WOODLAND HILLS — Both the Flintridge Prep boys' and girls' cross-country teams entered Saturday morning's Prep League championships at Los Angeles Pierce College with similar, yet strikingly different goals.
Even though both pined for a Prep League title, it was the boys who proved themselves steady again in defending their crown with ease, while the girls narrowly avoided being upset in finishing second overall.
"We are a very hard-working team and I think the guys are starting to finally realize that they are a really good team," Flintridge Prep Coach Ingrid Herskind said. "We're ranked No. 1 in [Division V of the CIF Southern Section], but I think the guys still saw themselves as a No. 2 or No. 3 team and maybe this win is what they need going forward."
The Rebels delivered a dominating victory over Pasadena Poly, 22-60, while Flintridge Prep's Aaron Sugimoto won the league individual championship in running to a title in 15 minutes, 44 seconds — the league's fourth-best mark all-time on the course.
Sugimoto outlasted Poly's Michael Caughron, who clipped him by four seconds at the league's only other meet Sept. 13 at Webb Schools.
"I was thinking about [Caughron] all week and about this race," said Sugimoto, who finished fifth at last year's final in 16:20. "I really wanted this and now that I've got it, it's great."
Sugimoto was third midway through the race, trailing both Caughron and teammate Elias Ellison, who relinquished control right around the two-mile mark.
Sugimoto took advantage of both downhills over the final mile before holding off a surge from Caughron (second, 15:54).
"He got me last year at league finals," Sugimoto said. "This time I went early and he kicked late and I was able to hold on."
Flintridge Prep's success wasn't just based on Sugimoto's win, though, as the Rebels placed all seven of their runners within the top nine, including scorers Ellison (third, 16:02), Jack Van Scoter (fifth, 16:37), Tyler Fong (sixth, 16:43) and Manny Perez (seventh, 16:46).
With the win, the Rebels also advanced to the Division V preliminaries at Mt. San Antonio College on Nov. 10.
Joining the boys will be the Flintridge Prep girls, who finished second with 72 points, just ahead of surprising Chadwick (74), but well behind reigning league champion Mayfield, which clinched its second straight league title and third in five years in scoring 30 points.
"We are postseason bound. Every race is different. Today you saw [sophomore] Lacy Coan race up toward the front for us," Rebels Coach Mike Roffina said. "We still haven't been able to establish who our No. 1 runner is, but we're excited to be going."
There was a buzz heading into Saturday's finals in regards to the Flintridge Prep girls, who entered after having stunned heavily-favored Division IV second-ranked Mayfield, 41-49, back on Sept. 13.
Yet, the Cubs responded in full force as their scoring five finished fourth through eighth, just ahead of ninth-place Coan (19:35), who was making her debut run at Pierce College.
"I wasn't really feeling good when I got up this morning, but I really wanted to give it my all," said Coan, a transfer from Washington. "To be honest, I did a lot better than I expected."
Following Coan were teammates Sarah Yoho (12th, 20:16), Kate Evans (15th, 20:27), Ashley Lara (16th, 20:33) and Grace Broyles (20th, 21:41).