CVHS girls cross-country team takes sixth place which puts them on the track to state competition.
By Leonard COUTIN
The CIF cross country finals were held on Saturday on the most prestigious course in Southern California at Mt. San Antonio College.
With 62 years of history, this course has challenged generations of runners. Spectators and athletes on Saturday watched competitors battle their way over the 2.95-mile hilly course, of which the first seven teams in each division advanced to the state meet at Woodward Park in Fresno beginning Nov. 26. The top five individuals in each race not on a qualifying team also will have the right to participate in the state championship.
The CV Falcons girls have been preparing themselves since summer for this challenge and the dedication of the young team paid off as they placed sixth in the Division 1 race.
“We tried to downplay the pressure. The girls knew what it took and what they had to do. I really did not need to say much,” said CV Coach Mark Evans. “We talked about the teams we had to focus on and where we needed to be in the race. The emphasis was to keep the pack together and run the best race we could run.”
The Dana Hills team had the lead coming down from the switchbacks on their way to Poopout Hill with St. Clemente close in second. Individually Laura Hollander of Marina grabbed the lead in the first mile with Centennial Corona’s Adriana Olivas in second and Erika Reddish running third.
“In a race that big it is tough to know where you are or how you are doing. They just try to key on uniforms and go with a girl in the uniform of a school we want to stay with. Our big emphasis was that every point counts and just pass every person you can,” Evans said.
CV sophomore Erika Johnson was the lead runner for the Falcons on the last hill of the course. She leaned forward going up the steep incline of Poopout Hill, one of the most difficult climbs of the course, with teammates Cali King and Ali Johnson not far behind.
When the Falcon girls entered the airstrip toward the finish, each had to shrug off their tired legs and maintain aggressive strides. Competition was keen and if they were going to make the qualifying cut each of the lead runners needed to be strong.
However, a big – and unwelcome – surprise met the runners as they approached the finish line.
A banner reading Championship was stretched across the path indicating the end of the race. Unfortunately, the banner was actually four feet short of the end and positioned over a green line. The ending point of the race was four feet beyond and marked with a white line. More than a dozen runners stopped early thinking they had crossed the finish line, not realizing that another four feet lay in front of them.
Runners who stopped were passed causing positions to change quickly.
“I knew there was a problem at the finish and let the girls know,” said Evans. “It is tough at the finish of a race to remember to keep going. This caused confusion for everyone.”
CV lead runner Ali Johnson finished 25th (18:29), Cali King finished 31st (18:38) and Megan Melnyk 32nd (18:41) crossing at the correct ending point. Erika Johnson placed 47th (18:51) and was one of the CV runners who lost a spot when she stopped at the wrong line and then walked forward. The Falcon team looks forward to what waits in Fresno.
“We run well at Woodward,” said Evans. “They ran the course earlier in the season and did well. We take the same approach as always: Run our race. Pass everyone you can. Keep moving up in the last half of the race. Get out hard but be relaxed. First mile there is always fast. We just need to be up in the group and run relaxed.”
The Pacific League saw another year of Arcadia’s domination in the Division 1 boy’s race. The Apaches successfully won their second CIF championship title as a team scoring 65 points with Sergio Gonzalez winning first place (14:51). Rancho Cucamonga’s Luis Gutierez placed second (15:53), Kevin Durham of El Toro took third (14:56). Anthony Monroy of Burroughs placed sixth (15:05) and will compete as an individual at the state meet.