Making history for the Valencia girls cross-country program, junior Hailey Kirsch was the first girls runner to win a Foothill League title and as a result, leads this year’s list of All-Foothill League girls cross-country runners.
Crossing the finish line in 18 minutes and 3.26 seconds, Kirsch took home first place, finishing as the only Vikings girls runner to place within the top 10 of all girls runners.
Helping the Vikings to a third-place Foothill League finish, Kirsch is pleased with the direction and improvement that the team has made throughout the year.
“This year alone we have done better than we have ever done in Valencia history so I think that the program is really stepping up,” Kirsch said after league finals. I see great improvements for us now and in the future and I think that these other teams underestimated us a little bit so I think next season will be a shock for them.”
Setting the tone for the rest of the season at the Ojai Invitational, Kirsch was the first girl to cross the finish line with a time 19:18.7 seconds, guiding Valencia to a second-place team finish.
Kirsch followed that first-place performance, helping the girls team to another top 3 finish in Foothill League meet No. 1 clocking in a time of 17:55 seconds.
Three weeks later, Kirsch was crowned the top girls cross-country runner at league finals rounding out Foothill League competitions.
At CIF-Southern Section prelims, Kirsch had the best finish out of the Foothill League girls cross-country runners in Division 1, finishing in 17:39.6 seconds for third place.
Advancing to CIF-SS Division 1 finals, Kirsch finished in 25th-place clocking a time of 17:48.0. With her finish, Kirsch guided the Valencia girls team to a 21st-place finish in Division 1 to end their postseason run.
Alexis Fernandez, West Ranch, Freshman
As a freshman, Fernandez burst onto the cross-country scene leading the Wildcats girls team to a second-place finish at Foothill League meet No. 1 finishing in second, behind Kirsch, with a time of 18:06 seconds. She followed up the performance with another second-place finish at league finals and rounded out the year with a 10th-place finish at CIF- SS Division 1 finals with a time of 17:13.9 seconds leading the Wildcats girls team to a fifth-place team finish, qualifying them for the CIF State Cross-Country Championships.
Julia Pearson, Saugus, Sophomore
Consistently mentioned as one of the top girls cross-country runners in Foothill League, Pearson was able to capture a fourth-place finish in league meet No. 1 and was the top Saugus girls runner at league finals finishing with a third-place finish and a time of 18:15.65.
Brooklyn Bendrat, Saugus, Freshman
Loaded with talent, the Centurions found a gem in Bendrat after finishing in fifth place in her first Foothill League meet clocking in a time of 18:33. Finishing fourth at league finals, the freshman improved with each league meet finishing with a time of 18:25.71, almost a full eight seconds better than league meet No. 1.
Abigail Welch, West Ranch, Junior
With a fifth-place finish at Foothill League finals, Welch crossed the finish line in 18:26:05 helping the Wildcats to a second-place team finish. At CIF-SS Division 1 finals, Welch was the second Wildcats girls runner to cross the finish line coming in 31st place with a time of 17:59.8.
Isabella Duarte, Saugus, Freshman
Hailing from a family of runners, Duarte held her own throughout the year finishing within the top seven girls runners at Foothill League finals with a time of 18:32.33 for a sixth-place finish. At CIF-SS Division 2 finals, Duarte was the third Centurions girls runner to cross the finish line, finishing in 26th with a time of 17:53.5.
Jacqueline Cascione, Saugus, Senior
Cascione was one of, if not the undoubted leader of the Saugus girls team helping them to capture their 13th-straight Foothill League title. Cascione finished third at league meet No. 1 with a time of 18:19 and seventh at Foothill League finals recording a time of 18:34.54. At CIF-SS Division 2 finals, Cascione had the second-best finish out of any Foothill League girls runner landing in 17th place with a time of 9:37.2.