Eastlake, Hilltop girls are show-stoppers at cross country invitational

The Eastlake High School girls cross country team continued its dominance of local teams by easily winning its division at last Friday’s Ian Cumming/Tim Latham Invitational at Rohr Park with 20 points. The Lady Titans placed the first three individuals, including a freshman champion, in placing their stamp on the division. Photo by Phillip Brents

Running in the rain certainly didn’t prove to be an obstacle for both the Eastlake and Hilltop high schools girls cross country teams. Both local squads hurdled the competition on the wet grounds at Chula Vista’s Rohr Park to capture their respective divisions in the annual Ian Cumming/Tim Latham Invitational.

Eastlake, the defending Metro-Mesa League champions, won the girls varsity Mustangs Division title with a low score of 20 points – well ahead of runner-up Scripps Ranch’s 67 tally.

Hilltop certainly showed why it could be considered a favorite in its league this season after scoring 29 points to finish on top of the girls varsity Red Devils Division. The Lady Lancers out-distanced runner-up Oceanside by 18 points in the scoring column.

Eastlake proved impossible to beat by placing the top three individuals in the 2.5-mile race: freshman Jaelyn Williams (first, 14:42.9), senior Amanda Challburg (second, 15:51) and sophomore Thalia Stach (third, 15:22.3). For good measure, the Lady Titans added junior Galia Salazar (sixth, 16:05.8) and junior Vanessa Vuong (eighth, 16:26.9) to place all their five scorers not only among the top 10 finishers, but among the top eight finishers in the 73-deep race.

“Last year we thought we had the team to make it to the state meet but we didn’t perform at the CIF finals like I thought we would,” EHS coach David Koopman said. “With four returning from last year, we should be in the running again for state. Our junior varsity was good last year, so a couple of those girls have made the transition. We have our strong ninth-grader who won the Vaquero meet.

“Our goal is to be better than last year. I think if they run to their ability, our expectations are to win league and advance to state.”

Follow the leader in the girls varsity Mustangs Division race … Eastlake freshman Jaelyn Williams. Photos by Phillip Brents

Challburg has been the leader in the past but now finds herself chasing underclassmen on the course. Vuong won last year’s Mesa League individual championship but finished as the team’s No. 5 runner last Friday.

Williams finished 33 seconds ahead of Challburg, running away from the field early.

Point Loma finished third in the Mustangs Division standings with 124 points, closely followed by Bonita Vista in fourth place with 129 points. Our Lady of Peace finished fifth with 136 points, followed in sixth place by Otay Ranch with 144 points.

Otay Ranch sophomore Aviva DeVore broke up the Eastlake contingent in fifth place in 16:05 but Lady Titan senior Cameron Cruz followed in 13th place in 16:53.4 as the team’s non-scoring sixth runner.

Bonita Vista senior Rei Fulinara (16:53.8) placed 12th among individuals while Southwest junior Diana Loredo (17:10.6) finished 17th. Bonita Vista freshman Leilani Wilson (17:10.5) placed 18th while Otay Ranch junior Alicia Parise (17:11.1) followed in 19th place.

The Hilltop High School girls cross country team showed summer workouts paid dividends after winning the girls varsity Red Devils Division at last Friday’s Ian Cumming/Tim Latham Invitational at Rohr Park with a low score of 29 points. Photo by Phillip Brenrts

Hilltop finished shockingly good in the next race. The Lady Lancers placed all their five scorers among the top 10 place-finishers.

Sophomore Caroline Villalpando finished fourth in 17:45.1, followed by senior Tamara Cornejo in fifth place in 17:46.5. Jump down to spots and sophomore Abigail Costello was seventh in 18:12.5, followed by classmate Giselle Ornelas in eighth place in 18:13.6. Junior Analee Martinez placed 10th in 18:23.5.

“We decided to take a different approach with the girls toward practicing and getting our program going,” Hilltop girls coach Nancy C. diBernetto said. “We have a more conditioned group.”

Escondido finished third among the seven scoring teams in the division with 99 points, followed by San Diego (fourth, 101 points), Mater Dei Catholic (fifth, 124 points), Mt. Miguel (sixth, 147 points) and Montgomery (seventh, 177 points).

Mater Dei Catholic freshman Keira Baranski (18:19.1) placed ninth among individuals in the 65-deep field, followed by Sweetwater junior Melanie Avzola (11th, 18:27.7), Montgomery freshman Charlotte Mundo (19th, 19:08.1) and Mater Dei Catholic junior Sara Clark (22nd, 19:16.5).

Forty-five teams participated last Friday. Teams from the Imperial Valley were unable to attend because of the inclement weather. The top 35 place-finishers received medals.

There was eight races total: two boys junior varsity, two boys frosh-soph, two girls varsity, two boys varsity and two girls JV.

“Every race started on time,” said Otay Ranch coach Julian Valdez, who served as co-event director. “A lot of kids got medals and good times.”

Grossmont’s Ian Rosen, left, and Otay Ranch’s Jacob Juden sprint to the finish line in the boys varsity Mustangs Division race. Rosen won to lift Grossmont into third place one point ahead of Otay Ranch. Photo by Phillip Brents

The boys varsity Mustangs race pitted defending Division I champion Otay Ranch and defendiung Division II champion Grossmont. The Foothillers placed third with 81 points to 82 points for Otay Ranch.

Grossmont senior Russell Blakely recorded the top time in the boys varsity division in 15:28.2. Otay Ranch senior Jacob Juden finished fifth in 15:57.7, just a sliver behind Grossmont senior Ian Rosen (15:56.3) in a sprint to the finish line.

Otay Ranch’s five scorers also include senior Jake Shorey (eighth, 16:20.8), senior Rodolfo Baza (14th, 17:00.00), senior Neil Griffin (27th, 17:32.9) and senior Christopher Harvie (28th, 17:37.7).

Shorey timed 15:27 to place 10th in the preceding Canyon Crest Invitational race while DeVore was 19th in the invitational girls field.

“We’re excited,” Valdez said. “Our girls team is a brand new group. They’re getting better each week.

“As for the boys, last year’s Division I field was loaded and this year it’s even better.”

Sweetwater, led by sophomore Matte Garcia (fifth, 17:04.3), finished runner-up in the boys varsity Red Devils Division.

The Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders finished third in the boys varsity Red Devils Division.