Aydon Stefanopoulos Pulls Huge Upset At CIF Championships

* Los Gatos' Aydon Stefanopoulos captured the CIF Division II title on Saturday at Woodward Park

Photo Credit: DeAnna Turner/MileSplit

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By Tomoki Chien - California MileSplit

FRESNO, Ca. -- Aydon Stefanopoulos might've been the happiest man in Fresno when he crossed the line Saturday at Woodward Park, securing the CIF Division II state title and pulling off the biggest upset of the day.

"I'm on the moon," Stefanopoulos said after his race. "Nobody thought I could win. Nor did I."

The Los Gatos junior indeed put quite the twist in the competition. Ventura's Anthony Fast Horse walked in as the race's heavy favorite, boasting a state-leading 14:32.50 for 5,000 meters and looking like an all-but-inevitable force.

El Diamante's Devin Ibarra, the Central Section champion, also looked like a serious threat.

Stefanopoulos, in fact, didn't even appear to be the strongest contender from his section -- that honor went to Palo Alto's Grant Morgenfeld, who beat Stefanopoulos by nearly 12 seconds at the Central Coast Section championships.

But none of that mattered Saturday.

Fast Horse faded out of contention early on and was hobbled by a mid-race sprain. That made room for Morgenfeld and Stefanopoulos to pull ahead of the pack, racing head-to-head at the 2-mile mark.

Then Stefanopoulos turned on the burners. He ultimately finished with a winning time of 14:58.4 over the 5K course, seven seconds ahead of the next fastest finisher.

"It's nice to bring a title to Los Gatos," Stefanopoulos said. "I've worked so hard for this."

* The Santiago Corona girls pose for a picture after winning the CIF Division I title on Saturday at Woodward Park

Photo Credit: DeAnna Turner

1Santiago Corona (SS)571+3+6+18+29 (41+62)1:41 1-5 Split | 17:47 Avg
2Buchanan (CS)587+8+11+15+17 (24)0:17 1-5 Split | 18:03 Avg
3Trabuco Hills (SS)762+5+13+22+34 (84+103)1:40 1-5 Split | 18:01 Avg
4Clovis North (CS)19714+40+44+49+50 (52+99)1:03 1-5 Split | 18:54 Avg
5Del Norte (SD)20520+23+51+54+57 (63+64)0:58 1-5 Split | 18:51 Avg

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Speaking of upsets, the San Clemente boys managed to beat out the reigning Division I state champion, Great Oak, with a 48-point team finish. The Tritons were led by senior Brett Ephraim, who finished second with a time of 14:58.6.

The Santiago (Corona) girls -- led by junior Rylee Blade's division-winning 16:48.5, which was the second-fastest time of the day -- also managed to pull quite the upset, squeaking past powerhouse Buchanan by just one point, 57-58, in the Division I competition.

"It's super surreal," Blade said of her win. "It's an incredible feeling coming out with a state title. I was thinking about the individual title, but I was also thinking about just running for my teammates."

Perhaps the most impressive solo performance of the day was Ventura junior Sadie Engelhardt's 16:40.7 win in the Division II race, which put her across the line more than a minute ahead of the closest competitor. It was the third-fastest state meet performance at Woodward Park, only trailing Claudia Lane's performance of 16:30.30 from 2017 and Sarah Baxter's time of 16:40.00 from 2012.

Teammates Melanie True, Tiffany Sax and Aelo Curtis crucially managed to finish 6-22-23 behind Engelhardt's marquee performance, winning the Cougars their first team state title in recent memory.

In the boys Division I competition, Millikan's Jason Parra started well and completed his comeback after a rocky start to the season, winning the race with a 14:56.8.

"When the season came, things didn't turn out my way, and I kind of felt like I had to crawl my way back up," Parra said. "Coming out here today and doing that -- it means a lot. ... I woke up today and I told myself, 'There's no way I can lose this race.'"

Other notable performances included:

  • Dana Hills junior Evan Noonan's 14:35.3 in the Division III competition, which was enough to make him the top finisher of the day and secure the Dolphins a team title.
  • JSerra Catholic's handy team win in the girls Division IV race which put them first overall in the combined team scoring.
  • La Jolla sophomore Chiara Dailey's 17:09.2 in that same division, which put her in first place by a more than 20-second margin.
  • Cathedral senior Emmanuel Perez's photo finish in the Division IV race, beating out Albany's Lucas Cohen and Sonora's Broen Holman by less than a second.
  • The Oakdale boys' second-place finish in the Division III race, which put them fourth overall in the combined team scoring.

Related Links: 

CIF State XC Championships Meet Page

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