Come late November, invitations to compete in the CIF State Cross-Country Championships at Woodward Park will be issued to a select few, but on Saturday the revered Fresno course was open to all comers. Several local teams, all hoping to end their seasons there, as well, took advantage of the opportunity to tackle Woodward Park at the 2012 Clovis Invitational.
Crescenta Valley High enjoyed strong showings in the Division I Extra-Large Boys' and Girls' races, with the Falcons boys, who are ranked ninth in CIF Southern Section Division I, taking third, while the girls surged to fourth.
Junior Gabe Collison led the Falcons boys to a team score of 142 points — behind Redondo Union's 122 and El Toro's 97 — by finishing third overall in 15:32, a 57 second drop from his time at Clovis last season.
"Gabe ran a great race, about a minute faster than he ran last year on this course," Crescenta Valley Coach Mark Evans said. "In fact, most of [the Falcons boys] were just about a minute faster than they ran [last year]. Some guys were a little bit more than that. Our top four were solid."
Collison was followed across the finish line closely by senior Aaron Esparza, who placed 13th in 15:55 for a drop of 1:06, junior Nick Beatty (23rd, 16:08), junior Matt Manalo in 24th in 16:08 for a 1:17 drop and junior Casey Magid, who dropped 1:13 to finish 80th in 16:53.
"Casey Magid ran a great race as the fifth guy today," Evans said. "He ran a lot faster than he did last year and just had a solid effort. Aaron Esparza was under 16, so that's really good and Manalo and Beatty were right together and I think they're capable of going under 16."
Evans said the Falcons' girls ran their best race of the season so far in finishing with 183 points behind Clovis (178), Long Beach Poly (155) and Redondo Union (71).
Sophomore Megan Melnyk was Crescenta Valley's top finisher, placing 16th in 19:14, followed by senior Hannah Ruby (19th, 19:13), sophomore Haley Witzeman (22nd, 19:18), senior Cali King (29th, 19:27) and sophomore Amanda Burch (106th, 20:54).
"They really did a good job and I think we're developing into a good solid team that's running the way that we need to run as a team," said Evans, who held out junior Erika Johnson because of a lingering foot injury, but expects to have a full squad for Thursday's Pacific League meet at Arcadia Park. "Their pack is developing and getting better and our gaps are better.
"Cali had one of her better races of the season, she's right there, so that really helped us. I think now there's some confidence going into this league meet that they're really developing."
Flintridge Prep's girls' team boasts its own lofty ranking in Division V (No. 2), but on Saturday was asked if it would participate in the Girls' Varsity Sweepstakes with mostly upper division teams, Prep Coach Michael Roffina said.
In the end, the Rebels were a little overwhelmed in the team competition, where they finished a distant 24th with 672 points, although their times were in line with expectations.
Juniors Kate Evans (101st, 20:03) and Sarah Yoho (133rd, 20:41) led the way with sophomores Lacy Coan (148th, 21:17) and Ashley Lara (154th, 21:27) and freshman Sarah Kersting (166th, 24:04) rounding out the top five.
"You never want to say no to that [invitation], but the girl who won [Hagen Reedy, 16:59) set the state record on the Clovis course, so needless to day, our team did not do very well at all," said Roffina, who's team ran without its seniors because of SAT testing. "Our times were OK and we can compare them to the [Division V race], but we were in a race with crazy big schools that are 10 times faster. Next year if we do this, I'm going to say, 'Please don't put us in the sweepstakes,' because we didn't really get a fair chance to even race."
Burbank also found itself a little short handed in the Division Extra-Large Girls' race, where it finished 20th (478) and the Boys' Varsity Sweepstakes, where it was 15th (388).
"Considering we didn't have any of our seniors, it went pretty well," Bulldogs Coach Trevor Marca said. "It's always a great honor to get the privilege to come out and race on the state meet course and do an overnight trip with the guys."
Burbank's boys were led by senior Arsen Mkrtchyan (33rd, 16:05) followed by juniors Elliot Choe (57th, 16:20), Gaberal Ellman (94th, 16:49) and Ethan Moskowitz (98th, 16:52) and sophomore Enrique Vizcaino (121st, 17:20).
On the girls' side, junior Arlette Movsesyan was the Bulldogs' top finisher at 49th in 19:49, while sophomore Park Lynn crossed 67th in 20:04 followed by junior Taryn Stevenson (115th, 21:04), freshman Candela Fernandez (131st, 21:27) and junior Stephanie Solomon (135th, 21:35)
Glendale added another dimension of Pacific League representation, as it competed in both the Division I Extra-Large Boys' and Girls' races.
Senior Fabiola Naranjo led the Nitros' girls' team to a 23rd-place finish (712) with her own 128th-place effort in 21:24 followed by senior Lauren Hansen (149th, 22:15) and sophomores Caroline Cubero (150th, 22:20), Kaitlyn Stanton (151st, 22:22) and Celene Habalrith (163rd, 23:44).
On the boys' side, the Nitros' 26th-place finish (732) was paced by junior Brian Shieh (111th, 17:12), sophomore Liam Spires (154th, 17:48), junior Mike Williams (159th, 17:52) and seniors Bradley Day (165th, 17:57) and Frankie Castro (171st, 18:05).