RESULTS AT BOTTOM OF PAGE
Underdog Girls Survive Battle of Attrition to Win State Championship; Boys Add to Streak with Surprising 5th Place Finish
It was not easy, and it certainly was not pretty. Rather, the fight for the 2017 girls' cross country state championship title went 15 rounds.
Just as the season began, 4-year varsity veteran and team captain Hannah Ruane (18) was hampered by a persistent, and seemingly mysterious knee ailment. After several attempts to rest and return, the defending individual league champion received the devastating news that her season would be cut short due to an unusual anterior tibial stress fracture.
Ruane held her disappointment in check and encouraged her teammates not to give up on their quest for the state title that had eluded them since her freshman season. Another vital ingredient to the girls' aspirations was also experiencing setback however: Emma Overell (18), who had shown exciting potential in her season debut, was sidelined for over a month by chronic tendonitis. So frustrating was the ordeal, Overell considered resigning her spot on the team.
Added to these individual struggles was the impact of historically poor air quality resulting from northern California wildfires in early September and then again, in more devastating fashion, in early October. For the 1st time in coach Chuck Woolridge's career, practice sessions were limited to indoor activities. On one particular day, the team spent its afternoon session running laps, 104 to be precise, around the inside of the multi-use room.
And then the arduous turned nearly ludicrous. After a breakthrough victory at the Capital Cross Challenge that earned her a top 10 state ranking followed by a huge personal best at the Roughrider Invitational to lead her team to an impressive win, Jenna Miles (18) concussed herself against a locker door after reaching down to pick up a text book. The senior star's rise was abruptly halted as she was restricted from physical activity for 2 weeks.
Somehow, the squad continued to throw punches.
Not even a debilitating abdominal condition which plagued Paloma Hancock (20) throughout the post season or a hip ailment suffered in a pre-section meet workout by Isabella Chao (18) could keep the team from rallying for a 5th consecutive NCS title.
On Saturday, November 25, at the California cross country state championships, hope still flickered. Campolindo entered their final race of the season ranked #2 behind San Diego Section's La Costa Canyon, and just ahead of NorCal rival Vista Del Lago and perennial podium contender Palos Verdes.
In keeping with the season's theme, the weather on this particular day was uncommonly warm. In fact, with the temperature rising into the mid-70's for the division 3 race, the penultimate contest of the day would be the warmest ever for the state meet. Added to this was the signature central valley smog, which was causing breathing difficulties for Alicia Hober (20), a consistent top 4 finisher for the squad, who just before the warm up admitted to suffering from a head cold.
Yet, there they were, staggering to the starting line like bloodied prizefighters answering the bell to a final round.
As it turned out, the race would unfold much like you'd expect of a boxing match. The winner would be the last one standing.
The Cougars launched themselves into excellent position through the opening 400 meters of the state championship race. Miles and Chao were well placed behind the early frontrunners while Overell and Hober led a solid clustering of white and red, all in the top 40.
The girls were making their bid.
At the mile mark Campolindo held a 4-point advantage over the favorites, 91-95.
In the 2nd mile however, the Mavericks' Kristin Fahy and McKenna Brown made a push to the lead, picking up vital points. While Miles and Chao tried to counter the move, Hober was losing steam and Hancock was again experiencing abdominal distress.
Though it had been Campolindo's intention to attack after the mile mark, La Costa Canyon used the middle of the race to gain an advantage at each scoring position. As the athletes crested the course's toughest hill and crossed the 2-mile mark, the Cougars were down by 12 points, 78-90. It looked like they might even be caught by an inspired Vista Del Lago squad, which was also moving up in the team standings.
Only Jessie Foxworthy (18), who had been the squad's most dependable performer all season, and Overell, were making up any ground.
Woolridge and assistant coach Tim Hunter jogged along the fencing 300 meters out from the finish line, commiserating about the 2-mile mark team scores that had just been announced. It seemed that a season's worth of emotional and physical fatigue was finally catching up to their squad. At that moment, they looked up to see Redwood's Gillian Wagner streak past, on her way to the individual win.
Then came Brown, sprinting down the final stretch to earn a critical low stick for the Mavericks.
But where was her teammate? Where was Fahy? Just like Campolindo, La Costa Canyon was counting on a pair of top 10 individual finishes to reach the top of the podium.
Assistant coach Andy Lindquist was convinced that Fahy had already finished, ahead of her teammate. Through the chaos of sign waiving, encouragement screaming fans however, the junior star was finally spotted feebly staggering toward the finish with several other runners, Miles included, bearing down on her.
Miles pressed along. Fahy collapsed. The pre-race favorite looked exhausted and disoriented as parents and coaches rushed to her aid.
Tragic as it was, the team outcome was suddenly up for grabs again. As Miles hung on to finish in 12th place, desperate eyes scanned the long line of athletes sprinting down the homestretch.
To the horror of Campolindo faithful, it appeared the spirited early pace and arduous conditions were about to claim another victim. Like Fahy, Chao was experiencing severe distress over the final quarter mile. She did not register the spectators that shouted from the sideline nor the competitors that streaked by her as they executed their finishing kicks; yet the senior captain somehow continued to put one foot in front of the other. After the race, Chao would say that she was fighting just to keep her eyes open.
The concluding carnage of the girls' division 3 race was looking like Balboa and Creed both falling to the canvass at the end of Rocky II.
Then Overell burst onto the finishing straight, running stride-for-stride with La Costa Canyon's next finisher, Jessica Riedman. The pair quickly overtook Chao and blasted through the final 200 meters. After a season of frustration and nearly quitting, Overell summoned a career best effort to keep her squad in contention. Her 15th place finish was just 1 second and 1 place ahead of her San Diego Section foe.
Chao's 28th place finish was also 1 place ahead of the Mavericks' #3 performer. As Chao collapsed into the finish corral, Foxworthy and Hancock sprang into view, with La Costa Canyon's #4 runner sandwiched between them.
What had been a 12 point advantage for La Costa Canyon, with the collapse of Fahy and the clutch late-race performance of Overell, was all but gone.
Foxworthy and Hancock would finish 40th and 44th, respectively, while the Maverick's Natalie Schroeder would end up 45th.
There were no high-5's in the finish corral. Only slumped bodies and tears of exhaustion. The girls were unaware of just how much the tide had turned in those final moments. As they exited into a crowd of friends and parents, they were bewildered to learn that they had, in fact, climbed back off the canvass before the final count and claimed the state crown.
90 minutes earlier in the day, the varsity boys' capped their own successful 2017 campaign with a surprising 5th place finish, 2 places ahead of their pre-meet ranking and 5 places ahead of the previous week's NCS champions, Maria Carrillo.
The entire squad showed an inspired effort over the 2nd mile of the race, moving into a tight battle for 3rd place with Brea Olinda and Palos Verdes. Leading the way once again was Edward Buckley (19), who improved upon his course record to land the 11th individual place, just 1 spot shy of the individual podium.
After a slow start, Dylan Gunn (21) stormed back into the #2 position for the Cougars, finishing just ahead of Ethan Sauerberg (18), who himself enjoyed a season best effort..
Brushing off a lackluster NCS outing, Owen Hunger (20) ran with renewed determination from the gun. The sophomore's placing among the top 50 scorers was a huge reason the Cougars found themselves contending for a podium position.
Andrew Tseng (18) completed the scoring, finishing the 5k distance in 16:50.
While the Cougars narrowly missed a trip to the awards tent, they managed to finish the season with a flourish, just 12 points behind the state's 2nd place team.
The result also extended the boys' division record streak of top 10 team finishes, which now stands at 16 consecutive seasons.
West Torrance 63, La Costa Canyon 168, Brea Olinda 170, Palos Verdes 176, Campolindo 180, Ridgeview 214, Whittier 221, Moorpark 237, St. John Bosco 264, Maria Carrillo 271, Aptos 278, Ocean View 297, Cathedral Catholic 356, Vista Del Lago 370, El Capitan 387, Rio Americano 390, Greenfield 397, Redwood 416, Las Lomas 432, Corcoran 463, Chico 476, San Deiguito Academy 505, Del Oro 536, Belmont 702
Campolindo 101, Vista Del Lago 132, La Costa Canyon 142, Palos Verdes 165, Cathedral Catholic 188, Maria Carrillo 195, Aptos 215, Oak Park 224, University City 237, Corona Del Mar 267, West Torrance 286, South Torrance 289, Las Lomas 292, Laguna Hills 317, Esperanza 318, Alameda 359, Nevada Union 406, Foothill NS 414, El Camino 447, St. Ignatius 564, Sacred Heart Cathedral 625, Foothill CS 642, Ridgeview 741, Lincoln 787