Earning a trip to the state championship at the CIF-Southern Section cross country finals in Riverside Saturday was a sweet victory for both West Ranch and Saugus boys teams, but the achievement meant a little more to the Wildcats.
It’s the first time in seven years that the Cats will be represented at the state level.
The team finished in sixth place in Division 2, clocking in at one hour, 17 minutes and 50 seconds, earning them 219 team points. Saugus finished immediately after with a time of 1:18:15 and 259 points.
The top seven teams advance.
“I have a lot of respect for the Saugus program,” said West Ranch coach Sara Soltani. “They’ve always been able to push through adversity. They have a very great program and I will never deny that. I want our (Foothill) league to be the best. I want us all to represent at the state meet.”
Despite the state-qualifying finish, it was one of West Ranch’s worst performances of the season.
“It was definitely one of the most disappointing races of the year,” said Cats runner Justin Sherfey. “We’re going to move on to state and (think) nothing about this race. Think about what we need to do next week.”
Sherfey and Isaiah Seidman were the top two finishers for the Wildcats, coming in 36th (15:27.6) and 37th (15:28.5), respectively, out of a field of 171 runners.
Boon Andrews was top for the Cents, coming in 23rd at 15:16.8.
Official results for D2 boys. West Ranch and Saugus both going to states pic.twitter.com/MYfHqRow7r
— Haley Sawyer (@haleymsawyer) November 19, 2016
The heat and dustiness of the 3-mile Riverside City Cross Country Course may have contributed to lower-than-usual times for runners.
“The dust and the heat really affected us more than we thought it did,” said Sherfey, a senior. “It was really tightly packed in the first mile, everything gets really congested. It’s tight and dusty. It’s just a slow atmosphere.”
Nonetheless, West Ranch pulled through and ran as a team. Soltani, in her first year at West Ranch, shouted directions and encouragement and saw her team respond accordingly.
“I was yelling after them in the middle of the race that our one and two runners were not doing well and they stepped up to help them,” said Soltani. “As a coach, that’s one of our proud moments.”
“This entire season these young men have embraced each other. They embraced a coach they didn’t know. They’ve come a long way.”
Valencia finished 14th in Division 1 out of 24 teams, clocking 1:18:11 as a team. Their top runner was Britain Reynolds, who came in 27th at 15:11.4.
In Division 5, Trinity Classical Academy finished 23rd. Hunter Romine finished 62nd for the Knights at 16:52.4.
The state meet will be next Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno.