Seven Athletes To Watch This Week At The Mt. SAC Invite

* La Jolla's Chiara Dailey is a front runner heading into the Mt. SAC Invitational on Saturday 

Photo Credit: Raymond Tran/MileSplit

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The Mt. SAC Invitational is fast approaching and will be the last chance for athletes to make a statement at a major meet before entering their section championships.

Many top teams and athletes are conspicuously missing from the start sheet.

It should be a good meet nonetheless.

Here are seven athletes to watch out for this weekend.

Emmanuel Perez, Cathedral (CA)


Now is the time for Perez. The Cathedral senior has fallen just short of Dana Hills' Evan Noonan and Ventura's Anthony Fast Horse at the season's two other big-time meets: the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic and ASICS Clovis Invitational.

Neither Noonan nor Fast Horse are scheduled to compete at Mt. SAC.

While Perez won't face either of those runners head-to-head when he looks to defend his CIF Division IV title next month, he'll likely have to face both those athletes -- along with far stiffer competition -- if he qualifies for Nike Cross Nationals or Foot Locker Nationals and wants to make a strong showing on the national stage in December.

Earlier this week, Perez told MileSplit that he needs to find an extra mental edge to take his game to the next level. A win at Mt. SAC would no doubt help him do that.

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Chiara Dailey, La Jolla (CA)


Dailey, the La Jolla sophomore phenom, will look to defend her D3,4&5 title this weekend. (Mt. SAC separates its heats by CIF divisions: DI&2 and D3,4&5.)

It should be a good chance for Dailey to notch a top-three finish before the championship season, having placed eighth at Woodbridge and fourth at Clovis. A win at Mt. SAC could give her a boost at the state meet, where she'll look to better her second-place Division IV finish last year behind Payton Godsey of Oaks Christian.

Brett Ephraim, San Clemente (CA)


Ephraim is the fastest returning runner in the D1&2 team sweepstakes division. Last year, the San Clemente runner posted a 15:03 for sixth-place and was the third San Clemente runner to cross the line, helping the team win with a whopping 44 points.

His two teammates that finished before him have since graduated. This weekend's race should serve as more practice for Ephraim in a high-pressure environment and another chance to race Great Oak -- whose state title San Clemente is after -- in a head-to-head matchup ahead of the state meet.

Gabriel Rodriguez, Great Oak (CA)


Opposite Ephraim is Rodriguez, the Great Oak senior looking to lead his squad to a repeat CIF Division I title.

At last year's Mt. SAC, Rodriguez finished just one place behind Ephraim with a five-second difference. But it's been back and forth since then.

He beat out Ephraim at the last state meet by two places. Then he beat him again by 10 places at Nike Cross Nationals. This fall, he finished six places behind him at Woodbridge. A couple weeks later, he beat him by just one place at Clovis.

If nothing else, whoever of the two manages to get the edge at Mt. SAC will be able to walk into the state meet with more confidence. Both teams will need their stars to perform if they want a shot at the state title.

Jason Parra, Millikan (CA)


Mt. SAC will be a shot at redemption for Parra. The Millikan senior came into the season ranked No. 18 by MileSplit and was a favorite to win the Division I state title.

But then he finished 50th at Woodbridge, a meet he was expected to win.

To his credit, he finished 15th at Clovis -- three places higher than his finish last season -- but he's still yet to make a statement performance. This past weekend in New York City, he finished fifth in the Eastern States race at the Manhattan College XC Invitational, no doubt gaining some confidence back. 

He was second in the D1&2 race at Mt. SAC last year; this could be his shot to show everybody what he's made of.

Tiffany Sax & Aelo Curtis, Ventura (CA)


Yes, we're cheating and putting two athletes together here. But watch Sax and Curtis closely this weekend; how these two perform could be a good indicator of whether Ventura can credibly contend for a Division II state title.

Junior Sadie Engelhardt, who isn't running at Mt. SAC, will need a strong supporting cast to bring this Ventura squad to its first team title at the state meet.

Both Curtis and Sax did well at Clovis, which propelled the Cougars to a second-place finish behind only the seemingly untouchable JSerra Catholic.

Mt. SAC should be a good test for team, running without Engelhardt at the helm for the first time this season at a major meet.

Related Links: 

Mt. SAC meet page

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