LCHS Takes to the Hills at Mt. SAC Invitational

First published in the Oct. 28 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

The La Canada High School cross-country team joined more than 400 high schools and almost 9,000 competitors at last weekend’s Mt. SAC Invitational, which ranks as the second-largest invitational in the United States. Held at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, the three-mile course’s three long climbs — “the switchbacks,” “poop out hill,” and Reservoir Hill — have been fixtures of the Southern California cross-country experience for seven decades of high school runners .
The Spartan girls’ varsity continued their 2021 fall rampage by taking third overall in Friday’s combined Divisions 3, 4, and 5 sweepstakes race, which included the top teams from those CIF divisions in the state. The Spartans scored 105 points to winner Cathedral Catholic’s 57 and runner-up Sage Creek’s 97 (in cross-country, low score wins). The LCHS girls’ JV squad took second in their Division 3-4-5 sweepstakes race, simultaneously claiming the team title for Division 4.
“Our girls’ varsity went up against the best in the state and finished only a few points behind two-time defending state Division 4 champion Sage Creek,” said girls’ head coach Chris Matarese. “We showed we’re in the hunt for the Division 4 state title this year.”
Leading the way for the Spartans, as she has all season, was Arielle McKenzie. McKenzie and eventual race winner Stormy Wallace of Sage Creek formed an early two-girl breakaway. McKenzie faded slightly after a hard climb on the switchbacks, then regained form to take third place in 17:58.
LCHS teammate Katelyn Matarese looked strong with a 14th-place finish in 18:48. Catherine Mispagel and freshman Maya DeBrouwer ran the race as a two-person pack, finishing 26th and 27th in 19:19 and 19:21, respectively. Jenna Milbrodt was 35th in 19:54 and Caitlyn Roehmholdt ran 21:14 as the final Spartan finisher.
In the JV race, Spartan Yasmin Ghaneh finished fifth overall in 21:12, with teammate Sophia Ponce seventh in 21:44. Kaoru Saito and Kelly Sellman paced each other throughout the race, finishing 17th and 19th respectively, with Ria Mandal the final LCHS scorer in 30th place.
The LCHS boys’ varsity placed sixth out of the 22 schools in their Division 3-4-5 race, while the freshman team placed 13th. The Spartans entered individuals in the sophomore and JV races but lacked the requisite five runners for team scoring.
“We underperformed as a team,” said boys’ head coach Andy Rodemich. “This was our third race in less than two weeks, and I think we were running tired. We’ve got this week off, then can refocus on Rio Hondo League Finals next week.”
For the boys’ varsity, Max Smith ran 16:40 for ninth place. Senior Ethan Lee continued his comeback from injury with a 17:25 for 31st. Other Spartan scorers were George Branda in 44th (18:01), Siraaj Sandhu in 47th (18:06), and Robert Lee at 61st (18:19).
In the freshman race, Luke Schaedel was the top Spartan finisher, running 21:49 for 53rd place. In the sophomore race, Jamie Saunders shook off a hip injury to run 17:57, good for sixth place. In the JV Sweepstakes race, La Canada’s Aditya Sehgal ran 19:03 for 30th place.
The Spartan harriers have a week off from competition before returning next week for the Rio Hondo League Finals, the last of the season’s three all-league cluster meets, with this one worth double points toward the league championship. The meet will take place on Thursday, Nov. 4, at San Marino’s Lacy Park, with the time schedule still to be determined.

Flintridge Prep

This past Friday, Oct. 22, the Flintridge Prep girls’ and boys’ cross-country teams saw some excellent performances in the 73rd annual Mt. SAC Invitational at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut.
The girls’ cross-country team, ranked No. 7 in CIF Southern Section, finished second in its race, besting Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (ranked eighth) by 23 points. Led by junior Anya Rose (21:31), the top five runners (including Rosalinda Chen, Nicole Mirzaian, Hailey Wilson and Julia Bonk) finished within one minute and 48 seconds of one another. The JV squad, led by Audrey Jung and Joyce Kirk, also placed second.
The boys’ varsity team’s top performers were senior Dominick Schrader, who ran the fastest Prep time of the day, and junior Bryan Taniguchi. The sophomore boys placed second in their race, with Kevin Martinez and Nico Stanton leading the way. Carter Saka and Will Koh led the freshmen boys to a first-place finish in their race.
The teams will finish their regular season on Saturday with league finals at Pierce College on Oct. 30, where the girls hope to defeat league rival Palos Verdes Chadwick.