By Leonard COUTIN
The CIF Southern Section cross-country prelims were held Saturday at the Riverside City Cross Country Course. Although the CIF committee intended this to be a first class experience, the course and facilities needed a lot of fine-tuning. Problems began early on with traffic backing up coming into the parking lot, and it was equally difficult leaving the site.
Due to the dust problems athletes and spectators encountered the Riverside Invitational, the CIF committee had water trucks watering down the course throughout the day. Unfortunately this made running the course difficult as the soles of the runners’ shoes were caked with inches of dirt. In addition, there were scheduling changes. This year the committee held only two heats rather than the traditional three to move teams forward. The Division 1 heats assembled 29 teams on the start line. Each team was composed of seven athletes resulting in more than 203 runners competing for the top 16 team spots of each race. There were two heat races for each division trying to qualify for the CIF finals. The CIF finals take place Nov. 21 at Mt. SAC.
In addition, the Falcon boys came to the prelims at a disadvantage. The school’s top athletes suffered injuries prior to Saturday’s race. CV’s Zach Johnson, a sophomore who has been a strong contributor to the team’s success, had a possible heel fracture and was forced to sit out. Further sapping the team’s morale was learning they would be up against Burroughs and Arcadia in their race.
Early on Arcadia Apache Phillip Rocha took the lead. Falcon runners Colin FitzGerald and Philip Thomas moved swiftly to establish themselves with the front runners as they sprinted the first 300 yards before facing the hairpin curve. CV’s Armin Cardenas, who was also nursing an injury, took the third spot for the Falcons, running with the second lead group that included teammates Kyle Dickinson, Artin Allahverdian and Robert Thomas. After the first two loops of the course, the Falcons held promising positions.
But it was Rocha who was completely relaxed, running only as fast as he needed to qualify and win, running 14:44.00. Ethan Comeaux of Redondo Union High School gave a valiant effort to place second (14:45.10). Colin FitzGerald took an impressive fourth (14:56.20). Philip Thomas grabbed sixth place, another key position, running (14:58.90). Cardenas helped the Falcons by coming in 13th (15:10.20). Dickinson took 29th (15:24.70). Allahverdian, who ran his first varsity race at Riverside, scored 77th (15:54.70).
Coach Mark Evans considered the team’s third place position a success.
“We ran well … much better grouping,” Evans said. “We still need to close the gap between our fourth and fifth runners. Kyle had a very good race. Colin, Philip and Armin were all very strong up front and that is important for us to go on. Armin Cardenas had a good race in one of his first varsity races.”
Team standings: Dana Hills followed by Burroughs, Crescenta Valley, Arcadia and Eleanor Roosevelt.
The Falcon girls completed their final race of the season at Riverside. Placing 23rd did not allow the team to move forward. Highlights included Grace McAuley placing 48th running 18:42.00 followed by teammates Rebecca Mencia in 125th (20:05.20), Elizabeth Hart in 127th (20:05.50), Hanna Leines in 170th, Eva Valero in 177th (21:40.30), Sojeong Kang in 181st (22:00.80) and Gabriela Borraez in 185th (22:19.40).
Evans had praise for the girls.
“The girls ran well,” he said. “They competed well throughout the race and never gave up. Those returning gained a lot of experience for the future. The seniors all competed well and can be proud of how they [did].”
Arcadia girls took third in their heat and Burroughs girls finished in seventh with lead Indian runner Emily Virture capturing second place (16:58.00) qualifying for the finals. Candela Fernandez of Burbank individually will also move on after taking second in her heat (17:24.70).
The Burbank boys and girls teams concluded their season just missing top qualifying placement.