East County runners slam the course at South Bay Invitational cross country meet

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East County high school cross country teams dominated the field in last Friday’s 44th annual South Bay Invitational at Chula Vista’s Rohr Park by capturing two division team championships and recording four individual division champions. 

Nearly 1,100 runners from throughout the San Diego Section competed in five divisional races.

East County high school cross country teams dominated the field in last Friday’s 44th annual South Bay Invitational at Chula Vista’s Rohr Park by capturing two division team championships and recording four individual division champions. 

Nearly 1,100 runners from throughout the San Diego Section competed in five divisional races.

Grossmont won the boys varsity division title while Granite Hills captured the boys frosh/soph division championship.  Meanwhile, West Hills finished second in the girls junior varsity division.

Individual champions included El Capital junior Matthew Machnov in the boys varsity division, Granite Hills senior Andrew Wright in the boys junior varsity division, West Hills freshman Emma Schaefer in the girls JV division and Granite Hills sophomore Matthew Henry in the boys frosh/soph division.

Machnov and Granite Hills senior Brady DeHaven finished first and second among individuals in the 182-deep boys varsity race while Grossmont finished first among the 26 scoring teams, followed by El Capital in third place and West Hills in fifth place.

Machnov covered the 5K course in 15:54; DeHaven finished four seconds behind him in 16:00.

Junior Carson Sanchez finished ninth in 16:42 to lead Grossmont runners across the finish line, followed by West Hills junior Derek Tingey in 10th with a time of 16:42.

The Foothillers placed three runners in a tight pack separated by four seconds to win the division title. Senior Lawrence Robak III finished 11th in 16:44 while classmate Sam Sneed finished 12th in 16:46.

Grossmont’s fourth scorer, senior Jason Smith, finished 20th in 17:09 while the Foothillers’ fifth scorer, junior Jonathan Rodriguez-Gomez, finished 23rd in 17:16.

The team’s five-man spread covered 34 seconds.

Overall, four Grossmont Conference runners finished among the top 10 runners in the race. 

Machnov previously won his division at the West Hills Invitational on Sept. 1 and finished second in the Division II boys junior race at the Mt. Camel/ASICS Invitational on Sept. 16.

He said he kept his strategy simple in winning last Friday’s single division race. “Go out and race as hard as I can, do the best I can and finish,” he said succinctly.

Machnov finished fifth in last year’s 5K boys varsity race in 16:15. He set a personal record on the course this year by 21 seconds.

“It’s going really well right now,” he explained. “Our team has become a lot stronger, everyone has improved at lot as individuals. It’s going good.”

He said personal and team goals are to qualify for the state championship meet as a team and to win the league championship. 

El Capitan will test West Hills Oct. 5 at West Hills High School and then meet Grosmont Oct. 13 at Griffen Park in La Mesa in another high profile dual meet.

The Grossmont Conference championship is scheduled Nov. 10, followed by the San Diego Section championship meet Nov. 18 at Balboa Park’s Morley Field and the state championship meet Nov. 25 in Fresno.

Henry won the 216-deep 5K boys frosh/soph race in 17:44. He finished 10 seconds ahead of Granite Hills sophomore teammate Russell Webb (17:54), who in turn finished 17 seconds ahead of freshman teammate Manuel Garcia (16:11).

Henry said he also kept his strategy simple. “I don’t usually think strategically during a race,” he said. “I think I should be up there, that’s where I need to be, that’s what I need to do and run fast.”

Braced by a 1-2-3 individual finish, Granite Hills overpowered the field to win the team championship by a wide margin, scoring 46 points to runner-up Point Loma’s total of 120.

West Hills finished fifth with 152 points while El Capital was ninth with 265 points. 

“One-two-three is absolutely a great finish for a school,” Henry said. “I’m very happy about that.”

West Hills freshman Landon Morales finished fifth among individuals in 18:27 while Santana freshman Jack McMackin finished 12th in 18:58. El Capitan’s top runner in the race, freshman Parker Dixon, finished 13th in 19:01.

Schaefer won the 2.5-mile girls junior varsity race in 17:11. West Hills finished second among the 17 scoring teams in the race with 59 points — a scant four points behind division champion Point Loma (55 points). 

The girls JV race featured a large field of 258 runners. Grossmont junior Autumn Maas finished sixth among individuals in 18:22 while El Capitan junior Serena Thornton placed ninth in 18:38. West Hills senior Jenna Blaylock finished 10th in 18:41, followed by sophomore teammate Natasha Whitman in 11th place in 18:45.

Grossmont finished fourth in the division with 133 points, followed by El Capitan in sixth place with 205 points.

Top finishers in the girls varsity race included West Hills junior Katy Willweber (sixth, 16:31), Granite Hills junior Arianna Ravelo (seventh, 16:32) and El Capitan sophomore Dayanna Lopez (eighth, 16:39). El Capitan and West Hills finished fifth and sixth, respectively, among the 23 scoring teams.

Wright won the boys JV race by an eight-second margin over Otay Ranch junior Nate Perry. Granite Hills junior Cameron Jones finished third in the race in 18:26 while Grossmont junior Valiant Smith finished 10th in 18:46 in the 167-deep field.

Of note, Valhalla’s Peri Kraft won the Division II girls freshman race at the Mt. Carmel Invitational with a time of 16:40.4 on the 2.7-mile course. Valhalla won the team title by edging Rancho Bernarado 52-58.

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