RECAP Sadie Engelhardt, Sam Hansen Roll at Champs West XC

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WALNUT -- Ventura (CA) High School sophomore Sadie Engelhardt continued her stellar season, running away from a talented field to win the Champs West Regional title and earn a second consecutive trip to San Diego for the National Finals.

Engelhardt, undefeated so far this cross country season, ran the 5,0000-meter course at Mt. San Antonio College in 17:43 to lead seven girls from California who placed among the top 10 and earned an invitational to represent the West at the Champs National Cross Country Championships on Dec. 10, at Morley Field in San Diego. 

Engelhardt, champion this season at Woodbridge, CIF-Southern Section, and CIF-State Division II, is the only athlete on either side to earn a return trip to the national race. She was second last year in the regional and 15th at the national finals as a freshman. 

Samuel Hansen (pictured), a senior at Woods Cross (UT) HS, pulled away from a tight race early to win the boys race in 15:20, nine seconds in front of San Luis Obispo (CA) HS senior Milo Skapinsky. The top 10 boys earning spots on the West Region team at next week's Nationals, were within 17 seconds of each other and Nos. 2-10 were within eight seconds. 

California again represented well with six boys among the 10 national qualifiers. 

A year after sending five girls to the nationals, California girls, a week after running at the State Championships, kept close enough to Engelhardt over the hilly Mt. SAC course to earn the bid to San Diego. CA girls took the top four spots, with Carlsbad (CA) La Costa Canyon junior Gioana Lopizzo placing second (18:05), La Jolla (CA) HS freshman Chiara Dailey placed third (18:11), and Rocklin Whitney HS senior Katie Kopec placing fourth (18:22). Kopec is a two-time Sac-Joaquin Section D-2 champion who signed with Oregon State.

Boise (ID) junior Allie Bruce placed fifth (18:28) before three more Golden State ladies crossed the line: Clovis North senior Ashlyn Leath (18:29), Laguna Hills sophomore Holly Barker (18:31) and Dana Hills senior Allura Markow (18:32). Lauyton (UT) senior Hailey Low (18:33) and Herriman (UT) junior Cailey Bracken (18:40) rounded out the top 10. 

Engelhardt led the pack across "The Saddle" at the start, and through the "Valley Loops" before using the "Switchbacks" first major climb on the course to create space. She was +5 seconds at the first split and +21 by the second split. It was that second mile that determined the outcome for most. Low was 28th at the first split but made up 17 spots over the second mile to get within reach of the top 10. Leath was another, who went from 19th at the first split to eighth at the second. 

Four-time Arizona champion Lauren Ping, a national finalist along with Engelhardt last year, opened in 11th but faded to 16th and placed 19th. 

Nevada champion Eleanor Raker, a sophomore from Reno, lost three spots to 12th in the second mile and was only able to make up one of those, placing 11th, three seconds behind 10th-place finisher. 

The pack rolling in behind Hansen and Skapinsky in the boys race was led by Palo Alto (CA) junior Grant Morgenfeld (15:30).  Meridian (ID) Rocky Mountain HS junior Landon Heemeyer was next in 15:32 before four consecutive runners from CA: San Diego Section and CIF-State Division V champion Micah Sanchez, a senior at Liberty Charter, was fifth in 15:33; Central Section D-3 champion Joshua Bell, a junior at Templeton was sixth in 15:33;  two-time Sac-Joaquin Section D-4 champion Broen Holman, a sophomore at Sonora, was next in 15:33, and De La Salle sophomore Trey Caldwell (15:34). Draper (UT) Corner Canyon HS senior Jeff Lewis (15:35), and Farmington (UT) HS senior Spencer Bradshaw (15:37) grabbed the final two spots. 

None of the Nationals qualifiers made up more ground during their championship race than did Hansen. The pack was tight through the first mile split, with 13 boys timed at 5:26, nine at 5:27, three at 5:28 and more at 5:29. Hansen was at 5:32 and tied for 35th place. But, using the "Switchbacks" to the "Crossover" and onto "Poop-Out Hill" proved to be to his liking as made up 36 spots over some of the most difficult portions of the Mt. SAC course to put himself into second place. 

Skapinsky was another to join the frontrunners late. No surprise from the Stanford-bound senior from SLO. His team famously made up jaw-dropping spots over the final mile to win the State D-II team title in 2021. Here -- his first time ever running Mt. SAC -- he made up five spots over the middle mile to get to 11th and then nine more to the end to place second. 

Bell was plus-15 over the second mile to get into seventh position for the final push. Sanchez was plus-nine, Lewis and Morgenfeld were plus-five, and Heemeyer was plus-six over the mid portion of the race to put themselves in a position to advance to San Diego. 

Shingle Springs (CA) Ponderosa HS junior Josh Chu, a Sac-Joaquin Section divisional champion who placed sixth at State, got caught up in the glut at the start, clocked in at 5:31 and 34th place. He went plus-18 over the second mile and plus-five to finish just short in 11th place, 10 seconds out of the all-region team. 

The challenging hilly Mt. SAC course unfortunately got the best of La Crescenta (CA) Crescenta Valley HS senior Parker Simmons, who was the winner of the large school division sweepstakes race at the Mt. SAC Invitational in late October and placed third at State in Division I behind two boys who ran at Team Nationals and Skapinsky. Simmons was in the lead mix at 5:26 to start, rolled through in the lead after coming down from the "Switchbacks," and was just a second behind Heemeyer at 12:24 at the second split. But he fall off pace on the hills within the final mile of the race and slipped 19 spots to finish in 24th at 16:13. 

With Dailey, Lopizzo (pictured below) and Sanchez making the all-region team, it extends the streak to five consecutive West Regionals where at least one athlete from San Diego earned an opportunity to compete in front of the home crowd at Morley Field. Last year, San Diego Francis Parker senior Kenan Pala placed second in the regional and second in the national. '

It was a Golden State kinda morning once the championship races got underway at the end of the race schedule but runners from Utah dominated the top of the grade-specific races leading into the championships. The Beehive State also had the second-most qualifiers out of the championship races with five, which is just over their 4.33 qualifier average over the previous six regionals. 

Utah, which made up roughly half of the entries at the meet, had athletes win all eight of the class races. 

Aidan Neal of Sandy (UT) Alta HS won the freshman boys race in 16:50. Rozlyn Stowe of Price (UT) Carbon HS won the freshman girls race (19:18).

Ben Hyde of Bountiful (UT) Viewmont HS won the sophomore boys race (16:42) with Big Bear (CA) HS's Kael Jex second in 16:48. Ava McMurtrey of Pleasant Grove (UT) HS won the sophomore girls race (19:24) with Amelia Robinson of Saratoga Springs (UT) Westlake HS second in 19:26. 

Zach Hillhouse Pleasant Grove (UT) HS won the junior boys race (16:18) with Luke Buentello of Vista (CA) HS second in 16:38. 

Kate Giles of Heber City (UT) Wasatch HS won the senior girls race in 19:37 with Kaitelyn Emmons of Clovis (CA) North HS second in 19:53. 

Caden Barlow of Lehi (UT) HS won the senior boys race in 16:44 with Spencer Zeljak of San Jose (CA) Branham HS second in 16:53. Taylor Jorgensen of Herriman (UT) Mountain Ridge HS won the senior girls race in 19:20 with Amanda Challburg of Chula Vista (CA) Eastlake HS second in 19:44.

Photos by Josh Barber and Raymond Tran

Jeffrey Parenti is the California State Editor for MileSplit