It was a resounding success for the Mira Costa girls’ cross country team when the Mustangs finished fifth place in Division 1 at the 33rd annual CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno last Saturday.

Individually, Dalia Frias and Billy Atkinson won medals with third and fifth place finishes overall in the boys and girls Division 1 races.

“The girls fifth place overall was a big success for us,” said Mira Costa girls’ cross country head coach Renee Williams Smith said. “We were ranked eighth going in and beat four teams that beat us the previous week in CIF Finals, so we were really happy.”

Frias led the girls team with a 17:38.4 time with a personal best time and finish at state.

“Dalia finishing third overall was awesome and Billy Atkinson placed fifth overall in boys which was amazing,” Williams Smith said.

Carlie Dorostlear, senior, from Canyon Crest Academy won the race in 16:45.4 and Corie Smith, senior, Buchanan was second in 17:00.0.

Frias, who battled back from an injury, is just a sophomore.

“I’m so proud of Dalia for placing third,” said Frias’ teammate Pnina Tofler.

Atkinson ran solo in the boys’ race and averaged a 4:52 mile finishing in 15:08.3 in his final race.

“I’m super happy with this result because this is the first year I have been relatively healthy,” Atkinson said.

Senior Matt Strangio, from Jesuit, won the race in 14:43.5. Isaiah Galindo, senior, from Clovis North was second with a time of 15:00.5. Christopher Middleton-Pearson, senior, Dublin was third in 15:02.9 and Colin Peattie, junior, from Bellarmine was fourth in 15:08.3.

Atkinson was the fastest runner from Southern California as all four ahead of him were from Northern California.

“The first mile went out very fast and it really caught up with me by the last 800,” Atkinson said. “I started around eighth at the start and worked my way up to fifth in my race and the 10th fastest time of the day.”

Also running in the race was Redondo Union’s Christoph Waligorski, sophomore, who was second at CIF Finals in Division 1 and was the second fastest freshman or sophomore at state with a time of 15:37.2. He finished in 32nd place.

“Christoph has had a fine season,” said Redondo Union cross country head coach Bob Leetch. “He has had terrific performances at several invitationals and added his first Bay League title a few weeks ago at Polliwog Park.”

Great Oak won the boys Division 1 team title with 69 points.

It was quite a season for the Bay League champion Mira Costa girls’ team as well. They finished behind champion Buchanan, who had 67 points. Great Oak was second with 71, Saugus finished third with 136 and Canyon Crest Academy had 174 points. Mira Costa finished with 234 points.

Besides Frias, Mira Costa’s top runners in the girls’ team competition were Ella Parsley, sophomore, who was 40th (62nd overall) in 18:52.5 and Tia Pappas, senior, was 46th (70th overall) in 18:58.5.

“The race had a very fast and intense start,” Pappas said. “I went out less than 15 seconds slower than my personal best in the mile-so it was very fast for me. The last mile was tough because I was tired from all the hills but I pushed through it by telling myself that it was my last race and I had to leave everything out there on the course.”

She added, “In my last 400 meters I passed an entire pack and finished ahead of all of them. I finally broke 19 minutes in the 5K, which was a goal of mine the whole season so I was very proud.”

The final two runners picking up points for Mira Costa were Camel Mel, senior, with a 71st place finish (100th overall) in 19:23.1 and Heather Jensen, freshman, with a 74th place (105th overall) in 19:27.8.

“State championships for cross country was a great race, a great end to my season and a great end to running four years at Mira Costa,” Pappas said. “I am so proud of my team. We relied on our training to run our best. Our coaches trained us perfectly to peak at this race. We beat a lot of teams that had beaten us in the race last week and it was a good to show them what we can truly do.”

Pappas said that next year’s team “has a lot of potential and talent” and should be a contender once again.

This year’s team was a senior laden team.

“The state meet was an excellent experience for me because I’m a senior, and I was able to race there all three years of being on varsity,” Tofler said. “We defied the odds by coming in fifth and I can’t wait to see how track season goes for us.”

Tofler finished 86th with a 19:45.7 time and sophomore Kayla Kershaw was 120th with her 20.33.6 finish.

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

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