This year’s CIF Southern Section Finals in cross country Division 1 boys’ and girls’ will be remembered by the dominant Great Oak teams which swept the team titles.
But a couple local high school runners finished second in each race and a third runner in the top four. The Mira Costa girls’ team finished in the top seven to qualify for the state championships this weekend.
Redondo Union’s Christoph Waligorski, sophomore, finished second in the boys’ race in a time of 14:55.7 behind winner Jeremiah Castellano of Upland, who had the time of 14:48.4. He advances to state for Redondo Union, which did not have a team competing.
Joining him will be Mira Costa’s Billy Atkinson, senior, who finished fourth overall in the same race. His time was 14:57.8 and will be looking to get some exposure and a chance to race against the best.
“I would definitely like to run in college,” Atkinson said. “(CIF) Finals wasn’t the best race for our team, but I felt confident and comfortable. I’ve never raced at the state meet before so I’m super excited and hopefully a good result can help my chances at running in college. The plan for this week is to get lots of sleep and stay hydrated and relaxed.”
“Billy had a great race and we can’t wait to support him and the girls’ team at state,” said teammate Colin Beale.
Mira Costa’s Dalia Frias, who is also a sophomore, led the Mira Costa team that qualified for state with a second-place finish in the girls’ race. Her time was 17:29.4 behind winner Hana Catsimanes, senior, of San Clemente. Her time was 17:21.4.
“She was 12th in this race last year so we are really excited to see what she can do at the state meet,” said Mira Costa girls’ cross country head coach Renee Williams Smith. “It was a challenging race.”
Frias, who did not race in prelims, was recovering from an injury and looks to be back and ready for state.
“Dalia is getting better every day and she will be an amazing asset for us on Saturday,” said Mira Costa teammate Pnina Tofler.
Mira Costa as a team finished behind Great Oak, Saugus, Vista Murrieta, San Clemente, Tesoro and Yucaipa with 251 points. Great Oak had 38.
Besides Frias, Mira Costa’s other runners that were part of the win were sophomore Ella Parsley, senior Tia Papas, senior Tofler, and junior Jasmin Peterman.
Parsley ran a time of 18:31.3 and was 39th.
“Ella Parsley really stepped up for the team and had a personal best time by 25 seconds running 18:31 and becoming our No. 2 runner,” Williams Smith said. “She looked strong from the start and just kept getting stronger. That’s the beauty of team sports when a teammate is able to step up to help.”
Pappas had a time of 18:31.9 and was 41st. Tofler and Peterman finished with times of 18:58.5 and 19:25.6 good for 64th and 105th.
“Tia Pappas passed nine runners in the second half to finish right behind Ella Parsley,” Williams Smith said.
Pappas’ time was a personal best.
“A lot was riding on this CIF Finals race and I’m glad that my teammates were so tough and rose to the occasion,” Pappas said. “Ella Parsley especially raced well and she motivated me to stay with her. She had a lot of grit and determination, and seeing her ahead of me reminded that I couldn’t give up.”
Kayla Kershaw, sophomore, and Carmen Mel, senior, also ran.
There were 25 teams competing.
Redondo Union’s girls team competed and finished 25th with 553 points and was led by Montgomery Allison, junior, with a time of 19:02.9. She was 71st.
Now it is on to state for Mira Costa.
“We are really excited for this group of athletes to get to compete at the next level as they have worked really hard this year and to see them succeed is rewarding,” Williams Smith said.
The Bay League champions are excited for the opportunity.
“It made me incredibly happy to qualify for state because my team has trained so hard this whole season to get to this point,” Pappas said. “We will give it our all at state.”
“We are all excited to spend the weekend in Fresno and enjoy the experience as much as possible,” Tofler said. “The team has a lot of experience at state and will try our best to make the podium again.”
The Mira Costa boys’ team competed, but finished 10th and saw their season come to an end, except for Atkinson.
Mira Costa finished with 292 points.
“Our team did well considering we suffered a devastating blow after learning the day before the race that our No. 2 man, junior Cormac Carew, suffered a season-ending injury,” said Mira Costa boys’ cross country head coach Kevin McGee. “In many sports, you need the combination of luck and skill to advance far, and we didn't have good luck this season.”
Following Atkinson on the day were Beale, junior, who ran a 15:42.0. He was 49th.
“I’m very proud of the team for giving everything we got,” Beale said. “I’m extremely proud of all the great things this team accomplished and thankful to run under the leadership and guidance of Thomas (Velvin), Billy (Atkinson), and Fio (Alexander Fiorito) throughout the year. They pushed me and the team to be better runners.”
He added, “I personally had a good race closing in a 5:07 mile and passing 20 people in the second half of the race.”
The rest of the boys that competed were Fiorito, senior; Velvin, senior, and Caleb Hong, senior. Their times and place were 15:45.2, 56th; 16:03.0, 76th and 16:18.6, 108th.
Seamus O'Meara and Aidan Velleca were part of the team as well.
There were 25 teams that competed.