LA CRESCENTA — With Pacific League titles hanging in the balance, both Crescenta Valley High cross-country contingents set their sights on reigning champion and archrival Arcadia.
For the Falcons’ girls’ squad, though, the race may have ultimately been decided more than four hours before the meet when it was learned that illness would keep one of the team’s top five out of the race. As for the boys, who, like the girls, split the previous league meets with Arcadia, they simply got the very best the Apaches, ranked No. 1 in CIF Southern Section Division I, had to offer.
The end result was a pair of repeat bids as champions for the Apaches on Thursday afternoon upon the 3.1-mile Crescenta Valley Park course.
Nonetheless, both Falcons squads finished second, leading a local contingent into next week’s CIF Southern Section prelims, as Burbank and Burroughs qualified both their girls’ and boys’ teams, as well.
Junior Gabe Collison turned in a stellar third-place run of 15 minutes 35.28 seconds to lead the Falcons, whose 54 points were a distant second to first-place Arcadia’s 22.
“I think they took it for granted,” said Falcons Coach Mark Evans of the Apaches’ performance in the first league meet when the Falcons beat them. “[Today], we just wanted to try and get as close to Arcadia as we could. I think they did a pretty good job.”
A good job considering Arcadia’s team time of 78:35, led by league champion Mitchell Pratt (15:20.12) and Esteven De La Rosa (second, 15:20.31), was a course record.
Burbank took third with 89 points in front of fourth-place Burroughs (96 points), while Hoover senior Jeremy Zadoorian finished sixth in 15:59.46 to nab a CIF individual qualifying spot.
On the girls’ side, Glendale sophomore Leana Setian also grabbed an individual qualifying slot, taking fifth in 18:58.12.
CV, led by junior Erika Johnson’s third-place finish in 18:42.18, took second with 40 points, just behind Arcadia’s 34. Burroughs, which was led by seventh-place senior Gracia Innocentia, was third with 82 points, just in front of rival Burbank (88).
Crescenta Valley was missing All-Area standout Cali King, who was at home with a “102-degree fever,” according to Evans, and one could presume it made a huge difference, as the Falcons’ top four runners finished after the Apaches’ top two, but in front of the rest of the Arcadia pack.
“We put four in front of all of them, but we couldn’t get that fifth up there. That hurt us, obviously,” Evans said. “It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it was. They ran really well. They’ve been running better and better.
“I’d rather have [King] out today than for CIF.”
Setian took the race out strong at the start and Arcadia’s top two obliged the pace.
“I went out pretty fast,” Setian said. “Every race I need to get a really good start to get into it.
“I was ... planning for a better place, but at least I made [CIF prelims], that’s the important thing.”
Arcadia’s Veronica Yamane (first, 18:04.96) and Laura Guidolin (second, 18:17.71) never waned, but Johnson and fourth-place sophomore Megan Melnyk (18:48.02) began a steady stream of Falcons across the finish, doing their best in King’s absence.
“Honestly, I was mostly just bummed cause she’s one of our sisters and this was our last race together on this course. That was a big bummer,” Johnson said. “But I was still pretty confident we could pull it together because it’s our home course.”
Following Setian were CV senior Hannah Ruby (sixth, 19:17.18) and sophomore Haley Witzeman (eighth, 19:31.09), who were split by Innocentia, who came across in 19:21.18.
“I was satisfied, but I know I can improve,” said Innocentia, who garnered the last first-team all-league slot and was followed by teammates Miranda Acosta (16th, 20:35.52), Johanna Reyes Ortega (17th, 20:37.56) and Samantha Fajardo (20th, 20:49.40) as top-20 Indians. “I just wanted to push my team so we could go to CIF.”