By Leonard COUTIN
The second Pacific League cross-country meet was held on the Falcons’ home course Thursday at CV Park, but it was the strength and dominance of the Apaches that reigned over conference rivals.
It was a unique atmosphere at the meet. Mainly, it appeared that participants were more relaxed and downright friendly – not exactly a term used in the same sentence when describing the Apaches and Falcons. As runners prepared for their races – running parts of the course, stretching and exercising – many of the opposing athletes greeted each other as long lost friends.
“[Gabe] Collison has a huge heart, and all my respect as a runner,” said Apache Philip Rocha.
Collison was equally generous in his assessment of the Apache.
“Rocha is a great guy to run against, just like the rest of Arcadia,” said Collison. “I don’t know of any other league with so much depth, so I think all of the Pacific League teams are grateful to have the competition to push everyone.”
On the field, it was Arcadia’s lead runners, senior Estevan De La Rosa and teammate Rocha, who raced behind Collison right up to the last 300 meters. Collison knew he needed to start strong if he was to take full advantage of the course and best Arcadia.
Although his plan was not to take the lead, Collison said he “grew impatient” and a little worried about a slow time. De La Rosa bided his time, strategically making his move on the backside of the hilly course. He ended up taking the win (15:07.3) with Rocha grabbing second (15:17.9) followed by Collison (15:24.4).
Falcon second runner Matt Manalo took seventh (15:54) in the overall time. Teammate Nick Beatty, who returned to running this week, took ninth (16:04.50).
The Falcons were able to secure a solid silver position against the rest of the conference schools behind the Apaches’ gold win. The Burbank Bulldogs took home the bronze.
With his strong showing, De La Rosa moved to No. 4 on the CV Park best time list and Rocha moved to a tie for the No. 9 position. Arcadia even broke its established record set last year at the finals when it ran 78:35; Thursday’s time was 77:43.
Collison now moves to a tie at No. 2 with reputed runner Zach Torres on the CV best time list at the park.
“I know I felt a little nervous about this last race at CV Park,” said Collison. “I did want to try to leave a mark with this course.”
The CV runners broke the school record by running 80:04. The 2007 team record was 80:19.
“It was a great meet. Burbank also set a team time record on the course – one minute faster than they ran two years ago,” said CV Head Coach Mark Evans. “This is a tough league with the top three teams having been ranked in the top 10 in the division sometime this season.”
The Falcon girls ran one of their best races all season, but had to contend with a silver victory as well against the Apache girls.
Apache state runner Veronica Yamane took the lead from the start. Burbank’s Candela Fernandez came around the first mile in second position, followed by Falcons Megan Melnyk then Laura Guidolin of Arcadia. Although Melnyk held back a little more than usual, she made up for it on the second half of the course.
“Megan had a great race,” confirmed Evans. “She is looking stronger with each race.”
Falcon Erika Johnson was in good form and added strength to the CV position. As the girls completed their switchbacks on the hilly portion of the course, Yamane continued to push her lead then poured it on to the finish line running 18:13.5 followed by Melnyk (18:30.3). Burbank’s Fernandez captured third (18:47.6).
Arcadia Guidolin – with her ability to challenge front-runners and make effective moves on the track – placed fourth (18:52.2).
The Arcadia girls took the gold, with CV taking silver and Burbank owning the bronze.