First published in the Nov. 11 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
The La Cañada High School girls’ cross-country team won the Rio Hondo League championship in dominating fashion at last Thursday’s league finals, held at San Marino’s Lacy Park.
The Spartans scored 22 points to runner-up South Pasadena’s 47 (in cross-country, low score wins), while the Spartan boys totaled 51 points, which was good enough for second place.
The girls’ varsity entered the meet undefeated in league competition and shook off 80-degree heat and the targets on their backs to finish 1-2-4-6-9, placing five runners in front of South Pasadena’s third runner — and before any other team’s second runner crossed the finish line.
Sophomore Arielle McKenzie, winner of this season’s two previous Rio Hondo League cluster meets, broke away before the half-mile mark, then lengthened her lead the rest of the way, posting an 18:04 winning time that ranks as one of the top girls’ marks ever on the Lacy Park 3-mile course.
Teammate Katelyn Matarese, also a sophomore, ran stride-for-stride with Tiger star Sydney Morrow for most of the race, then surged over the final 200 meters to score her first-ever cross-country win over Morrow, taking second place in 18:41.
“Arielle and Katelyn showed they are one of the best 1-2 punches in the state,” said Spartan girls’ head coach Chris Matarese. “It was great to win the league championship and equally rewarding to see four girls earn first team all-league honors and two girls make second team.”
Freshman Maya DeBrouwer finished fourth for the Spartans, running 19:03, while Catherine Mispagel was sixth (19:20), Jenna Milbrodt ninth (19:46), Caroline Gill 13th (20:44) and Caitlin Roehmholdt 16th (21:18).
The LCHS girls’ JV team, winners of the first two league cluster meets, settled for second place this time, scoring 32 points to winner South Pasadena’s 24. Spartan Yasmin Ghaneh, a sophomore, took the individual JV league title, nipping the top Tiger runner by .05 seconds. Freshman Kaoru Saito improved on her previous Lacy Park race time by two-and-a-half minutes, running 20:44 for third place. Other Spartan scorers were Sophia Ponce in eighth place (22:02), Kelly Sellman in ninth (22:06) and Ria Mandal in 11th (23:05).
The Spartan boys’ varsity found itself in a tactical race, with the lead pack running the first mile in a pedestrian 5:50. The result was a track meet-fast finish over the paved final mile, with Max Smith the only Spartan able to keep pace with the leaders, finishing fourth in 17:03. Ethan Lee continued his comeback from injury, finishing sixth in 17:19, with teammate Robert Lee one place behind in 17:21. Arya Ghaneh at 14th (17:53) and Siraaj Sandhu at 20th (18:29) completed the Spartan scoring. Also running were George Branda (18:54) and Jamie Saunders (18:59).
“The boys finished about as expected,” said Spartan boys’ head coach Andy Rodemich. “We’ve faced a couple challenges recently that hurt our chance of capturing the league title, but I think we’ll be in good physical and mental shape for the upcoming CIF prelims.”
In the boys’ JV race, La Cañada’s Aditya Sehgal finished third in 18:46. Alec Sodonis was the only other Spartan in the top 20, finishing 16th in 20:31.
The Spartans frosh-soph squad captured second in its race, totaling 62 points behind champion South Pasadena’s perfect score of 15. For the Spartans, Andres Uribe was seventh in 19:21, George Hervey eighth (19:44), Donovan Johnson 12th (20:14), Cayden Kim 25th (21:59) and Sebastian Markmann 26th (22:03).
Both Spartan varsity squads qualified for the CIF Division 4 prelims, to be held this Friday at Mt. SAC in Walnut. The girls compete in heat 2 (of three), scheduled for 9:24 a.m., while the boys are in heat 1 (of three), with a start time of 8:30. Five teams will qualify from each heat for CIF finals (along with the fastest remaining overall squad), to be held at the same location on Saturday, Nov. 20. The Spartan girls are currently ranked second in CIF Division 4, while the boys are unranked.