PORTLAND, Ore. — On one of the most significant days for California cross-country athletes in the 15-year existence of Nike Cross Nationals, West Ranch contributed to that memorable showcase Saturday with the strongest effort by a Foothill League boys team in meet history.
Redwood Larkspur senior Liam Anderson led the way by becoming the first California male athlete to capture the individual national title by covering the 5-kilometer course in 14 minutes, 57.6 seconds, and Great Oak, which edged West Ranch by an 11-point margin Nov. 24 in the Division 1 final at the CIF State Championships in Fresno, added a second-place team finish behind two-time national champion Loudoun Valley of Virginia.
But the spotlight at Glendoveer Golf Course wasn’t just reserved for Anderson and Great Oak, racing as Temecula XC, as three California male athletes placed in the top eight and four boys teams finished in the top 11 overall, including West Ranch – competing as Stevenson Ranch XC – securing eighth place with 283 points.
Loudoun Valley had 77 points, with Great Oak accumulating 114, Division 2 state champion Newbury Park taking sixth with 236 and Division 2 runner-up La Costa Canyon securing 11th with 289.
“It means the world to all of us,” said junior Hunter Romine, who finished 119th overall in 16:22.5.
“If you had told any of us at the beginning of the season that we’d be placing eighth in the nation at NXN, I don’t think any of us would have believed you. The journey that we’ve shared has been incredible and this feeling is indescribable. I don’t think it’s completely hit me yet how well we’ve done.”
West Ranch’s performance surpassed the 11th-place effort achieved by Golden Valley in 2011.
Only the Saugus girls, who achieved two second-place finishes, a third-place effort and a fourth-place result in their eight overall trips to NXN, have fared better among Santa Clarita programs in meet history.
West Ranch senior Isaiah Seidman delivered the fastest race by any Santa Clarita Valley male athlete in meet history, with the event being held at Portland Meadows from 2004-13, before moving to Glendoveer Golf Course in 2014.
Seidman clocked 15:43.5 to finish 48th. Only former Saugus standout A.J. Yarnall placed higher in meet history, taking 41st in 2012, although he clocked 18:04 at Portland Meadows.
“We all had a lot of fun this weekend and we came into the race with no expectations, so to get eighth is really incredible for us,” Seidman said. “We gave it our all and we ended our season on a high note, which is big for me since it’s my senior year.”
Senior Evan Bates finished 73rd in 15:55.9 and sophomore Dylan Gatua took 78th in 16:00.9 for West Ranch, which became the 12th California boys team to achieve a top-10 finish at NXN.
“We showed that anything is possible,” Bates said. “We want to inspire that next set of seven guys for next year. Last year we lost four seniors and we had guys fill those spots really well and look where we got this year.”
Alexis Romero overcame being knocked down during the race to finish 172nd in 16:58, just behind fellow senior Jonathan McDaniel placing 167th in 16:53.4. Junior Brandon Arana was 192nd in 17:18.
“I feel like this team is going to continue this legacy from here on,” Bates said. “I know I’m going to be checking the results while I’m in college and seeing how they’re doing and I know they’re all going to be doing way better than I could have ever imagined.”
Canyon senior Ethan Danforth, a two-time Division 2 all-state honoree, finished 81st in his NXN debut in 16:04.8. Danforth was the first Foothill League male athlete to earn an individual selection to compete at NXN since Saugus’ Brian Zabilski in 2014.
“It was just a big learning experience for me,” Danforth said. “I know I didn’t have my best race, but it gave me a lot of perspective on what it’s like to run at different courses and different environments, which is going to help me picture what’s ahead of me.
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned from my time here is how important it is to run my race, so that will really help me in the future. This weekend was really significant for me.”