By Leonard COUTIN
The world’s largest cross-country meet was held last week at Mt. San Antonio College. Sponsored by Brooks, the 68th Annual Mt. SAC Cross-country Invitational spanned three days providing the chance for more than 22,000 athletes from 720 schools and colleges to participate in this athletic event. Athletes from elementary, middle and high school and college tested their endurance and strength running the three-mile course that has historically been viewed as the most grueling and yet the most prestigious in California.
The Mt. SAC Cross-country Invitational was a chance for Falcon runners to examine their inner strengths and weaknesses at a critical time of the season. The Falcons have already twice captured the second place ranking in league meets and are preparing for Pacific League finals. Mt. SAC also provides an opportunity for the runners to prepare for the CIF finals that also will be hosted on the same course.
Racing alongside CV varsity boys were the best of the Pacific League, including Arcadia and Burroughs runners who are seeded in the top CIF listings, and contenders like Great Oak, Davis, Dana Hills, Trabuco Hills.
More than 25 schools lined up at the start each with their seven-man teams. As the starters’ gun went off, more than 175 runners sprinted out flooding the Airstrip straightaway. After the first loop Arcadia Apache Phillip Rocha claimed dominance over the pack runners as he headed up the road to the switchback trails. For CV, it was Colin FitzGerald and Philip Thomas who took a strong position with Kyle Dickinson, Armin Cardenas-Nuno and Robert Nelis not too far back heeding the advice of their coach: “the importance of position is a prime factor in every race.”
Although the climb up the hills were strenuous, the downhill portions were equally stressing on all the runners. FitzGerald and Thomas tucked behind the leads to maintain a good position throughout the race. Rocha lacked competition as he swept through the course far in front of everyone.
Finishing with a time of 14:24, Rocha came up short by one second to beat the course record of 14:23. Falcon FitzGerald secured 18th place in team standings running 15:24 followed by teammate Thomas in 22nd (15:27). It was Cárdenas-Nuno who took 38th (15:40) followed by Kyle Dickinson in 80th (16:12), Matt Vats 103rd (16:31), Robert McNelis 110th (16:40) and Logan Neil 119th (17:21). CV scored 10th place in the overall team standings.
The Falcons placed seventh in the Division 1 schools team overall score behind Burroughs in third place and Arcadia in sixth place.
“We ran very well as a team,” said CV Head Coach Mark Evans. “The boys had a very good race. Lots of PRs. It was good to see Colin and Philip up in the front group. Armin had a great race and a big PR. We need to keep working on getting our gap closer to the front. It should be a great league finals race on Nov. 5.”
Falcon girls Grace McAuley and Rebecca Mencia both had strong performances running Race No. 70 as they led their team along the difficult trails. Finishing 18th was senior McAuley (20:12) followed by Mencia who placed 36th (20:54).
“The girls ran a good solid race. For a couple of the girls it was their first time on the Mt. SAC course. They handled it well and had good races,” said Evans. “This was a good meet for us and we are ready for league finals and CIF competition.”
Helping their team take ninth in the overall team status were Falcons Sanya Linney in 53rd place followed by Emily Perkins in 73rd, freshman Brooke Bell in 86th and in Eva Valero 88th.