First published in the Nov. 27 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
After not having a season due to the coronavirus pandemic, Crescenta Valley High School coach Robert Evans wasn’t sure how his varsity boys’ cross-country team would perform after what was a difficult year for many student-athletes.
“Coming off the pandemic, you never know how a season will evolve,” said Evans, who — to his delight — quickly saw his runners weren’t among the large number of athletes who lost their focus and motivation after COVID-19 shut down the 2020 cross-country season.
The Falcons didn’t stop training and saw the fruits of their labor in the CIF Southern Section Division I finals at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut on Saturday. The boys tallied 171 points to place fourth behind Newbury Park (15 points), Temecula Great Oak (96) and Los Angeles Loyola (102) and qualified for this Saturday’s prestigious CIF State Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno.
“I couldn’t have been happier with how hard they worked this year,” Evans said. “They just believed the whole season and ran with a lot of confidence. That was a tough race, but as competitive as it was, we went toe-to-toe with some of the best teams around.”
Senior Rowan FitzGerald paced CVHS by finishing in 15 minutes, 7.1 seconds for ninth place and junior Parker Simmons was 16th with a time of 15:19.8. Senior Max Ruiz was 53rd, crossing the finish line in 16:00.4 and junior Luke Cheney was right behind him to take 54th place .2 seconds later. Bryce Bitetti posted a time of 16:09.5 for 64th place, Leo Bentivegna finished in 16:20 for 75th place and Harrison Connors 98th, posting a time of 16:51.9.
Though Woodward Park is a slightly longer course, Evans looks forward to seeing how his runners respond to a competition that features the best runners in the state.
“I like [courses] longer, and the challenge there is you got the best teams in the entire state toeing the line in one race,” he said. “There is a lot of energy and excitement on that day, and you just got to find a way to bottle that and put it behind you so you can execute your race and help your teammates.”
Though they won’t be making the trip to Fresno, the CVHS girls’ performance in the CIF-SS finals was just as impressive for Evans.
“I’d say the girls took a huge step this year and they’re ready to really be a competitive team in CIF Division I,” Evans said. “The cool thing is that when competing in prelims and finals, they could see that they’re really good. It’s just a matter of taking that next step and continuing the consistent training and to believe.
Senior Reese Sion closed out her high school cross-country career with a time of 18:49.5, which was good for 26th place, and Rebecca Doherty finished in 19:31.8 for 56th place in her final race as a Falcon. Sophomore Ava Martin wasn’t far behind to take 58th place with a time of 19:34.6, senior Taili Sherwood-Kong crossed the finish line in 19:47.2 for 67th and teammates Annabelle Tanner (19:55.2), Paloma Elfassi (20:00.3) and Emma Haworth (20:12.1) placed 80th, 84th and 89th, respectively.
Four of the seven runners are underclassmen, and Evans is confident they will build off what he considered a successful season.
“They really grew up this season and came together,” he said. “We have this cool balance of veterans and up-and-coming young runners. I think they were really happy with how they raced on Saturday but hungry for what’s to come.”