WALNUT — Win or qualify?
That was the question before locals from Maranatha High, Mayfield Senior School, Pasadena Poly, San Marino and South Pasadena at Saturday morning’s precipitation-filled CIF Southern Section Divisional Cross-Country Championships run on Mt. San Antonio College’s considerably faster rain course.
At stake were the opportunities of winning a divisional championship or advancing to the following week’s CIF State Final at Fresno’s Woodward Park.
That was except for La Salle senior Daniel De La Torre, who was exceptional again in winning his second straight CIF-SS Division IV championship in cruising to a time of 14 minutes, 23 seconds.
“I’m satisfied that I came here and did what I had to do, which is to win,” said De La Torre, who led Maranatha’s Kyle Bueckert by 25 seconds at the halfway point before jogging toward the end. “I was focused, but relaxed because I have to save myself for next week.”
De La Torre won by a margin of four seconds, but came across the finish line in an easy jog.
“The goal is, of course, to advance to state where I hope to end my senior season with the one thing that is missing and that’s a state championship,” De La Torre said.
As for Bueckert, the Olympic League senior champion finished third overall in 14:40, and will represent his school after his Minutemen missed qualifying by taking 15th with 338 points.
“I was preparing for the regular course all week and was looking forward to going really fast,” Bueckert said. “I found out later in the week that we were switching and just tried to do my best.”
San Marino, led by junior Yuvan Wickramasinghe (51st, 15:46), concluded its season by topping Maranatha with 320 points in taking 14th.
Despite turning in the best area team finish, there was a sense of disappointment for second-ranked Mayfield, which finished runner-up in the Division IV championships with 106 points, trailing JSerra’s 95-point total.
“They wanted that ‘W,’ they wanted to win, period,” Mayfield Coach Eric Sun said. “But they’re in the moment right now and they’re a little down. But when they think about this later, they’ll realize what they did and that they have another week.”
The Cubs sliced a big deficit from last year’s 49-114 prelims score versus JSerra, led by senior Christina Cordano, who finished 14th in 17:52. She was followed by teammates Lauren Joseph (25th, 18:13), Marisa Sanchez (27th, 18:15), Alyssa Rivas (28th, 18:18) and Mary Najarian (32nd, 18:24).
“We’re very proud and the important thing is that we gave it our all. That’s all you can ask for,” Cordano said.
The Cubs earned advancement, as did San Marino junior Alissa Barraza, as Barraza was third throughout most of the race before losing two spots over the final 100 meters, while finishing fifth in 17:17.
“My goal was to finish in the top three, but I kind of felt my asthma coming,” said Barraza, who qualified last year in taking 12th. “I tried my best out there and wanted to do better than last year.”
Barraza’s teammates will not head north as the Titans finished ninth with 261 points.
Individually, the season also concluded in the Division IV championship for Maranatha junior Hannah Rae Finchamp, the Olympic League champion, who finished 21st in 18:08.
The Division V boys’ and girls’ championship races proved bittersweet for Pasadena Poly, which advanced two individuals, but no teams.
Prep League runner-up Michael Caughron both advanced and finished ahead of any league rival Flintridge Prep runner in taking fourth overall in 15:01.
“I was going to the pace I wanted and then I saw those guys pass me,” Caughron said. “I knew right then that I was going to get those guys.”
Caughron’s crew finished 10th overall with 247 points.
As for the Poly girls, the Panthers claimed 13th in the Division V Championships with 300 points, paced by Prep League champion Evan Gancedo (fifth, 17:37), who earned an individual berth.
“When I found out that we were running the rain course, I was a little disappointed because I wanted to get a good time at Mt. SAC and I haven’t done that all season so far,” Gancedo said.
Saturday presented an agonizing finish for South Pasadena senior Paul Messana, the Rio Hondo League champion, who finished with a time of 14:46. While Messana tied Los Altos’ Mark Huizar and Palos Verdes’ Zach Diaz, he was awarded 18th place as 16th-place Huizar and 17th-place Diaz both advanced and he did not.
Messana’s running mate, South Pasadena junior Joshua Wilson, was close behind in taking 21st in 14:48.