Individuals show courage amid COVID pandemic to form all-league cross country honor roll

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Steele Canyon High School’s Diego Lopez speeds to victory in a cross country dual meet against rival Valhalla as part of the adjusted 2020-21 season.

The 2020-21 high school cross country season stepped off six months after it was supposed to start and finished four months after it was supposed to end.

It was a casualty of the “new normal” as youth sports were forced to adapt to competing safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All 11 Grossmont Conference teams participated, though not all teams fielded full squads throughout the six-week season that consisted only of league dual meets.

League champions were determined by dual meet records while the all-league team was determined by head-to-head competition on the running course.

Steele Canyon High School finished undefeated (5-0) in both gender fields to sweep Grossmont Hills League championships.

Santana High School finished as the Grossmont Valley League boys champion while El Capitan High School finished as the Grossmont Valley League girls champion.

All four teams finished undefeated in their respective leagues. Santana and El Capitan both finished 4-0 in GVL competition.

The top 10 runners selected on head-to-head criteria from the dual meet competition comprised the all-league teams.

Steele Canyon senior Diego Lopez earned recognition as the Grossmont Hills Male Runner of the Year while Grossmont senior Madeline Minutelli earned recognition as the Grossmont Hills Female Runner of the Year.

Both Lopez and Minutelli finished undefeated as individuals.

El Capitan sophomore Amber Chase earned recognition as the Grossmont Valley League Female Runner of the Year while Santana sophomore Connor Cheary earned recognition as the Grossmont Valley League Male Runner of the Year.

Chase finished undefeated on the course as an individual while Cheary finished first in three of his four races, losing only to senior teammate Jack McMackin.

Grossmont Hills League

Steele Canyon placed five runners on the all-league boys team, including four of the top five individuals in the 10-deep honor roll.

Lopez finished as the league’s No. 1 runner while senior Angel Arredondo earned honors as the No. 3 runner, sophomore Bradley Bell as the No. 4 runner, sophomore Juan Pablo Arredondo as the No. 5 runner and sophomore Dominic Rizzo as the No. 10 runner.

Grossmont, which finished second in the league standings with a 4-1 dual meet record, was led on the course this season by Ian Rosen, who finished as the league’s No. 2 individual.

Granite Hills freshman Collin Guffey finished as the league’s No. 6 runner while West Hills’ Landon Morales and West Hills’ Mark McCown finished as the league’s seventh and eighth runners, respectively. Valhalla’s Manuel Campos finished as the league’s No. 10 individual.

West Hills finished 2-3 in league dual meets to occupy third place in the standings, followed by Valhalla at 2-3, Granite Hills at 1-4 and Helix at 0-5.

Steele Canyon’s girls team finished with five individuals among the league’s top 10 runners. Sophomore Grazi Mineo ranked fourth on the all-league list while senior Jennifer McCubbin ranked fifth. Sophomore Chase Diffenbaugh ranked sixth while sophomore Eryka Garcia ranked eighth. Junior Ariel Curiel ranked 10th overall.

Valhalla, which finished 4-1 in league duals in second place, recorded three all-league runners. Senior Kate Baranski finished as the No. 2 runner while senior Peri Kraft was the No. 3 runner. Senior Emilee Olander finished as the No. 7 runner.

Minutelli was among two Grossmont runners to make the all-league team, joining freshman Suhey Arce (ninth overall). The Foothillers finished 3-2 in league dual meets in third place in the standings. Both losses came by 27-30 margins to Steele Canyon and Valhalla.

Granite Hills followed in fourth place in the league standings with a 2-3 record while West Hills was 1-4 and Helix was 0-5.

Grossmont Valley League

El Capitan and Santana filled all 10 slots on the all-league girls team, with the league champion Vaqueros placing four of the top five runners and the league runner-up Sultans (3-1) finishing with six all-league runners in standout showings.

The league’s top 10 individuals, in addition to Chase, also included Santana sophomore Mikayla Horning as the No. 2 runner, El Capitan freshman Jillian Rudolph as the No. 3 runner, El Capitan senior Ashley Boinus as the No. 4 runner, El Capitan sophomore Samantha Mauzy as the No. 5 runner, Santana sophomore Briana Edwards as the No. 6 runner, Santana junior Marie Tischer as the No. 7 runner, Santana sophomore Trinity Johnson as the No. 8 runner, Santana freshman Abigail Melius as the No. 9 runner and Santana junior Lynda Hasman as the No. 10 runner.

Santana placed six runners among the top 10 all-league boys honorees (including the top five) while El Capitan (3-1 in dual meets as the league runner-up) had three all-league runners. El Cajon Valley rounded out the field with one all-league runner.

Santana’s McMackin received recognition as the GVL’s No. 2 runner, followed by Santana sophomore Jayson Oliver as the No. 3 runner, Santana sophomore Cameron Thomas as the No. 4 runner, Santana junior Mateo Graham as the No. 5 runner, El Cajon Valley senior Daniel Monganga as the No. 6 runner, Santana junior James Stuermer as the No. 7 runner, El Capitan junior Dominic Villarruel as the No. 8 runner, El Capitan sophomore Trey Dixon as the No. 9 runner and El Capitan senior Parker Dixon as the No. 10 runner.

The large number of underclassmen on the all-league honor roll bodes well for highly competitive future seasons.

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