First published in the Dec. 2 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
The La Cañada High School girls’ cross-country team took advantage of a picture-perfect race day — cool temperatures and blue skies — to take second place in Division 4 at the CIF State Cross-Country Championships this past Saturday on the 5,000-meter course at Fresno’s Woodward Park.
In one of the closest three-way battles in meet history, the Spartans scored 131 points, nine behind winner JSerra of San Juan Capistrano (122 points), and tied with San Diego’s Sage Creek. LCHS won the tiebreaker when their sixth runner (each team has seven runners) finished ahead of Sage Creek’s sixth. (In cross-country, a team’s first five runners score, with their finish places added and low score prevailing.)
“The fact it came down to a tiebreaker, with both our sixth and seventh runners ahead of Sage Creek’s sixth, shows how important all seven girls on the team are,” said Spartan head coach Chris Matarese. “Our girls are so close as a team that it was only fitting that it took a team effort to secure our place on the podium.”
The Spartan girls, who one week earlier took second place at the CIF Southern Section Finals to the same JSerra squad, came into the meet ranked third in the state, with JSerra an overwhelming favorite and Sage Creek the odds-on pick for second place.
Eventual race individual winner Sophia Nordenholz of CIF North Coast Section’s Albany High School took the race out at a blistering 5:16 first mile. LC’s Arielle McKenzie joined a chase pack, running 5:22. La Cañada’s No. 2 runner, Katelyn Matarese, chose a more conservative approach, coming through the mile at 5:44, with Maya Debrouwer at 5:48, Catherine Mispagel at 5:52, and Jenna Milbrodt at 6:01. Caitlin Roehmholdt and Yasmin Ghaneh filled out the Spartan squad, clocking miles splits of 6:13 and 6:19, respectively.
“Arielle was looking really tired from the crazy early pace and from hard races the previous two weeks on the hilly Mt. SAC course,” said assistant girls coach Pete Magill. “She was still in the top 10, but I didn’t know if she could hold it for the final mile.”
Matarese’s conservative approach yielded a strong second mile, as she passed 10 runners in that stretch. Debrouwer, Mispagel, and Milbrodt maintained their positions, while Roehmholdt and Ghaneh improved 11 and 13 places, respectively.
McKenzie crossed the finish line ninth (sixth for scoring purposes, as individual runners not affiliated with a qualifying team are removed from team scoring) in 18:22, while Matarese equaled her opening mile split with a 5:44 final mile, improving another three places to finish in 10th (seventh scoring) at 18:24. The top 10 finishers in the race were named All-State, with LCHS the only team with two runners earning that honor.
DeBrouwer finished in 22nd place (scoring), running 19:07, while Mispagel passed five runners in the last mile to finish 34th (scoring) in 19:25. Milbrodt was the final scorer for the Spartans, running 20:11 for 64th place.
Tied for second place with Sage Creek at 131 points, the final podium order was determined by the finish place of each team’s sixth runner, with LCHS prevailing based on Roehmholdt’s 20:28 and 82nd place. Notably, the Spartans’ seventh runner, Ghaneh, also finished in front of Sage Creek’s sixth runner, clocking 20:50 for 92nd place.
“Six of our seven varsity runners, including our top four, will be back next year,” said coach Matarese. “We’re hoping this second-place finish is just a step toward a state championship next year.”
For the season, the Spartans won the Santa Clarita Invitational, went undefeated in Rio Hondo League competition to win the league championship, took second in the CIF-SS Division 4 Finals, and took second in the CIF State Division 4 Championships.
Golden Knights Place 12th
The St. Francis High School cross-country team was also present for the state meet in Fresno last Saturday and placed 12th out of 25 teams in the CIF State Division 3 race.
Junior Hayden Owen paced the Golden Knights with a time of 16:13, which was good for 19th, and teammate Luke Metcalf finished in 16:20 for 26th. Noe Barraza crossed the finish line in 17:09 for 76th place, senior Tim Parisi wasn’t far behind to take 78th with a time of 17:11, Edyn Cepeliek (17:30) was 97th, Lucas Pichardo placed 115th with a time of 20:44 and freshman Auge Martin finished in 20:44 for 170th.