LCHS Runners Dominate at Santa Clarita Valley Invitational

First published in the Oct. 14 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

The La Cañada High School boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams took advantage of cool weather and Santa Clarita’s Central Park course that played to their strengths to record their top team performance of the season. The girls’ varsity squad, led by Arielle McKenzie’s individual win, scored a dominant victory in the large schools division, girls’ JV logged an equally impressive win in the small schools division, and boys’ varsity — missing two of its top three runners — placed third in the small schools section.
“The girls completely dominated the varsity large schools division,” said girls head coach Chris Matarese. “We registered for large schools (CIF Divisions 1, 2 and 3), despite being a small school (Division 4), for the added competition. But the girls were way too much for even the big schools to handle.”
The Spartan girls’ varsity scored 36 points to defeat a field of 21 schools in the invitational’s large schools division. In cross-country, low score wins (the finish places of each school’s top five runners are added to determine the score). Second-place Westlake High of Westlake Village scored 67 points, with no other school bettering 100 points.
Sophomore Arielle McKenzie grabbed the lead off the start line and never relinquished it over a three-mile course that included grass, dirt trails, and steep climbs and descents. Her time of 17:04 bettered the second-place finisher’s mark by 19 seconds. Teammate Katelyn Matarese was fourth in 17:51. Catherine Mispagel continued her breakout season with an 18:25 for ninth. Freshman Maya DeBrouwer ran 18:35 for 12th. Jenna Milbrodt and Caroline Gill formed a solid pack to finish 13th and 14th, in 18:51 and 18:56, respectively. Caitlin Roehmholdt was the Spartans final varsity finisher with a 19:31 for 25th place. When individual runners not affiliated with teams were removed from the scoring, the Spartans had logged the lowest winning score for any of the day’s varsity races (both girls and boys divisions).
The Spartans boys’ varsity scored 123 points to finish third place in the small schools division. After mixed results from their first three meets this season, La Cañada’s boys ran smart, solid races to secure their place on the podium.
“I’m really proud of our guys for coming together and getting third,” said boys head coach Andy Rodemich. “Even with two of our top runners unable to compete [one with an injury, one for personal reasons], they ran like a team. They executed our race plan perfectly and are gelling just in time for this week’s second league cluster meet.”
Robert Lee was the Spartans’ top finisher, clocking 16:21 for 13th place. George Branda and Ethan Lee followed in 23rd and 24th, running 16:42 and 16:47, respectively. Then sophomore Jamie Saunders in 16:53, Siraaj Sandhu in 17:11, and Andres Uribe in 18:54.
Following in the footsteps of girls’ varsity, the girls’ JV squad delivered a shellacking to their competition in the small schools division, scoring 54 points to runner-up Torrance Bishop Montgomery’s 82. Yasmin Ghaneh led the way, cashing in on her best performance of the year with a second-place finish in 19:55. La Cañada also claimed finish places three, four and five, with Sophia Ponce running 20:45, Kelly Sellman at 20:50, and Kaoru Saito in 20:57. Sealing the victory was Amy Kiang, who’d missed almost six months due to knee pain, with her 42nd-place finish. Sarah Fleischman was La Cañada’s final JV runner, finishing in 71st place.
The Spartan boys’ JV team lacked the required five runners to score as a team. Running as individuals in the small schools race, Alec Sodonis finished 17th in 20:22, Marc Sodonis was 22nd in 20:57, and Umar Saleem was 23rd in 21:04.
La Cañada took eighth place in the small schools frosh/soph division. George Hervey ran 19:15 for 28th place. A trio of Spartans took places 54-56, with Cayden Kim running 21:18, Munoz Alejandro in 21:22, and Sebastian Markmann in 21:25. Leo Krinsky was the Spartans final scorer, running 21:44 for 63rd place.
The Spartans return to league action this Thursday in a Rio Hondo League meet at Pasadena’s Hahamongna Watershed Park. Tentative start times are JV boys at 3:30, JV girls at 4, varsity boys at 4:30, varsity girls at 5, and frosh/soph boys at 5:30.

Flintridge Prep Girls Place 2nd

It was an outstanding Saturday at the Santa Clarita Invitational last Saturday for the Flintridge Prep girls’ cross-country team.
The varsity squad finished second overall in the small schools race, besting Pasadena opponent Mayfield Senior by 11 points. Senior Nicole Mirzaian ran a career-best 19:53 for a 10th place finish in the race and was trailed closely by junior Anya Rose (14th place, 20:18). Other fine varsity performances rounding out the top five came from senior Rosalinda Chen (24th place, 20:45), and sophomores Hailey Wilson (26th place, 20:50) and Julia Bonk (36th place, 21:29). The JV squad, led by senior Veronica Habashy, was the first Division 5 finisher in the small school’s JV race and finished sixth overall, once again topping Mayfield by a five-point margin.