First published in the Sept. 30 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
The La Cañada High School girls’ cross-country team swept the varsity and junior varsity races in the first Rio Hondo League meet of the season last week and improved to 5-0.
The varsity team was more than the Rio Hondo League could handle. Sophomore star Arielle McKenzie ran a relaxed first two miles and then outkicked South Pasadena’s Sydney Morrow, who is also one of the top runners in the CIF Southern Section, to take the victory in 18:25. Katelyn Matarese followed in third in 18:32 to be part of the top three pack that gapped fourth place by nearly 30 seconds. McKenzie and Matarese give the Spartans one of the most potent 1-2 combinations in the state. Cat Mispagel continued her breakout season with a time of 19:15 for a seventh-place finish and captain Jenna Milbrodt followed in ninth at 19:24. Caroline Gill ran a solid race to be the team’s final scorer in 19:50, which was good for 10th place. Caitlin Roehmholdt finished next in 11th at 20:38 to give La Cañada six runners in the top 11. The LCHS girls are ranked second in CIF-SS Division 4 and hope to be competing for a state championship at the end of the season.
The JV started the meet off strong. Sophia Ponce controlled the race and took the impressive victory by 15 seconds in 20:59. She was immediately followed by Yasmin Ghaneh’s second place finish in 21:14. Both have shown they can be assets to the varsity team as the year moves on and both would be in the varsity race in almost any other year. Kelly Sellman continued her stellar rookie season with a fourth-place photo finish in 21:59 (third place finished in the identical time). Kelly made up 40 meters in the final stretch of the course to pass a few runners and almost give La Cañada the 1-2-3 finish. Ria Mandal was equally strong with a great fifth-place finish (with a time of 22:03) as she is rounding into the form that made her one of La Cañada’s top frosh a few years ago. LC’s final scorer was a surprise as Kaoru Saito ran a huge debutante race after battling knee injuries. She dropped a 23:14 time to take eighth place an easily give the Spartans the dominant win.
The LCHS boys had a tougher time with the varsity placing third behind the South Pasadena and San Marino. Max Smith led the charge for the Spartans with a fifth-place finish in 17:04. Robert Lee and Ayra Ghaneh finished 11th and 12th. Sophomore Jamie Saunders showed his potential with a 16th-place finish and Ethan Lee completed the LC scoring group with a 19th-place finish. He was followed by Siraaj Sandhu in 20th and Aditya Sehgal in 25th. The third-place finish still puts the boys in a good position to qualify for CIF as three teams from the Rio Hondo League will advance.
The JV boys finished in fourth while the frosh/soph boys took third. Alec Sodonis led the JV team with an 18th-place finish while Donovan Johnson’s fourth place finish led the frosh/soph team. The boys have a good shot to move up to at least second place in all divisions with a little bit of improvement at the next league meet.