LCC girls, El Camino boys snare league cross country crowns; CIF looms
Veteran La Costa Canyon Cross Country Coach Bill Vice has announced he will retire after the conclusion of this fall’s cross country season, which he hopes will extend through the CIF State Championships, Nov. 27, in Fresno. Saturday, at Guajome Regional Park in Oceanside, his girls’ team gave him an early retirement present.
The Mavericks, who placed five runners in the top 13, out-scored runner-up Sage Creek (45-37) to capture their league crown (this time the North Coastal) for the 11th time in Vice’s tenure. Canyon Crest (62), El Camino (82) and Torrey Pines (106) filled in the three-through-five slots. Senior Stormy Wallace of Sage Creek, who covered the 5,000m. layout in 18:12.6 finished first individually. Junior Dame McCall of El Camino was second and Torrey Pines senior Annika Salz third.
“It’s a great retirement present,” smiled Vice afterward. “This is a special place—we won our first league title here in 2005 and now finish up here with the last one.”
It was an unseasonal 88 degrees at race time Saturday on a dry, dusty course that features a pair of challenging hill climbs, but Vice felt his charges handled it well.
“The race conditions were tough, but not brutal,” he said. “We’re getting healthier and starting to come together.
“There was nothing really surprising. We’re trying to get ready for the next couple of weeks (CIF/Nov.20) and CIF State). Nine girls ran and all ran quality races. The goal was to run as a pack—they settled in and did what they had to do, so I’m really happy.”
Leading the way for the Mavs was senior Kyra Compton, a key fixture for the past four seasons. She placed fourth overall, clocking 18:39.4, just five seconds out of the runner-up slot. Sophomore Gina Lopizzo joined Compton on the all-league first team, grabbing seventh (19:54.1). Senior Rebekah Niednagel and juniors Sophia Biesinger and Kira Larner crossed the line eight seconds apart while claimining 10th, 12th and 13th respectively. From an individual and team perspective, Compton was positive post-race.
“I’m pretty pleased although I definitely could have found another gear there at the end, have to work on those finishes,” said Compton, who’s ticketed for University of Pennsylvania next fall. “Today was really important. We have a lot of tradition, our goal today was to come out here and get that title. I’m happy with how we did it.
“This is Coach Vice’s last year. He’s seen this team through from start to finish. We wanted to give him a good race in his last league meet.”
On the boys’ side of things, Sage Creek senior Bryce Gilmore dominated the proceedings, leading from start-to-finish and winning by over 40 seconds in 15:45.7. El Camino sophomore Omar Reyes was second and along with fourth place finisher Nicolas Saenz paced the Wildcats to a narrow 43-50 team triumph over Canyon Crest Academy.
Senior Johnathan Hidle of Torrey Pines crossed the line between the two El Camino runners for third. In the team standings, Sage Creek, La Costa Canyon and Torrey Pines occupied third through fifth. CCA, which has squared off against El Camino frequently this year, finishing behind the Wildcats each time, may have served notice that they’ve got other intentions for next week’s CIF Championships.
Led by junior Logan Harding, whose fifth place performance (16:50.7) marked the first time he’s been the No. 1 Raven runner home, fronted a roster that put nine runners in the top 20, including junior William Cornick (8th) and sophomore Jacob Pippel (10th) in the top 10.
“They’re a team,” said Head Coach Andy Corman with emphasis. “The fact that we had nine guys within a minute and a half is fantastic.
“We talked about today being our dress rehearsal for CIF, let’s take some risks, go after it and see what happens—either way, we learn something we can apply to next week.” What he saw had him thinking about what the CIF race might look like.
“El Camino is talented, super fast and hard-working. They’ve been our benchmark all year. This was our best race against them this season and, to be honest, I’m hoping we can take another step next week.”
Despite their fourth place finish, the LCC boys showed that they might be another squad on the rise. Six-foot-five sophomore Hudson Shaver, also a high jumper on the Maverick track & field team, and junior Jacob Niednagel were sixth and seventh Saturday and Vice thinks his replacement could have a special team in year one.
“There are no seniors on this team,” noted Vice. “Jacob is usually our top finisher and is very solid. Hudson doesn’t look like a cross country runner but the kid’s a stud athlete and ran really well today.
“They’re good, not great, now but this is how you do it. Next year is going to be that group’s year.”
The upcoming San Diego CIF Championships will again be held at Morley Field in Balboa Park and feature 10 races with boys’ and girls’ competition in five divisions, starting at 8:30 a.m. The five North Coastal League schools will be split up based on enrollment.
Canyon Crest, Torrey Pines and El Camino will be in Division I, La Costa Canyon is in Division III and Sage Creek D-IV. Due to Covid-19, a section cross country championship was not held in 2020.
El Camino, CCA and even Torrey Pines, which clearly did not appear to be prioritizing last Saturday’s league event, could be contenders in the Division I boys battle. Torrey won that banner in 2019. The La Costa Canyon girls will be a major threat in D-III where 2019 winner Cathedral Catholic is also a challenger. Sage Creek looks like the class of the field in D-IV. The top two teams in each division will advance to the State Meet.
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