Though motivations differed for the Pasadena area’s cross-country entrants heading into Saturday’s CIF State Championships at Fresno’s Woodward Park, the season-ending event provided a large measure of redemption for a few.
Maybe no one spoke about Saturday’s finale more than La Salle High senior Daniel De La Torre, who agonized over his third-place effort at last season’s Division IV championship.
A year removed, De La Torre overcame a 14-second deficit at the two-mile mark in rallying to become his school’s first-ever cross-country state champion after finishing first with a mark of 15 minutes, 30 seconds.
“This was my last year and either I win state or nothing,” said De La Torre, whose time was a local best. “This is something I’ve been working up to and something my coaches have helped me achieve.”
De La Torre vanquished Sir Francis Drake senior John Lawson (15:34), last year’s champion.
Early on, the pair were elbow-to-elbow at the mile mark before Lawson opened up a 15-second advantage midway through the race, which only decreased a second over the next half mile.
However, with a mile remaining, De La Torre made a final kick and caught Lawson with 200 meters left. A tiring Lawson was no match for De La Torre, who won by four seconds.
“I was very nervous,” De La Torre said. “I saw at the end that he was getting tired and I was gaining.”
De La Torre’s win, said La Salle Coach Fred Riley, was due to the senior’s grit.
“Let me tell you something, this win was about nothing that we did,” Riley said. “This guy has got incredible character. He was determined that he wasn’t going to let Lawson beat him.”
Maranatha’s Kyle Bueckert, who shocked De La Torre in taking second last season, concluded a brilliant career with a difficult 21st-place effort in 16:21.
“I don’t know, there’s just something wrong with my body,” said Bueckert, who struggled after running to third place through the first mile. “I was just trying to push, but my body said ‘no go.’”
After a somewhat deflating fifth-place effort at last year’s Division IV final, Mayfield Senior School found itself back on the trophy stand in taking third Saturday with 151 points, while trailing only JSerra (89) and upstart Arcata (110).
“We came in with some high hopes and we set some pretty high goals,” Cubs Coach Eric Sun said. “They came out, they tried and they put the effort out.”
Junior Alyssa Rivas, who finished 95th (20:36) individually last season, led the Cubs by taking 29th in 19:38.
“We were really excited to have finished third and get back to the podium,” Rivas said. “I guess the only downside is that we didn’t accomplish our goal to get first, but we’re happy with this.”
Rivas’ scoring teammates consisted of Lauren Joseph (36th, 19:47), Mary Najarian (45th, 19:58), Christina Cordano (46th, 19:59) and Sophie Fortner (47th, 19:59).
Individually, San Marino’s Alissa Barraza finished as the area’s fastest runner by racing to fourth in the Division IV final in 18:22.
“I just wanted to finish better than 32nd, which is what I got last year,” said Barraza, who moved up from ninth at one mile and fifth at two miles. “I was just trying to set a nice pace.”
Ever since Pasadena Poly senior Michael Caughron was edged out in the Prep League championships by Flintridge Prep’s Aaron Sugimoto, the Panthers’ No. 1 runner vowed there would never be a repeat.
For a second straight week, Caughron kept his word in finishing as the league’s top runner in the boys’ Division V championship, this time two spots ahead of any Rebel in taking 10th in 16:06, which broke his previous championship-best mark of 16:29 set two years earlier.
“I saw them get ahead of me and I didn’t make the same mistake I’ve made in previous races,” said Caughron, the last link to Poly’s 2009 Division V runner-up team. “I didn’t play a chicken game with them. I just let them chase me.”
Caughron finished four seconds ahead of Flintridge Prep’s Elias Ellison.
In the girls Division V race, Poly junior Evan Gancedo, the reigning Prep League champion, struggled in finishing 27th in 19:55.
“On Monday, I sprained my ankle at soccer, but I still had to come out,” Gancedo said. “I didn’t run my best race, but I couldn’t stay home and wonder what could have been. I had to run one last time.”