It all came up deuces for the new look La Costa Canyon cross country team in Saturday’s 40th annual Mt. Carmel Invitational at Balboa Park. But a rash of runner-up finishes doesn’t mean the re-tooled Mavericks won’t be looking to roll “ones” when they return to the same site Nov. 23, aiming to repeat their 2018 boys’ and girls’ CIF Championship titles.
Competing in the Division II races Saturday, both La Costa Canyon teams finished second and had their top runners place second in their respective races as well. Head Coach Bill Vice was pleased with what he saw.
“I thought both of our teams ran well but this was not all about today,” said Vice. “It was about the present but also the future.
“Right now, I still think we will be battling for section championships when the time comes and anytime you get to be on this course, where it will take place, it’s nice.”
On the boys’ side, senior Caleb Niednagel set the pace for much of the way but didn’t have quite enough in the final uphill sprint. He clocked 15:18.0 for the 2.95 mile circuit, coming up five seconds short of winner Anthony Grover from San Juan Capistrano JSerra, a defending CIF State individual champion (Division IV). It was Niednagel’s first loss of the young season.
Dana Hills captured the boys’ D-II senior/invitational team crown, putting four runners in the top 10 and nipping LCC, 40-47. Maverick senior Andy Pueschel turned in a determined performance (15:47.1) while placing fourth and senior Alex Motawi (13th) and junior Jackson Schalow (18th) were in the top 20 for LCC. Keyed by an eighth place run by Nathan Montanez, San Dieguito nabbed fifth in the team standings (128).
“Caleb ran a great race, the kid that beat him ran at Foot Locker last year, so he’s legit,” said Vice. “He was aggressive and I like the fact that he’s not afraid to go right at a high caliber guy like that. It was an exciting race.
“Andy looked very strong and those were some top guys in front of him. He was close to Caleb which is huge for us. Now, if we can just pull the others up a little closer we’ll be in good shape.”
For the Maverick girls, junior standout Sydney Weaber remained on the sidelines which meant the focus for LCC was on the sophomore race where Vice sent out seven entries. After running with teammates Rebekah Niednagel (Caleb’s younger sister) and Georgia Patyna early, Kyra Compton locked into a head-to-head battle with Mt. Carmel’s Navaya Zales. The two stayed attached until the final stage when Zales pulled away to win in 16:11.9, less than two seconds clear of Compton.
“I pr’d by a huge margin (30 seconds) over last year’s time on this course, so that’s great,” said Compton afterwards. “I wanted to win and felt I ran a good race, but she’s got a great kick.
“I was hoping to drop her with a final kick and thought I’d stay on her shoulder until that point but it ended up not working out the way I wanted it to.” Team-wise, the Mavericks were second to Mt. Carmel (30-36) in the sophomore race and Vice feels that’s indicative of where his team is.
“The girls are solid,” declared Vice. “We don’t back off for races like this so we trained hard on Thursday and had one day of rest coming in—we’re right on schedule, giving them confidence, moving forward and understanding what the big picture is.
“We’ve seen that Mt. Carmel and Rancho Bernardo are very good. When we add Sydney to this group, we’ve got a pretty sound 1-2-3-4. If we can get that fifth runner and stay healthy, we will be right there. The three of us, that’s going to be the race of the day come November (CIF).”
Later in the day, Canyon Crest senior Carlie Dorostkar posted the best time of the meet (14:44.6) while winning the Division I girls’ senior/invitational race in imposing style. She crossed the line nearly a minute and a half ahead of Torrey Pines sophomore Annika Salz who took second. On the team chart, CCA was third and Torrey Pines fifth. Dorostkar’s twin sisters, freshmen Sammi and Nikki, were 20th and 21st respectively and TP senior Kiana Bourgeois claimed eighth.
With four runners in the top 10, the Torrey Pines boys easily out-distanced Poway to bag the top spot on the boys’ side, establishing themselves as an early contender for the CIF D-I crown. Sebastian Barclay (16:08.2) and Nick Salz wound up third and fourth respectively with Josh Mendez and Cormac O’Brien grabbing seventh and eighth.