Cross country Mira Costa girls 2019

Mira Costa runners Pnina Tofler, Carmel Mel, Cara Chittenden and Heather Jensen compete in the CIF Division I prelims in Riverside on Nov. 15, 2019. (Photo by Jada Hong)

The Mira Costa boys' and girls’ cross country teams accomplished a rare sweep of the Bay League this year and are now preparing for the CIF Southern Section Division 1 finals to take place at the Riverside City Cross Country Course on Saturday with a chance to compete at the state championships.

Both teams advanced through prelims last Friday on the same course.

“We are looking to place top seven at CIF Finals this Saturday, so that we can qualify for the state meet,” said Mira Costa boys’ cross country head coach Kevin McGee. “So, we are happy with our season so far, but we aren't done yet. We still have a lot to accomplish.”

One of Mira Costa’s top runners was Cormac Carew.

“It felt great this weekend to get the result we wanted with minimal effort to set us up for finals,” Carew said. “It is going to be a very competitive and difficult race so doing well at prelims really helps.”

Two of Mira Costa’s top girls’ runners at prelims were seniors Tia Pappas and Pnina Tofler.

Pappas was Mira Costa’s second fastest runner at prelims with a time of 18:40.6. She finished 22nd overall.

“We accomplished what we set out to do at CIF Prelims,” Pappas said. “We had a predominantly senior-led team that raced, with five seniors, one sophomore, and one freshman. It was exciting to have so many seniors racing in one of our final races and I think everyone gave it their best effort.”

She added, “We qualified for CIF Finals which was our goal. Next week, we are going to have to race together and race our hardest to qualify for state finals, and I think we are ready for the challenge.”

Tofler was 40th overall and had a time of 18:59.

“The goal at CIF Finals is to show the other teams and ourselves why we deserve our ranking and our place at the state meet,” Tofler said. “CIF Prelims was about advancing.”

She knows the finals are a greater challenge.

“Finals is going to be a difficult race because all runners need to run significantly faster than last week, but I think we’ll be able to do it. The workouts we’ve been running are faster and we are tapering so we’ll be well-rested for Saturday. I’m very excited about the race because every one of us was ready to give it their all and do whatever it takes to advance.”

Mira Costa did something this year they had not done in over a decade and that is win both the boys and girls Bay League titles in the same year. This year they did it at Polliwog Park where the Bay League finals were held.

“Mira Costa won both the men’s and women’s’ title for the first time together since 2006,” said Mira Costa girls’ cross country head coach Renee Williams Smith.

“I am super happy to have won the very competitive Bay league cross country title,” McGee said. “I give all the credit to the players though, they have worked hard all-season long.”

Seamus O’Meara, who is just a sophomore and finishing his first year on varsity is one of those runners.

“It was a good team effort to secure the league title by 19 points. Everyone started very fast but after it settled down we focused on passing and position which proved to work well. The hills were a big challenging, but we were able to power through them to take home the league title.”

O’Meara did not compete at prelims, but is expected to compete at finals.

“Winning league was another confidence booster and I hope we can continue to ride on this wave of success all the way into state and peak when it really counts,” Carew said.

The girls have been one of the top programs in Southern California over the past decade.

“Bay League was a very good race for our teamwork,” Pappas said. “All of our runners stuck together for nearly the whole race.”

Pappas had a time of 18:38.10 and was Mira Costa’s first runner to finish. She was fifth overall.

“It was a hard course with a lot of hills, and during the second and third mile I struggled to keep going, but seeing my teammates around me made me stay in the race and I had a strong finish because of that,” Pappas said.

Tofler finished in seventh place with a time of 18:49.

“Bay League finals was an excellent marker for our team,” Tofler said. CIF and State are so close so, Bay League was a great way to gauge team dynamics.”

Contact this reporter at mhixon@tbrnews.com or on Twitter @michaeljhixon.com.

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