By Leonard COUTIN
The CIF State Cross Country finals were held at Woodward Park in Fresno last weekend. The best runners from both northern and southern sections took the course, ready to duke it out, and spectators came from all over California expecting to witness record-breaking times.
The early morning weather, in the low 40s, was cool and overcast. The schedule for the day included 10 races, Division I through V, boys and girls varsity. This year, stand-out talent came from Pacific League star runner Ammar Moussa of Arcadia who announced early in the season he was the man no one would beat. The Apaches, coached by Jim O’Brien, set their sights on a second state victory and O’Brien’s team was willing to make every necessary sacrifice to get there.
The Centurion Divisions II Saugus girls promised to make their mark in the record books for the fifth straight year with the return of 2008 state champion Kaylin Mahoney, who had taken a year off, returning to pace her teammate Stephanie Bulder. The Saugus boys also hoped to make it a Saugus dual victory by battling Loyola’s Elias Gedyon and his team for position.
Mira Costa High was another force to be recognized, led by Savannah Pio who had promised her teammates the chance to beat the Saugus girls team.
Simi Valley’s Sarah Baxter, a freshman star, was looking to break the famous Jordan Hasay freshman mark in Division I against senior Catrina McAlister of Arcadia. Although CVHS Coach Mark Evans girls failed to make it to the state meet, the Evans name was still found – Evans’s son Rob brought his Golden Valley Boys Division III team to the championship meet for the second time.
South Pasadena High senior Samuel Pons individually had already won at the CIF finals was ready to fight back against the St. John Bosco and Palos Verdes teams.
At the end of the day, final results for the CIF State Cross Country Meet were unexpected. Unfortunately for the later runners, the mid morning weather, which was already damp, turned to a heavy drizzle. The course road conditions became much more challenging as the course became more muddy and slippery for the athletes.
But the Arcadia warriors seemed not to notice.
The Apaches celebrated a fantastic individual and team win scoring 60 in Division 1, followed by Dana Hills in second (144), Trabuco Hills in third (145).
Arcadia’s Moussa did not disappoint his fans and set the fastest course time of 14:43 followed by Patrick Henry’s runner Ryan Urie who took second with a time of 14:45; Lane Werley of King took third with a time of 14:46.
Division 1 girls was won by freshman sensation Sarah Baxter (16:57) with a time that beat the freshman state course record of 17:11. Baxter ran her first mile in 5:18, second in 10:48 and last mile in 5:27 for an incredible win far ahead from the rest of the pack. Clare Carroll of Granite Bay (17:24) placed second; Alli Billmeyer of Torrey Pines (17: 25) took third.
Surprisingly, Arcadia’s Catrina McAlister finished tenth (17:54).
Division 1 girls team results were Great Oak first (102), La Costa Canyon placing second (110) and Buchanan placing third (163).
Division II Boys proved to be an exciting challenge for Saugus vs. Loyola. Elias Gedyon from Loyola broke away from the pack and took first place in 14:52; Parker Schuh (15:12) of Mountain grabbed second and Nathaniel Cushing-Murray (15:15) placed third in 15:15.
Team scores showed Loyola at first (77), Saugus took home second (90) and Claremont third (144).
Division II girls race proved to be one of the historical and exciting battles. Star Savannah Pio of Mira Costa made good on her threat to Saugus, taking a gallant lead in the end, finishing first while Kaylin Mahiney of Saugus placed second (17:44) followed by teammate Stephanie Bulder (17:46).
Team score resulted in Saugus earning first place (25), Mira Costa second (62) and Redondo Union third (96). Saugus made good on its promise to take home their fifth state championship.
The Footlocker Prelims will be held at Mount San Antonia College this Saturday at 9:55 Seeded Girls race and 10:40 Seeded Boys race. The winners will race in San Diego for the Footlocker all American title victory the following week.