By Leonard COUTIN
CIF cross country finals were held last Saturday, Nov. 20 at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut. It was not a typical sunny SoCal morning that greeted finalists. Instead rain throughout the night unveiled a morning that was cloudy, cold and drizzling.
Not only was the course soaked, muddy, and unsafe, but the Clerk of Course had to set up an alternative running course that included more concrete and asphalt under the feet of the runners rather than the notorious dirt hills. CVHS senior Claudia Pham knew that it was a day for no mistakes if the team was going to qualify for the CIF state finals in Fresno the following week.
As the team warmed up on the new course, it started to drizzle hard. The CV varsity girls had to stay focused and inspired, ignoring the poor conditions. Staking mile markers were even more important to the runners on this new course. Coach Mark Evans prepared his team for the unexpected changes.
“The main thing I spoke about to the girls was to get out fast. The start is a long straight and then a left turn where the course narrows a bit. They needed to establish position early.”
As the gun for Division 1 varsity went off, CV girls battled for the front positions. None of the runners were acquainted with the layout of the course and some seemed distracted by being able to see more of the back runners while negotiating the switch back in the parking lot.
Sarah Baxter of Simi Valley and senior Catrina McAlister of Arcadia took the leads and held them, securing first and second place respectively, Baxter with a time of 17:40 and McAlister at 18:12.
CV’s Pham was in the second group of runners battling position ending in 13th place (18:46).
“We finished the race in ninth pretty much where we were ranked,” said Evans. “It was very close from places five through 10. All those teams ran in the 97-minute range. We were three points behind Arcadia in eighth and 13 points behind San Clemente in seventh that was the last qualifier for state.
“I am very proud of how the girls ran. It was a very good season. Division I is tough. Getting to CIF finals and finishing in the top 10 is always a great accomplishment.”
For the Division 1 boys race, Arcadia High School was the dominating force to be reckoned with throughout the session and the season. Senior star Ammar Moussa, who is nationally ranked along with his teammate junior Sergio Gonzalez, took lead position right from the start. Other standouts were Lane Werley from Martin Luther King, Matt Carpowich of Torrey Pines, Jantzen Oshier of Trabuco Hills, Kevin Durham of El Toro, and Anthony Monroy of Burroughs.
The impressive Arcadia team won with 43 points (78:38), followed by Dana Hills 97 (80:49) and Trabuco Hills 101 (80:52).
Moussa, who had run the fastest time at Mt. SAC on the original course, placed first (15:15), followed by Lane Werley of M.L. King running second (15:16) and Kevin Durham of El Toro taking third (15:25).
Cross Country State Finals will be held Nov. 27 at Woodward Park in Fresno.