The La Canada High School girls’ track and field team closed out its 2023 Rio Hondo League season with its fourth consecutive undefeated dual-meet campaign and third straight league championship. (There was no league title awarded in the COVID-shortened 2020 season).
Meanwhile, the Spartan boys repeated as the league’s runner-up, with their lone loss coming against first-place South Pasadena.
“This year’s senior girls have never lost a dual meet or league title,” said LCHS girls’ head coach Chris Matarese. “All they know is winning and setting school records.”
In fact, since Matarese took the reins for the girls’ track and cross-country teams, both squads are undefeated. LCHS athletes have broken school records in 10 events, five have earned All-American honors, and the team has ranked as high as third nationally in relay events among all high schools (a remarkable feat for a school of La Cañada’s size).
While some figured that 2023 was going to be a rebuilding year because the varsity roster had many juniors and sophomores, this year’s team ranked among the best overall squads in Spartan history. Virtually unstoppable during the regular season, the Spartans steamrolled rival South Pasadena — whom they had edged for the league title in 2021 and 2022 by four and three points, respectively — by 40 points. The LCHS girls also added the San Gabriel Valley championship to their trophy case and they put an exclamation point on the regular season by winning nine events at the Rio Hondo League finals meet, qualifying 16 girls for CIF postseason competition.
In almost every event, the Spartans produced marks this season that landed on the LCHS all-time performance lists.
In the sprints, the 4×100 relay team of Kaitlyn Creighton, Sarina Parks, Grace Paton and Katie McGuinness shattered the school record by 1.5 seconds with their 48.83 league-championship mark. McGuinness clocked 12.81 for 100 meters, the fastest LCHS time since at least the 2000 season, with sophomore Lilly Bingham second-fastest in the century at 12.89. Parks and McGuinness ran 26.33 and 26.43 for 200, respectively, also 1-2 this century. And with times of 58.37 and 59.26 for 400, McGuinness and Parks landed on the Spartan all-time list for that event, too. Sam Neumeier gave the Spartans a third 400 ace as she ran 61.14 to shatter the league’s frosh-soph championship record, coach Matarese said.
In middle distance, Katelyn Matarese found her groove, setting the school record in the mile at 4:55.11. Matarese won four golds at league finals (800, 1600, 4×400, 4×800), a feat rarely accomplished. La Cañada’s stellar 800 quartet included Charlotte Hopkins (2:19), Yasmin Ghaneh (2:23), and freshmen Sam Hosford and Haloe Ball (2:23 and 2:24, respectively).
In the 3200, Maya Debrouwer, who missed most of the season with injury, returned to win league finals in 11:14 (then ran 10:35.70, second-fastest LCHS time ever, this past Saturday in the CIF-SS prelims). Hopkins ran 11:05.96 for the best-ever LCHS freshman time.
Brittany Rivas and McGuinness traded the LCHS 300 hurdles record, with Rivas prevailing with her 47.15 to McGuinness’s 47.25.
In high jump, both McGuinness and Ashby Zubchevich cleared 5’2,” narrowly missing the school record of 5’3” by Michelle Hope in 1988). McGuinness broke the school record in the long jump with a leap of 17’8.”
In the pole vault, Erin Makhanian and Mia DiConti alternated setting the school record, with Makhanian eventually finishing on top with 10’6” to DiConti’s 10’4”. In all, six girls surpassed the previous LCHS record.
In shot put, Lil Ludvigsen won the league championship then completed a rare double by taking silver in the pole vault.
The Spartans will likely have competitors in four more meets this season: the CIF-SS finals, the Southern Section Masters meet as well as state and national meets.
Head coach Andy Rodemich took over an LCHS boys’ team four years ago that was undermanned and had struggled for part of the past decade. But this year the Spartans came within six points of dethroning perennial league champion South Pasadena. (The Tigers edged LCHS, 66-60.)
“I thought this was our year, and I’m disappointed we came up short,” said Rodemich. “But I’m proud of our team’s progress and excited about our prospects for next year.”
That’s not to say 2023 didn’t have its highlights. Senior Corey Cheung’s school-record 10.98 for 100 meters made him the Spartans’ first-ever, sub-11-second sprinter. Cheung, a football standout last fall, also clocked 22.53 for 200 and anchored a 43.37 quartet (with Alan Razo, Sam Parks, and Jamie Saunders) in the 4×100 relay. Saunders joined the exclusive sub-50 club for 400 meters, running 49.94 to win the league title.
Other league champions included LC’s Stephen Miketta in the pole vault (13 feet) and Max Smith in the 3200, with a time of 10:12.51.
In all, 11 Spartan boys qualified for postseason CIF competition.
First published in the May 11 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.