Crescenta Valley High girls' cross-country looks to make run at Pacific League title, state
Cross-country: Crescenta Valley is one of several squads, including Flintridge Prep, Flintridge Sacred Heart, Glendale, Hoover and Holy Family all looking for improvement.
The Crescenta Valley High girls cross-country team, including Haley Witzeman, left, and Rebecca Mencia, second from left, has hopes at a Pacific League and state title in 2013. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer / September 7, 2013)
As the seasonbegan this week, those schools each had divergent goals, led by Crescenta Valley High.
The Falcons are back after a runner-up finish at the Pacific League finals and a 12th-place effort at the CIF Southern Section Division I championships.
Perhaps just as exciting for the squad is the fact that five of seven of its runners return – including four of five scorers – from the silver-medal team last season.
“We have a lot of experience coming back from last year and lot of competition on the back end,” said Falcons 16-year-veteran Coach Mark Evans. “Our challenge will be to get a good group of young girls to take our fifth, sixth and seventh spots.”
Perhaps the Falcons return the area’s most dynamic runner in junior Megan Melnyk, who advanced to the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet in the 800-meter run with a mark of 2 minutes, 12.34 seconds.
Melnyk might represent the best chance for the Falcons to challenge the league’s top two returners in senior Veronica Yamane and junior Laura Guidolin of Arcadia, who finished first (18 minutes, 4.96 seconds) and second (18:17.71), respectively, at league finals at Crescenta Valley Park on Nov. 1, 2012.
Melnyk finished fourth that day in 18:48.02 and later led her team in taking ninth (18:39) at the Division I preliminaries before finishing 52nd (17:36) at the divisional finals.
“Megan is solid coming back and will likely be the top runner,” Evans said, “but you can’t forget Erika Johnson. She was great despite being hurt. You put her in the mix with Haley Witzeman and you have a strong three.”
Johnson took the bronze at league finals in 18:42.18 and was her squad’s highest finisher at the divisional championships as she took 29th (17:09).
Likely joining Melnyk, Johnson and Witzeman (eighth at league finals in 19:31.09) in the Falcons’ scoring corps are sophomores Rebecca Mencia (19th at league finals in 20:39.90) and Hoover sophomore transfer Samantha Bernardo (finished 37th at league finals in 22:38.68).
Arcadia, the lone Pacific League team ranked in the 2013 preseason poll at No. 6, topped Crescenta Valley, 34-40, at league finals, but graduated three of its top seven runners from last year.
“We know they’re a great program, but if our last three or four runners can hold up, we have a chance,” Evans said.
Maybe the biggest change this offseason took place at Flintridge Prep, where 16th-year coach Mike Roffina is enjoying a renaissance of sorts at a school that’s already enjoyed its fair share of cross-country success.
While Roffina returns six of his top seven from a squad that finished 12th in the Division V CIF State Meet, fifth at the CIF Southern Section Division V championships and runner-up in the Prep League finals to Mayfield Senior, the Rebels had an extra big bonus in the form of 18 freshmen who joined the program this offseason.
“We’ve got 35 girls in the program. It’s amazing, I’ve never seen anything like that in all my years coaching,” Roffina. “We’re a small school, a school that has 50 or 60 total freshman girls. We’re in Division V, but that’s something a Division I school gets. And honestly, I don’t know where that is coming from.”
Those numbers come along with high expectations as the Rebels are ranked No. 1 in all of Southern California and No. 5 by dyestatcal.com in Division V, while the CIF Southern Section ranking placed the Rebels at No. 2 in the section behind Woodcrest Christian.
Back for the Rebels in 2013 is junior Lacy Coan, the squad’s highest finisher at the Prep League finals at Pierce College on Oct. 27. Coan took ninth last season in 19:35.
By comparison, Mayfield placed its scoring five ahead of Coan in romping to a victory over the Rebels, 30-72.