By Leonard COUTIN
As he rounded the last curve of the course, only one runner stood between Falcon Colin FitzGerald and the finish line.
Despite being a tad tardy building speed for the finish – “I started my kick a little late,” said FitzGerald – he accomplished a personal best mark with a time of 14:44.52 behind Redondo Union High runner Ethan Comeaux who won the Division 1 CIF finals (14:43.21). FitzGerald individually qualified to move forward to the CIF State Meet at Woodward Park in Fresno on Saturday. Having already made a significant mark in the school’s record books, the best may still lie ahead for Crescenta Valley High School’s young runner.
“Colin ran in the group for the first half as we had planned,” said Head Coach Mark Evans. “The idea is to run controlled and in the group and match any surges and moves by the other competitors. Colin looked very controlled throughout. Others began to fall off and when the Redondo athlete moved Colin was able to go with him. He let him open a little [wider] gap than we wanted. He made a great effort to catch him and was just short.”
Though FitzGerald saw success in his attempts, local Pacific League teams were not as fortunate. Only the seven top teams move on to the state meet. Saturday’s CIF cross-country finals, which were held on the Riverside City Golf Course, did not bode well for Burroughs, which placed eighth, the Falcons 10th and Arcadia 12th in the overall final team standings.
Falcon sophomore Manan Vats knew he couldn’t maintain the pace and struggled after the first mile. Pushing himself hard he continued to finish 39th (15:18.23). Teammate Zack Johnson showed early signs of fatigue and did not bounce back as he has during the season. He scored 68th (15:37.96). Falcon Artin Allahverdian did well, scoring 75th running 15:40.47. Young and improved runner Carter Walch took 129th (16:02.81). Spenser Geck, who had an injury last week, came back to the finals and placed 138th (16:12.2). Matt Brunner finished 139th (16.12.91).
“The team ran very well. Everyone had big improvements over the race the week before,” said Evans. “We worked on having them move up in the second half of the race. All of them did. We came in ranked ninth or 10th and finished 10th. It was a great effort. All but one of our athletes is back next year. We will return with a strong team.”
For the Pacific League girls, the Arcadia team placed third and Burroughs stellar runner Emily Virtue individually took fifth running 17:09.10.
The Flintridge Prep girls and boys teams had outstanding showings at the finals. The girls were led by Natalie O’Brien who finished strong in second place (17:44.82) in Division 5 while teammates Sophie Gitlin and Jenna Mijares scored big for the team. Gitlin finished sixth running 18:14.06, and Mijares finished eighth running 18:21.78. Maria Cohen placed 12th (18:34.91), Gabriella Bennett 28th (19:31.22) and Caroline Wreszin 34th (19:48.33).
The Flintridge girls won the Division 1 title with a low score of 31 points followed by Pacifica Christian with 127 points, St. Margaret’s Episcopal with 153 points, Sage Hill High with 199 points and Orcutt Academy with 201 points.
The Flintridge Prep boys’ team scored third place with lead runner Evan Pattinelli capturing first running 15:10.8 while Riley Coan took 10th (15:43.5) and teammate Carson Hasbrouch 18th. Other contributors were Jonathan Vahala scoring 25th (16:03.6), Chris Tan 38th (16:21.1) and Sabastain Evans 40th (16:22.9). Sam O’Hagan placed 67th running 16:54.1.
Team final scores: Desert Christian 1st with 74 points followed by Valley Christian with 79 points, Flintridge Prep with 83 points, Thacher with 159 points and St. Margaret’s with 180 points.
Also scoring well in Division 5 was local resident Caitlyn Couch who is now running for Bell-Jeff High. She scored 10th running as an individual in a time of 18:25.2.
The La Cañada boys concluded their season placing 21st in the overall team standings and the La Cañada girls’ team missed moving forward by one place to finish eighth. Adena DiPaolo took the lead for the girls and scored 20th running 18:16.5, while teammate Sarah Arthur came in 21st (18:21.0).
The CIF state cross-country championships will be Saturday morning, Nov. 26 at Woodward Park in Fresno.