CIF cross country: three teams, three individuals advance to state meet

Photos by Phillip Brents The Steele Canyon High School girls cross country team recorded a runner-up finish in the Division II race to qualify for this year’s state championship

East County will be represented by three teams and three individuals at this year’s California state cross country championship meet Nov. 25 at Fresno’s Woodward Park.

Steele Canyon High School qualified both its boys and girls teams for the annual epic event while Alpine’s Liberty Charter qualified in the Division V boys field.

Individual qualifiers include Helix freshman Kate Weaver (Division I girls), Santana freshman Harper Diaz (Division III girls) and Mt. Miguel senior Garrett Cloyd (Division III boys).

Making the grade

The top three teams in Division II-V boys, Division I-II girls and Division IV-V girls qualified to advance to the state meet while the top two teams in Division I boys and the top four teams in Division III girls also did so.

Liberty Charter won last year’s Division V boys team title while led by Micah Sanchez, now at the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Even without Sanchez, the Lions proved to be a formidable foe this year.

“Micah is the reason the team is doing well,” Liberty Charter Daniel Sanchez explained. “This year’s team is actually better than last year. Everybody’s times have improved. Our sixth runner is faster than our second runner last year.”

Playing catch up to a superstar was obviously a big motivational factor and showed younger runners on the team what their own potential could be.

Liberty Charter finished on top of the 22 schools at the Frontier Conference finals.

The competition proved very competitive at this year’s section championship meet. Francis Parker won the team championship with 55 points, followed by Calvin Christian with 62 points and Liberty Charter with 66 points. Santa Fe Christian was a distant fourth with 111 points.

The Lions proved up to the task by placing their top five scorers among the top 20 finishers in the 132-deep field. All seven runners finished in the top 30.

Senior Ivan Guzman paced Liberty Charter with a time of 15:51.1 on the 2.96-mile course to finish fourth among individuals.

Junior Joel Bray followed in 10th place in 16:31.9 as his team’s No. 2 scorer. Juniors Luke Mapes (17th, 16:57.1) and Aiden Burr (19th, 17:02.1) followed as Nos. 3-4, with senior Samuel Morales (20th, 17:03.1) placing as the team’s No. 5 scorer.

Sophomores Marcos Heers (26th, 17:29.8) and Caleb Acosta (29th, 17:35.6) rounded out the team’s complement of seven entrants.

Francis Parker senior York Bourgeois finished first in 15:11.8 while Santa Fe Christian junior Evan Smith was second in 15:22.0.

Calvin Christian senior John Bitner placed third in 15:34.7.

“The competition was stronger this year,” the Liberty Charter coach said. “We were the only team that placed five runners in the top 20. That’s a big deal.

“We’re losing three seniors. There’s plenty of young guys coming up. We’ve got enough good talent for the next two to three years. At the state meet, we’re trying to beat those team teams (Francis Parker and Calvin Christian) that finished ahead of us at the section meet. In East County we were ranked as the No. 1 team, even higher than Steele Canyon and Grossmont. We were ranked eighth in the section, not including any divisions.”

Scripps Ranch won the Division II girls team title with 43 points while Steele Canyon girls won the tiebreaker over Vista with 92 points to place second.

The Lady Cougars’ five scorers in the 115-deep field included junior Diana Lopez (fourth, 19:24.4), junior Shelby Coleman (13th, 20:13.3), sophomore Danica Ferrez (14th, 20:18.2), sophomore Kaitlyn Baldwin (30th, 21:18.5) and sophomore Ariel Hoffman (32nd, 21:19.5)

The sixth runner breaks a tie.

That went to Steele Canyon.

“I think we had a good chance to qualify for state,” Lady Cougars coach Madison Nocon said. “We’ve been training for a while. We thought Scripps Ranch would win it, so we were shooting for second. The fifth and sixth spots were crucial. The sixth placer was the difference between second and third place. Everyone who competed today is returning next year.”

Steele Canyon’s 103 points placed it third behind team champion Scripps Ranch (70 points) and runner-up Vista (87 points) in the Division II boys field. Mt. Carmel was nipping at the Cougars’ heels in fourth place (113 points).

Steele Canyon’s five scorers included juniors Micah Senn (seventh, 16:27.6), Miguel Casillas (17th, 16:48.7), Aldo Covarrubias (25th, 17:13.9), Matthew Binsfield (27th, 17:15.0) and senior Luke Hoffman (30th, 17:18.7).

The Cougars placed second in the division last year as a state qualifier.

“We have a really young team,” Steele Canyon coach Aaron Weston assessed. “Out of our top 10, we’re only losing one. We exceeded expectations to be in the top five. We pushed really hard.”

On the run

•Weaver finished sixth among Division I girls in 18:28.3 — well arears of race-winner Jaelyn Williams (17:06.4), a sophomore from Eastlake.

•Diaz finished fifth among Division III girls in 18:31.3. La Costa Canyon senior Gioana Lopizzo repeated as division champion in 17:29.3, the third-fastest time on the day.

•Cloyd, a returning state qualifier and this year’s Grossmont Conference individual champion, placed eighth among Division III boys as the final individual state qualifier. He qualified last year as the No. 3 individual in Division IV.

“A lot tougher competition,” Cloyd admitted in the move up a division. “In Division IV there was one kid (who was near me), just me and him, and he passed me at the end (to finish second). This year, it was a great race.”

University City senior Caden Hicks won the Division III boys race in 15:08.1, followed by Sage Creek sophomore Josiah Bowman in 15:22.3. Sage Creek won the team title with 37 points ahead of Cathedral Catholic (second place, 58 points) and La Costa Canyon (third place, 82 points).

“I’m a lot more motivated than last year, I’m ready for state,” Cloyd said. “It will be my last race as a senior.”

The Matadors finished eighth as a team.

“We ran well, but we didn’t run our best race,” Mt. Miguel coach Antoine Woods said. “The kids are starting to buy in at the school. It’s a program now.”

Matador senior Dason Hege finished 17th among individuals (16:41.9) at last Saturday’s CIF finals. The top 10 place-finishers earn First Team all-CIF honors while the next 10 are Second Team All-CIF.

La Jolla sophomore Chiara Dailey logged the fastest time among girls in 16:57.7 in winning the Division IV race while El Camino senior Omar Reyes won the Division I boys race in a fleet-footed 14:47.4.