By Leonard COUTIN
This past weekend, Mt. San Antonio College – Mt. SAC – hosted more than 16,000 cross-country runners at its annual invitational.
This is one of the most prestigious events of the year attended by runners from around the nation. Particularly appealing for the athletes is that all cross-country divisions are allowed to break and participate outside their school rankings. Mt. SAC Invitational also gives runners the chance to experience the course before the CIF prelims and finals held later in November. The three-mile course offers a wide range of flat, hilly and downhill runs, which has changed little in the last 25 years.
The Falcons girls rank ninth in the Division 1 standings by ESPN DyeStat editor Rich Gonzales, behind Arcadia’s eighth position.
Running in the girls’ individual race #68, the team faced some of the strongest competitors of the day. Cali King took the lead on the first half of the course running strongly on the valley loop and switchbacks down past the airstrip.
Ali Johnson set her goal on the second half of the course to regain first position to finish up 25th (18:56) while Erika Johnson had a strong finish over King running 34th (19:14) and King 39th (19:16).
“I was alright w/my position but I think I can do better in that area,” said Johnson. ” My strategy for the hill was just to maintain a steady pace going up the hill, even if some people passed me, to save my legs for going as fast as I can downhill. The airstrip is almost the hardest part because you are exhausted from all the hills, but I heard one of my teammates screaming at me to sprint and yes, I feel like it [training] is paying off.”
The Falcons successfully took third in the competition (179), with Saugus winning (64) and Vista Murrieta placing second (112).
Karis Frankian, lead runner for Saugus, won the race with 17:12.
Simi Valley star sophomore Sarah Baxter ran away from the pack in the team sweepstake race #69 setting the fastest time of the day at 16:59. The Simi Valley team won as well, posting the lowest score of 55.
“We had great team races,” said CVHS Coach Mark Evans. “The girls are coming together as a team. We just need to move the group farther up the in the race.”
The varsity boys’ races brought the crowd to its feet. Pacific League runner Sergio Gonzalez of Arcadia ran second the entire course to finish with the third fastest time of the day with 14:49 behind La Costa Canyon Darren Fahy, 14:41, in race #71 team sweepstakes. Kristian Martinez of Golden Valley placed third (14:50).
Rancho Cucamonga won with 81, while Arcadia placed second at 125, and Golden Valley took third (129).
The CV boys ran the individual race #70 to compete once again against Burbank.
“The boys are racing better each week,” remarked Evans. Sophomore Isaiah Amos placed second (15:11) with teammate Sergio Fraire taking fourth (15:14) behind winner Bryan Guijarro (14:56). Mike Duncan, lead man for CV, placed 34th (16:07) while teammate Aaron Esparza took 36th and Gabe Collison captured 41st (16:17).
Final scoring: Burbank (81), Ayala (157) second, Saugus (181) third, Roosevelt (184) fourth and CV (221) fifth.
St. John Bosco Dan Martinez ran the fastest time of the day in Division 3 (14:14).