Canyon and West Ranch cross-country impress to begin the season

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The 2019 prep cross-country season officially got underway this past weekend as the Canyon and West Ranch boys and girls teams kicked off the season at the Fastback Invitational at Arcadia County Park on Saturday.

Both schools put forth amazing performances as the West Ranch girls teams placed first overall and the Cowboys girls team came in fifth, while the Canyon boys team came in fourth place with the Wildcats finishing behind them in fifth place.

“I like the way they tried to get out there and figure it out as a group,” said West Ranch head coach Cyndi Hoelzel.

Wildcats senior girls runner Abigail Welch had the best finish on the girls side, recording a seventh-place finish in 11 minutes, 43.7 seconds. Fellow upperclassmen junior Jessamine Jin and senior Tracy Sterkel slotted in 30th and 39th place with times of 12.21.4 and 12:28.1, respectively.

Gifted underclassmen sophomore Hayden Washington and freshman Shefali Breitbach played integral parts for the Wildcats, topping the girls teams as Washington recorded a 10th place finish in 11:50.7 while Breitbach finished her first varsity race in 59th place.

“They are getting there,” Hoelzel said. “I think they are going to be stronger than people think. I mean, we did lose Alexis Fernandez and Sophia Hoelzel, but they have a lot of promise being led by Abigail Welch and Hayden Washington and junior Jessamine Jin.” 

The Cowboys girls team, paced by Angelee Berganio, who rebounded from battling with the flu, recorded a 17th-place finish in 12:02.7 seconds. Not too far behind was another Canyon girls runner, Chandler Bietsch in 29th place with a time of 12:21.3.

Sophomore Emily Cruz and junior Milca Osorio finished with back-to-back finishes coming in 54th and 55th place in 12:37.5 and 12:39.8 seconds. Melissa Duncan rounded out the top five Canyon girls runner coming in 69th.

Although the Canyon boys team placed higher than the West Ranch team, it was a pair of Wildcats boys runners ⁠— Dylan Gatua and Hunter Romine ⁠— who had the top finishes for the boys.

Gatua led the pack finishing in 9:39.2 for seventh place and Romine came in right behind him in 9:41.9 seconds for an eighth-place finish.

“I felt really good on my finish,” Gatua said. “All the hard work and training in the summer paid off as a collective unit. It just shows how we are such a close team and a close-knit group and we are all ride or die for each other.

“It’s more of a democracy, it’s not like we are just a monarchy, we are all teaching each other and helping each other grow as one.”

Brandon Arana and Felix Breitbach finished inside the top 50 coming in 40th and 48th place, respectively.

The Canyon boys team was led by junior runner Kyle Stevens who came in 14th place in 9:54.2 and was flanked by seniors Frank Lofton and Alfredo De Anda in 24th and 26th place.

Jaysen Velarde and Charles Tanglao came in right behind one another in 51st and 52nd place to cap the top five Canyon boys finishers.

Castaic High School sent five freshmen runners to the meet with boys runner Owen Elizondo-Bachier recording a time of 10:37.4 for 91st place and freshman girls runner Caitlin Neall-Johnston finishing in 309th.

The first Foothill League cross-country meet of the season is scheduled for Sept. 19 at 3 p.m. at Central Park.

“The Foothill League is one of the strongest leagues in all of the Southern Section,” Hoelzel said. “It’s very competitive and makes it very hard to get out, but we accept the challenge.”

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