougars this season.  

But, they will have to contend against some of the best in the state as the San Diego Section brings Torrey Pines, Canyon Crest Academy, and Del Norte up for the battle.  Meanwhile, the girls of Great Oak and Mira Costa will also look to pull the upset over Rancho Cucamonga. 

Torrey Pines is the defending SDS-CIF Division 1 champion and one of the top squads in the state once again. Scarlett Taylor and Sammi Dorostkar headline for the Falcons as they will look to fend off Canyon Crest Academy next month in defense of their title. Taylor placed fifth in this race in 2021 (17:41).  Meanwhile, Dasha Zerboni along with Katja Dunayevich will lead the Ravens of CCA in their quest to unseat Torrey Pines. Also hailing from the San Diego Section, Hannah Riggins and Emily Russo lead their Del Norte squad which MileSplit CA also projects to advance to the State Meet.    

The girls are Great Oak will look to keep pace with Rancho Cucamonga. Kelli Gaffney placed second in this race a year ago with a lifetime best of 17:22.0 for the Mt. SAC course. The senior is looking to rebound from a tough showing at Clovis while the group looks to regain that momentum we saw at the Woodbridge Invite last month.  

Our defending champion for the team sweeps is Mira Costa.  Looking to overcome the graduation of Dalia Frias and two other scorers, Anna Chittenden now carries the torch for the Mustangs.  They continue to be one of the top teams in Division II while Heather Jensen is also having a solid senior season.  

Other individuals to look for include Peninsula (SS) senior Aishling Callanan.  She looks to recapture that same level that saw her win the Individual Sweeps (17:15) a year ago at the Mt. SAC Invite.  Long Beach Poly freshman Avery Peck is coming off an 18:22 effort at the Clovis Invite two weeks ago.  

Mark Gardner is a teacher, former coach, popular announcer, and a regular contributor to MileSplit

Photos by Jeffrey Parenti and Raymond Tran