By Leonard COUTIN
The 67th annual Mt. SAC invitational cross-country meet – the largest invitational in the world – was held on the college’s Walnut campus beginning on Friday, Oct. 17 and finishing on Saturday, Oct. 25. Attending were athletes from colleges, high schools, middle schools and even the elementary schools. An estimated 25,000-plus athletes were expected to participate on the course that has been around since 1948. Running every eight minutes, runners had the ability to test their strength on the course that offers a variety of terrain from flat to hilly. Mt. SAC is one of the most prestigious cross-country invitationals.
The Falcons varsity girls were the first up in the early morning. Captain leaders Haley Witzeman and Megan Melnyk could easily be heard as they led their team in their usual chant.
Melnyk grabbed the top spot for her team with Witzeman following nearby. Running hard around the flat 800-yard course, Melnyk charged up the first hill hard outdistancing key opponents. When she reappeared on the airstrip, with little more than a mile left, she headed toward the famous “poop out hill” then the challenging reservoir hill. Looking strong, she continued to pace herself on the last portion of the course. She crossed the finish line in sixth place (18:34.8) with teammate Witzeman taking seventh (18:46.3).
“The girls ran well,” said Head Coach Mark Evans. “Haley and Megan did have good races. Annie Myers also had a strong race. Grace McAuley and Elizabeth Hart continue to run great races. They both had big personal bests.”
The girls placed fourth in team ratings. Haley’s PR time was 25 seconds faster than her best time. The girls can look forward to running the Mt. SAC course again if they can qualify after the Pacific League finals.
The Falcons varsity boys came onto the course determined to make a statement of strength. Evans described the day.
“We had a great day on Saturday. We were missing Armin Cardenas, who was sick, and we still ran a good team time,” he said.
When the gun went off it was CV’s Manav Vats (bottom right) who answered the call to sprint out first with other top leaders. Taking his position early, he secured a top spot with the rest of the team coming up behind. Colin FitzGerald ran this course last year for Rosemont Middle School and knew what to expect. Also coming out strong were Falcons teammates Jason Crosthwaite and Philip Thomas whose father holds one of the all time fastest times at Mt. SAC. The team seized every opportunity to stay ahead as they chased competitors down.
“Silas FitzGerald and Philip Thomas really had the best races of the year for them. Robert McNelis is coming back from an injury and looking better with each race,” said Evans.
Vats had a strong finish (15:47.8) to capture fourth. Colin FitzGerald took eighth (16:00.3) with Thomas placing 12th (16:10.4) followed by Crosthwaite (16:19.3). In team standings, CV varsity placed first followed by Peninsula and El Camino Real.