The thermometer read 54 degrees in the early morning in Riverside as boys and girls cross-country runners from throughout Southern California prepared for the CIF-Southern Section Cross Country Championships at Riverside City Cross Country Course on Saturday.
Having at least one runner from each school participate, six schools from the Santa Clarita Valley traveled east as Canyon, Golden Valley, Saugus, Trinity Classical Academy, Valencia and West Ranch sent their best runners out with the intentions of moving on to the state level for one more race.
Competing in Division 1, West Ranch boys and girls teams made program history by both qualifying for state in the same year placing third with a score of 135 and fifth with a score of 211 on the day, respectively.
“It’s been nine years since the girls made it last and so it just shows the progression of the program and the development you are looking for,” said West Ranch coach Sara Soltani. “This is the first year that I have seen camaraderie between both, the girls have witnessed the boys go and they decided that this season that it was their turn.”
The Wildcats boys team was led by senior Isaiah Seidman who finished in fourth place with a time of 14 minutes, 44.6 seconds — just under nine seconds off the best time.
“My race strategy was to stick with a couple guys that I knew were going to be in the front the whole time and they were,” Seidman said. “So that was my strategy and I think I carried it out very well.”
Not far behind Seidman, finishing in seventh and ninth place were teammates Evan Bates and Dylan Gatua with a time of 14:47.1 and 14:49.3.
With the boys finishes on the day, West Ranch was the only Division 1 boys team to have three of their runners finish top nine or better of all runners overall. First-place finisher Great Oak had their top 3 runners finish top 10 or better.
“I’m really proud of us,” Seidman said. “It shows that we have a really strong pack. We have a lot of potential, but otherwise, I was happy with how we finished.”
The West Ranch girls team had three runners finish inside the top 40 in Division 1 with freshman Alexis Fernandez finishing 10th with a time of 17:13.9.
Abigail Welch (No. 31) and Sophia Hoelzel (No. 36) followed with times of 17:59.8 and 18:05.6, respectively.
“I felt really good today, I just felt really strong,” Fernandez said. “My legs felt great and I just went out there and put it out on the line. My team made it and that’s all that matters.”
Representing Valencia, the girls team finished in 21st place with a score of 478. Hailey Kirsch placed 25th with a time of 17:48.
In the Division 2 boys race neither Canyon’s nor Saugus’ boys team qualified for the state meet finishing in 11th and 12th with scores of 262 and 351, respectively.
Ethan Danforth was the lone Cowboy to qualify for the state meet finishing third in Division 2 with a time of 14:40.
“Just getting locked in mentally before the race,” Danforth said. “My mind was wandering to other things before, I wasn’t 100 percent locked in so I think I need to focus on that and myself before the state if I want to finish strong.”
Teammate Alfredo De Anda finished 22nd clocking in with a time of 15:12.
Saugus’ Jacob Kauffman just missed out on qualifying for state individually finishing in 14th-place with a time of 15:03.9. Sophomore Nick Serrano followed Kauffman as the second-best Saugus boys finisher, sliding into the 25th spot with a time of 15:12.4.
Golden Valley’s lone representative, senior Daniel Rush, pushed through to the state meet in 11th place with a time of 15:00.1.
“It took a lot of support from my teammates and coaches and parents,” Rush said about being the only Grizzlies runner at the race. “They have been the most supportive people ever by bringing me out here and cheering me on. It was a gutsy race and it turned out well in the end.”
Joining Rush as the lone runner from his school, Trinity Classical Academy and the Heritage League Champions send Shane Lintereur to the state meet after his seventh-place finish in the Division 5 boys race with a time of 15:42.5.
Capturing their 13th-straight Foothill League title, the Saugus girls team looked confident heading into Division 2 finals. Placing fourth overall with a team score of 131 points, five of their seven runners finished within the top 35 of all runners with all seven finishing 73rd or better.
Jacqueline Cascione (No. 15) led the Centurion girls with a time of 17:40.7, Hannah Fredericks (No. 23) followed with a time of 17:51 and Isabella Duarte (No. 26) rounded out the top 3 recording a time of 17:53.5.
Hailey Rutter and Brooklyn Bendrat finished 32nd and 35th.
“Really just focus on the little things,” Cascione said about the state meet. “We have to stay positive and have confidence and keep working hard every second and work for each other.”
This marks the 14th-straight trip for Saugus girls team.
The CIF State Cross-Country Country Championships take place Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno.