STATE MEET GIRLS RECAP-Records Are Made To Be ... Challenged

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FRESNO -- This was going to be the year girls records would be seriously challenged at the State Cross Country Championships.

It seemed there were almost endless possibilities for both individuals running the fastest times ever as well as a Buchanan team that was so deep one of the most cherished standards of all, Temecula Great Oak's 89-minute, 13-second time was in serious jeopardy.

But there's a reason not only the Great Oak team, but individuals like Malibu's Claudia Lane and Simi Valley's Sarah Baxter, posted marks that have held strong over the years.

OK, Buchanan did get a record when the Bears scored just 40 points to capture the Division I team title -- their third in a row -- on Saturday over Woodward Park's 5,000-meter course.

That eclipsed previous best of 41 by Agoura twice (1990-1) and Yucaipa (1997).

The Buchanan team time of 89:32 fell short of the 2015 Great Oak record of 89:13 and moved the Bears up to No. 4 all-time -- and No. 3 in D-I -- behind those deep, fast Wolfpack teams in 2016 at 89:17 and 2013 at 89:28.

As for the individual standards, Ventura (SS) sophomore Sadie Engelhardt finished an illness-plagued season on a high note as she won the Division II title in 16:57.9, the only sub-17-minute time of the day. That bettered her 16:59 a year ago but fell far short of the overall standard of 16:31 by Lane in 2017 or the division standard of 16:43 by Baxter in 2013. It is, however, No. 3 all-time in by a sophomore girl.

"It was a little bit of me versus the clock," said Engelhardt, who powered her way to a 33-second victory over Mira Costa (SS) senior Anna Chittenden (17:32.0). "It seems I've been sick since September and I still have something in my chest.

"That record, 16:31, is pretty crazy but if I'd had a better season, I might have taken a run at that. This just gives me motivation for next year.

"It's difficult being out there on your own. You push as if someone is right next to you even if they aren't."

Montgomery (NC) sophomore Hanne Thomsen was also considered a potential record-breaker but she scorched the second mile to open a huge lead and then easily won by 28.7 seconds in 17:12.8.

"The difference between last year and this year was I knew how to run this course," said Thomsen, now a two-time Division III cross country champion to go along with the State 3200m title she won on the track. "I was prepared to run alone and looked at my watch a few times but the first mile was kind of slow. The second mile was more like it but then I got tired."

Still, her time ranks No. 2 all-time in for girls in Division III behind only the 17:08 by Northwood (SS) HS' Bethan Knights in 2013.

"The goal was just to win. People talking about records just adds pressure but if you run enough, you know how to handle that. When I'm going for a record, it's more how I feel and I knew I wasn't going for a record."

For the longest time it looked like Buchanan would at least salvage the individual title when senior Grace Hutchison set a withering early pace to open a 12-second lead at the 2.1-mile mark.

But Poway (SD) junior Tessa Buswell, a 2:09.54 runner for 800 meters on the track, started closing the gap and when she turned the corner for the final 300-meters, she realized the race was winnable.

"I used that 800-meter speed and it helped," said Buswell. "I was scared in the second mile and fell back a little bit but then I saw she was slowing down and the crowd really pushed me.

"I could see her on the straightaway and I thought maybe I had a shot at catching her. This is just huge for me college-wise; by far my biggest win."

Buswell took the lead with with 75 meters remaining to win in 17:25. Hutchison placed second for the Bears in 17:30.3.

"When I got the lead I just tried to stay happy, smooth, carefree," said Hutchinson. "I tried to smile my way through it and when she passed me, I didn't want to do anything that might hurt our team's chances. We run as a team, for the team."

And her six second gap over Corona Santiago (SS) sophomore Rylee Blade, the third-place finisher, indeed helped Buchanan score that record 40 points.

In the Division IV race, the first of the day, Oaks Christian (SS) junior Payton Godsey took it out early and came home first in what was the second-fastest girls time of the day, 17:00.00, a clocking that ranks No. 4 all-time in the junior class and No. 5 all-time in by a girl in Division IV. 

In that same race, runner-up Chiara Dailey, a freshman from La Jolla (SD), crossed in 17:27.22, No. 5 all-time by a freshman girl, and No. 10 all-time in D-IV. 

In winning a second consecutive division championship, JSerra (SS) put up a team time of 92:29, No. 2 all-time in the division. 

In winning a second consecutive division title, Campolindo (NC) posted a team time of 92:08, No. 3 all-time in the division.

Steve Brand is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to MileSplit

California MileSplit State Editor Jeffrey Parenti contributed to this article.

Photos by DeAnna Turner