By Leonard COUTIN
High winds could not stop the Staub/Barnes Invitational runners.
The 46th Annual Staub/Barnes Cross Country Invitational was held at Crescenta Valley Park on Saturday. Battered by Santa Ana winds that took temperatures well into the 90s, athletes and spectators had a hard time concentrating as dust continually swirled about. All were grateful that these conditions improved later in the morning allowing the runners to breathe a little easier as they tackled the three-mile course.
CV Park provides particularly favorable conditions for spectators in that they can view runners from various positions of the course. Many of the state’s finest teams have competed in this meet over the last 45 years; individuals like Burbank star runner Jeff Nelson who set the course record in 1978 running 14:49. Anita Siraki of Hoover ran 17:18 in 2000 and Loyola set the all time record in 2007. The course and Staub meet record for girls is 92:12 set in 2008 by Saugus.
Coach John Barnes of Glendale High started the invitational to provide local athletes a chance to compete against others in the Southern California area. After his passing, the invitational was renamed the Staub/Barnes Invitational in gratitude for his years of devotion and service to the community.
On Saturday, for Falcon senior Matt Manalo, it was one of his finest running moments this season. He was named the leader of his squad because his fellow teammates, Gabe Collison and Nick Beatty, had to sit out this competition to nurse strains. Coach Mark Evans reviewed their injuries and decided that the pair should take the week off to be better prepared for the Clovis Invitational at Woodward Park this weekend.
Despite poor weather conditions, Manalo demonstrated his ability to run with the best, winning first place in the Division 1 varsity race (15:54.03). Last season, Manalo had a break-through when he ran one of the best miles at the Mt. SAC Invitational Relays, aiding the Falcons in setting their 4×1600 relay record for the school.
“I am very pleased with how the teams ran,” Evans said at the end of the day. “I thought Matt got a chance to step up and win a race. He had to move Robert McNelis up and he ran a great race, too.”
Edward Chance of Del Campo took second on the Falcons’ home course running 16:06.03, and Cole James of Arbor View placed third (16:15.91). CV placed third in team standings behind second place Burroughs and winners Del Campo.
CV lead girl runners Megan Melnyk, Haley Witzeman and Rebecca Mencia were equally challenged on Saturday, combating the conditions on their home course as well as seeing strong competition from Canyon High School.
“The wind made it harder for everyone to run, especially when it blew dust,” said Melnyk. “Overall, it probably slowed people down but we ran through it.”
Particularly arduous was the last 600 yards when tornadoes of dust blew on the backside of the course.
Canyon lead runners Natalie Rodriguez took first (18:29.18) and teammate Kyla Danforth placed second (19:06.06) after combining their efforts to grab the lead positions early on.
Though she isn’t one to complain, Melnyk said, “It has been tiring. We’ve had some very difficult workouts, but it will all pay off in the end. Overall we feel good as a team, we’ve had many PRs on courses.”
Melnyk placed fifth (19:25.56) behind Canyon runner Conception Flores who took fourth (19:14.28). Falcon Haley Witzeman grabbed ninth (20.04.18).
“The girls ran a very good race,” said Evans.
CV girls placed fourth. Canyon took first followed by Bishop Amat, and Arbor View High.