By Ryan Menzie
Signal Sports Writer
The Hart Indians boys’ cross-country team had one goal in mind since the beginning of the season. By the end of the day, their goal had been accomplished.
“It was a good day,” said Indians head coach Darren James.
The Indians finished fifth overall in the CIF finals at Mt. San Antonio College on Saturday with a team time of 1:19.22. The time was good enough for the Indians to advance to the CIF state finals and a chance to make the podium at the state meet, the goal they set to accomplish from day one.
The Indians have struggled mightily with injuries all season long, but despite the circumstances have been able to stay among the top schools in Division 2. The Indians came into the season as the No. 1 ranked team but still finished No. 3 despite missing their top runner since the first meet of the season.
“It’s a huge accomplishment for this group of guys,” said James. “For these guys to be able to pull through without our No. 1 guy Jaden Wiley is an incredible accomplishment. We’ve gotten to the race we wanted to get to so now I just think we have to have fun. They’ve gotten to the goal. When something goes wrong with a player in cross-country, there’s not much we can do. The seven guys you start with are the seven guys you finish with. We’re deep and fortunate to have a group of guys that can step up even when we’re not 100%.”
The Indians were led by Owen Ahten, who finished 13th overall with a time of 15:30.7. Paul Mangione finished second on the team and 31st overall with a time of 15:47.2, but the story of the day belongs to Zachary Chan.
Chan finished third for his team with a time of 15:51.1 but is normally finishing at the fourth spot for his team. Chan needed to step up for his team with players being out, and that’s exactly what he did to secure a spot in the CIF state meet.
“It’s super exciting to be in the state finals,” said Chan. “It’s a testament to all the hard work we’ve put in throughout the season since March. Seeing it come to fruition feels really good. My main goal was to stick with (Mangione) throughout the entire meet. I knew I had to step it up if we wanted to qualify. I want to give it my all at the state meet. I want to make sure when I cross the finish line, I have nothing left in me.”
The CIF State meet is scheduled for Saturday at Woodward Park, Clovis. Times are still waiting to be determined based on school divisions.