HomeBlocksFront-GridLa Cañada High School Girls Place 3rd in State

La Cañada High School Girls Place 3rd in State

First published in the Dec. 1 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

The La Cañada High School girls’ team completed its outstanding season with a third-place finish at the California State meet at Fresno’s Woodward Park. The Spartans finished behind two nationally ranked powers: No. 12 JSerra High of San Juan Capistrano and No. 24 Oaks Christian High of Westlake Village.
Sophomore sensation Maya DeBrouwer led LCHS, as she has all season, with a fifth-place finish. She ran almost 90 seconds faster than the time she ran at the state meet last year, which made her the most improved competitive runner in the state, according to LCHS coach Chris Matarese.
She had strong support from junior Katelyn Matarese and freshman Charlotte Hopkins, who both finished in the top 20. With team captain Cat Mispagel, freshman star Haloe Ball, and junior standout Yasmin Ghaneh all limited with illness, La Cañada’s chances for a podium finished seemed bleak. However, LC’s final two scorers saved their best performances for the biggest stage as senior Caitlin Roehmholdt and sophomore Kaoru Saito and both set career marks as they crossed the line in 55th and 66th places, respectively, to help the team to a very unexpected third place finish.
“Finishing third in the state is always an amazing accomplishment, but to do it the way we did it is almost unheard of,” coach Matarese said. “We lost one of the top runners in the country to transfer and had several key girls out for the championship meet, but we still somehow managed end up on the awards stand.”
Last year’s top runner and second place finisher at CIF, Arielle McKenzie, transferred from LCHS to Calabasas, leaving the team’s expectations lower to start the season. But Maya DeBrouwer was the breakout runner of the year in the state and her strong finish helped ease the loss. Matarese said that “Arielle was not only a national-level athlete but a great kid and a great teammate, so losing her is something that’s impossible to fully recover from, but the team really pulled through. I couldn’t be prouder at how the team never gave up despite the long odds they faced. Maya’s dramatic improvement and Charlotte Hopkins, finishing as the No. 4 freshman in the state, really made the difference.”
The team’s statewide finish capped an undefeated 15-0 league championship season. The team also took the JV league championship as well as both the varsity and JV individual championships to sweep all four individual and team championships for the first time in school history, Matarese said. The team also finished 15-0 with a league championship last year to go with a second place finish at last year’s state meet. Combined with three undefeated track seasons and two track league championships (the third was cancelled because of COVID), Matarese has led the LCHS cross-country and track teams to a perfect 58-0 record and four league championships, including the team’s first track league championship in nearly 30 years.
“It’s the outstanding athletes that made the championships possible, but also boys’ coach Andy Rodemich for helping to build an incredible team culture and head distance coaches Jacques Sallberg and former coach Pete Magill for the team’s success,” Matarese said. “Jacques and Pete are literally two of the best masters [over the age of 35] runners to ever walk the planet. They have multiple individual masters national championships and world records. Pete also has a collegiate national championship and is the author of several running books and Jacques finished in the top 10 at the Olympic Trials multiple times. The school is beyond blessed to have had two of the best high school coaches in the country leading the program in back-to-back years.”
La Cañada’s 12-person CIF team included the above-mentioned Debrouwer, Matarese, Hopkins, Roehmholdt, Saito, Ball, Ghaneh and Mispagel, as well as Kelly Sellman, Caroline Gill, Brittany Rivas and Amy Kiang. The team utilized a mix of the 12 runners at three qualifying races to make it to the state finals. With only Roehmholdt graduating from the seven that ran as the state meet, the future looks quite bright for the Spartans.


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