PREVIEW Engelhardt, Ping Highlight Champs Regional XC Field

Ventura HS sophomore Sadie Engelhardt (bib 25 at left) and Arizona senior perennial state champion Lauren Ping (bib 4 at right) - pictured leading the 2021 Eastbay West Regional girls championship field over "The Saddle" section of the Mt. SAC course last December - look to earn return tickets to San Diego for the Champs National Cross Country Championships.

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This article has been updated (12/1 at 6:05 pm) to include a previously omitted state champion.

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WALNUT -- Returning national high school cross country championships qualifiers Sadie Engelhardt and Lauren Ping lead a multi-state contingent of athletes scheduled to compete Saturday morning at the Champs West Regionals at Mt. San Antonio College. 

The top 10 finishers in the championship races for girls and boys -- which follow grade-specific races on the 5,000-meter layout at the iconic course east of Los Angeles -- will qualify to represent the West Region at the Champs National Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Dec. 10 at Balboa Park's Morley Field in San Diego. 

(Champs is the third title sponsor in the last three iterations of the event, following Foot Locker and Eastbay. The longest running national high school cross country championship event pre-dates the CIF-State Championships and was originally sponsored by Kinney.)

Of the 20 representatives for the West Region last December, only Engelhardt and Ping are scheduled to run here looking for a return trip to nationals.  

Engelhardt, a sophomore at Ventura (CA) HS, won the CIF-State Division II title last Saturday while running the fastest time on the Woodward Park 5K course at the meet and one of the fastest in the 35-year history of the event. She placed second in the West Regional race last year, running 17:24.60, and 15th in the national finals (17:51.50).

Ping, a senior from Chandler (AZ) Valley Christian HS, is a four-time Arizona State cross country champion. She placed fifth in the regional last fall (17:42.00) and 22nd at nationals (18:08.90). 

It has been an up-and-down sophomore fall for Engelhardt, who has been battling illness off and on throughout the season.

She ran a record 3-mile time in winning the Woodbridge Invitational in September, but was unable to take the line at the Clovis Invitational in early October because of illness. She did not compete at all in October, but has been going strong since getting back out there beginning with her league finals in early November.

Since, Engelhardt has run 16:38.80 at the Southern Section Prelims on the Mt. SAC course -- a shortened version to what will be run Saturday. She backed off the next week to 17:12.80 while still winning the SS Division 2 title.

Last week, Engelhardt went 16:57.9 (No. 3 all-time for a sophomore girl at the State Meet) in winning the State D-II crown. She is only the 13th girl in the 35-year history of the meet to post a rounded up sub-16:59 time. 

While the West Region draws from a dozen states, California and Utah appear to make up the bulk of those listed among the initial entries. States like Nevada, New Mexico, Hawaii, Montana and Wyoming have roughly a dozen or fewer athletes, according to initial entry lists.

For athletes in the 560-school CIF-Southern Section, this will be the third time in the last four weeks that they will take on the hilly course at Mt. SAC.

For section championship races, as well as the venerable Mt. SAC Invitational held in late October, the course runs just shy of 3 miles. The modified layout used for this regional moves the start from the road between "The Crossover" and finish "Gauntlet," onto the parking lot on the far west end. Athletes run through the parking lot, onto what is known as "The Saddle," a pathway between "Poop-Out" and "Reservoir" hills, and into the "Valley Loops." The additional trek across the asphalt and onto the dirt of "The Saddle" elongates the course to the 5,000-meter distance required for this regional. 


7:05 am - Freshman Boys

7:25 am - Freshman Girls

7:45 am - Sophomore Boys

8:05 am - Sophomore Girls

8:25 am - Junior Boys

8:45 am - Junior Girls

9:05 am - Senior Boys

9:25 am - Senior Girls

9:45 am - Open Race

10:20 am - Championship Girls

10:50 am - Championship Boys

12:15 am - Championship Boys & Girls Awards


2021 West Regional Coverage

Other top athletes scheduled to compete include four state champions and 11 CIF section champions among the boys, and six state champions and 10 CIF section champions among the girls.

Micah Sanchez, a senior at Liberty Charter (SD), won both the San Diego Section and CIF-State individual small schools title. 

Landon Heemeyer, a junior at Meridian (ID) Rocky Mountain HS, won the Idaho 5A title and should be considered among the favorites to earn a trip to San Diego. 

Trey Despain, a senior at Washington (UT) Pine View HS, won the Utah 4A title. Reid Headrick, a senior at Medical Lake (WA) HS won the Washington 1A title. 

California has another State girls champion scheduled to compete in addition to Engelhardt. Harvard-bound senior Kaiya Brooks won the Central Coast Section and State Division V titles while also leading her team to both championships. 

Arizona has two other State Meet girls champions in addition to Ping. Boston College-bound senior Kylie Wild of Tucson (AZ) Salpointe HS is a three-time Arizona State Meet champion. And North Carolina State-bound Mia Hall of Flagstaff is a two-time Arizona State Meet champion. 

Hall, incidentally, competed at the West Region last December, and missed a spot in the top 10 by 0.70 seconds, placing 11th. 

Wild has competed and won each of the last two years at the Mt. Carmel Invitational, held on a shortened version of the Champs Nationals course at Morley Field.

Reno (NV) Galena sophomore Eleanor Raker has now won back-to-back Nevada 5A State titles.

The list of other standout girls from CA scheduled to compete includes San Diego Section Division 4 and CIF-State D-IV runner-up Chiara Dailey, a freshman from La Jolla; Oregon State-bound and two-time Sac-Joaquin Section champion Katie Kopec of Whitney; San Diego Section D-3 champion and State runner-up Gioana Lopizzo, a junior at La Costa Canyon; Engelhardt's teammate, Aelo Curtis, a freshman at Ventura, who placed third at State; North Coast Section D-4 champion Renae Searls, a junior at Alhambra; Southern Section D-3 champion Allura Markow, a senior at section team champion Dana Hills; Sac-Joaquin Section D-4 champion Jesse Redding, a junior at Colfax; Southern Section D-1 champion Kelli Gaffney, a Cal-Poly SLO signee from Great Oak, who also won the Team Sweepstakes race at the Mt. SAC Invite in October; San Diego Section D-1 champion Hannah Riggins of Del Norte, who is headed to Princeton; Laguna Hills sophomore Holly Barker, who placed third in D-IV at State, and Oakland Tech freshman Chloe Leduc, the Oakland Section champion. 

Other non-CA standout girls scheduled to run, include Layton (UT) senior Hailey Low, who was 21st here last year; Boise (ID) Senior HS junior Allie Bruce, Idaho State 5A runner-up who was 19th here last year; Portland (OR) Central Catholic junior Ella McGillis, Oregon State 6A runner-up; Crater (OR) Central Point junior Lindsay Siebert, who placed third in the Oregon State 5A race; Shelley (ID) Firth sophomore Kynzie Nielson, Idaho State 2A runner-up; Nine Mile Falls (WA) Lakeside sophomore Sadie Meyring, Washington State 1A runner-up, and Roosevelt (UT) Union sophomore Jaylie Jenkins, Utah State 3A runner-up. 

A year ago, California had four senior boys land on the West Region team, led by Kenan Pala of Francis Parker (SD) who placed second in both the regional race and at nationals on what was essentially his home course. 

There are plenty of standout CA boys scheduled to compete here looking to grab one of those coveted top-10 spots, many returning for the second year in a row.

That list begins with Crescenta Valley (SS) senior Parker Simmons, who placed third in Division I at the State Meet and was 19th here a year ago. North Coast Section Division 4 champion and State Meet runner-up Sean Morello, who is headed to Duke, was 26th here last year. Templeton (CS) junior Joshua Bell, a two-time Central Section Division III champion who placed third at State, was 20th here last year. San Luis Obispo (CS) senior Milo Skapinsky was the D-1 runner-up in the Central Section and placed fourth at State. Sonora (SJ) sophomore Broen Holman, a two-time SJS champion who was third at State, placed 22nd here last year. Sac-Joaquin Section Division I runner-up, Ryan Mitchell, a senior at Davis, will be looking to match former teammate Zachary Ayers in qualifying for the nationals.

Palo Alto (CC) junior Grant Morgenfeld is the Central Coast Section D-2 champion, who was 39th here last year as a sophomore. SJS D-3 champion Josh Chu, a junior at Ponderosa, who placed sixth at State, will be looking for a huge improvement over his 58th place finish here as a soph. Other CIF section champions scheduled include Justin Pretre, a senior at the Menlo School, and the Central Coast Section D-5 champion and State Meet small school division runner-up. Santa Cruz (CC) sophomore Eli Fitchen-Young won the section D-4 title and placed sixth at State. Palisades (LA) junior Max Fields is a two-time Los Angeles City Section large school division champion.

La Costa Canyon (SD) senior Jacob Niednagel won the San Diego Section D-3 title and placed ninth at State. Pretre's sophomore brother, Landon, placed third in CCS and fourth at State. Sonoma Academy (NC) senior Tiernan Colby won the North Coast Section small school division title and placed sixth at State. Campolindo (NC) senior Alexander Lodewick won the North Coast Section D-3 title. Yosemite sophomore twins Jack and Ben Olney went 1-2 at the Central Section finals, leading their team to a perfect score for the team title. And, Pala's former teammate, York Bourgeois, a junior at Francis Parker, is the San Diego Section D-5 runner-up and placed seventh at State.  Also keep your eyes on Ethan Miller of Monte Vista, Danville (NC)).  The senior impressed with his sixth-place finish (15:15.5) at the Div. II state meet last weekend.

The list of non-CA boys looking for a top-10 spot in the championship race includes Notre Dame-bound Brody Hartley, a senior at Walla Walla (WA), the Washington State 3A runner-up. Michael Urbanski, a senior at Tucson (AZ) Salpointe Catholic, the Arizona State D-3 champion, and like classmate Kylie Wild on the girls side, is a two-time champion at the Mt. Carmel Invitational on a shorted version of the Champs National layout at Morley Field. Gabe Hooper, a junior at Centerville (UT) Viewmont, ranks sixth in Utah for 5K. Provo (UT) Farmington senior Spencer Bradshaw, was fourth in Division 6A at the Utah State Meet. Sixth in that race was Huntsville (UT) Weber senior Andrew Harris. And just behind him was Draper (UT) Corner Canyon senior Connor Whatcott. Nathan Stein, a senior at Ashland (OR) HS placed fourth in 5A at the Oregon State Meet. 


Which state will have the most qualifiers on the Champs West Region team?

Photos by Josh Barber, James Leash, Jeffrey Parenti, and Raymond Tran

Jeffrey Parenti is the California State Editor for MileSplit