By Justin HAGER
“There’s nowhere I’d rather be the weekend after Thanksgiving than Fresno,” said Rob Evans, coach of the Crescenta Valley High School Falcons’ cross-country team, a smile on his face. The surprising statement became clear once he explained that Fresno is home to the annual CIF High School Cross-Country State Championships where the Falcon boys will compete for top honors this upcoming weekend.
The boys entered the southern section finals last weekend ranked fourth in their division and finished fourth in the meet behind an outstanding performance from senior Rowan FitzGerald who finished ninth overall and was named to First Team All-CIF Honors. Teammate Parker Simmons finished 18th with Max Ruiz, Luke Cheney and Bryce Bitetti also delivering excellent times to give the team a shot at the state title.
“It was a really hard race and to get fourth place was really impressive,” said Evans. “Each team has its own personality from year-to-year, but they all work hard and have maintained the same level of success.”
This weekend will mark the boys’ fourth straight appearance in the CIF state finals, following the canceled 2020 season due to COVID.
The girls’ squad also turned in an impressive performance at the southern section finals. Reese Zion finished 26th leading the team to 11th place overall. Unfortunately, only the top seven teams move on to the state championship.
Evans explained that 11th place was a victory nonetheless.
“Our girls team is a combination of seniors who had their season last year interrupted by COVID, who were put together with a rotating group of largely freshman and sophomores running in their first competitive season,” said Evans. “They ran a competitive race and are definitely starting to see themselves as a dominant team that belongs in the competition with other dominant teams in the region. Now they just have to realize it over the next 12 months. It was fun to watch them compete.”
Fortunately, more than half of the team is set to return next year, including standout junior Annabelle Taylor.
“Our athletes are so proud to represent our community and our school,” said Evans. “They run the streets in anonymity, but are truly outstanding athletes who work hard to represent our school and community with respect and pride.”
The Falcons compete for the state championship on Saturday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. at Woodward Park in Fresno. The state meet is open to the public with $10 tickets available online only. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.cifstate.org/sports/cross_country/champ_info/index.