WALNUT — Over the years, the Mount San Antonio College Cross-Country Invitational has served as a midway point or litmus test for teams heading into league championships and eventually the CIF Southern Section postseason.
While several local teams made strong appearances Friday afternoon, not one, figuratively or physically, could touch the Flintridge Prep boys’ cross-country squad.
The Rebels entered the 65th Mt. SAC edition ranked second in Division V and won their Division V sweepstakes with ease.
“We’ve had several issues going back to last year and even up until a few weeks ago,” said Rebels Coach Ingrid Herskind, who’s coached her team to four state titles, but won her first Mt. SAC invite race on Friday, “but this team has toughed it out.
“I’m proud of them and I knew they were doing well, I just wasn’t sure how well.”
Flintridge Prep scored 68 points in easily surpassing runner-up Country Day of La Jolla (104 points), while its team time of 1 hour, 21 minutes and 57 seconds was also well ahead of fifth-place St. Margaret’s (1:23:22), which was top-ranked in Division V.
As for individual efforts, four Rebels placed in the top 20, led by Elias Ellison, who was fifth in 16:03, and followed by Aaron Sugimoto (ninth, 16:15), Alan Yoho (13th, 16:17) and Tyler Fong (18th, 16:27). Senior Eric Sasse (30th, 16:55) was the Rebels’ final scorer.
“The weather really cooled down and that helped,” Ellison said. “We knew how good St. Margaret’s and St. Joseph were, but we also wanted to show we were as good.”
The Rebels led the way on a day brimming with highlights, as Prep’s girls’ team took fifth in the Division V sweepstakes, while La Cañada took fourth in Division III and Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy took third in its Division IV race.
With clear skies Friday afternoon, nothing prevented the La Cañada girls from flexing their muscles versus Rio Hondo League rival South Pasadena.
The Spartans finished fourth in the girls’ Division III sweepstakes with 147 points and a team time of 1:37:09, well ahead of the ninth-place Tigers (255, 1:41:57).
The race was the first between the squads after the first league meet was canceled due to lightning last week.
“Basically, my goal was to stay with [reigning league champion] Helena Van Loan [of South Pasadena] for as long as I could,” said Spartans junior Anna Frederich.
Frederich not only smashed her personal-best time of 18:59 by taking fifth in 18:33, but she also topped Van Loan (seventh, 18:37).
Fellow Spartans runner Coleen Mispagel was also in hot pursuit of Van Loan and impressed, finishing ninth (18:40).
“All I was trying to do is stay with Anna,” said Mispagel, who also broke her previous-best time of 18:55. “This was great.”
As for the Flintridge Prep girls, who entered second-ranked in Division V, the Rebels finished fifth with 147 points and a team time of 1:43:20.
“Now, with this race under our belts, we have an opportunity to see where we stack up,” Rebels Coach Mike Roffina said. “This is one of the more intense races and we had some people impressed, like my freshman [Sarah Kersting].”
Kersting was the Rebels’ sixth runner, as the squad was led by the duo of junior Sarah Yoho (25th, 20:18) and Coan Lacy (26th, 20:19).
Flintridge Sacred Heart also boasted a banner effort in taking third in the Division IV red race, paced by senior Gabby Fitzpatrick.
The Tologs senior earned eighth in 20:47, ahead of Maddie Peterson (11th, 20:59) and Kayla Grahn (20th, 21:28) as Flintridge Sacred Heart finished with 105 points and a team time of 1:48:18.
In the La Cañada intracity, public-versus-private school battle, St. Francis defeated La Cañada in the boys’ Division III blue race.
The Golden Knights finished 15th with 377 points and a team time of 1:29:12, ahead of the 17th-place Spartans, who tallied 445 points and finished in 1:31:27.
Senior J.D. Kieffer was St. Francis’ top finisher, taking 30th overall in 16:59. Brandon Newquist paced the Spartans in taking 46th in 17:18.
Hoover junior Lucik Minassian proved a one-girl team, running solo in the Division III girls’ green race and taking 24th in 21:29.