The San Diego Section cross country championship meet serves two functions: firstly, to determine the first and second teams for the all-section team, as well as runners of the years in their respective gender divisions.
The time-honored CIF meet serves secondly as a qualifier for the state championship meet that will take place Nov. 26 in Fresno’s Woodward Park.
South County will be represented by three individual qualifiers at this year’s event after being shut out of team qualifying.
The math isn’t always easy to solve.
The top three teams in both the Division II boys and girls fields at the section finals advance to Fresno while the top three teams in the boys Division III, Division IV and Division V fields advance, plus the top four teams in the Division III girls field, the top three teams in the Division IV girls field and top two teams in the Division V girls field, also get the chance to make the trek.
Only the top two teams in both the boys and girls Division I fields qualify for the state meet.
It’s definitely an elite group that squeezes through, not to mention the even more stringent rules placed on individual qualifiers.
State of mind
This year’s section finals took place last Saturday at Balboa Park’s Morley Field across five divisions in two gender fields.
While there was a lot of promise from South County teams and individuals, this year’s qualifying field proved challenging.
Metro-Mesa League boys champion Otay Ranch finished sixth in the Division I field while Metro-Mesa League girls champion Eastlake finished fourth.
Metro-South Bay League boys champion Sweetwater finished 10th among the 18 Division I scoring teams while Metro-South Bay League girls champion Hilltop finished 13th among the 17 scoring teams in Division II.
Metro-Pacific League champion Southwest finished seventh in the Division III boys field and did not score in the girls field with just three runners.
There were several close calls but only three individuals managed to make the state cut.
Five individuals not on state qualified teams are eligible to advance to the state finals provided they finish in the top 12 spots at the section finals in their respective division for two qualified teams, the top 14 spots for three qualified teams and the top 16 spots for four qualified teams.
Eastlake freshman Jaelyn Williams, the top conference female runner and Metro-Mesa female runner of the year, placed third among Division I girls in 16:54.3 on the three-mile course. She was an easy individual qualifier, the second of five in the division.
San Ysidro senior Daycin Fielden, the Metro-South Bay League female runner of the year, finished eighth in the Division II girls field in 19:53.1 to qualify as the fourth of five individuals.
High Tech High Chula Vista senior Aidan Stirk placed ninth in the Division IV boys field in 16:54.3 to qualify as the fourth of five individuals.
Metro-South Bay League individual boys champion Josh Dunphy of Mater Dei Catholic finished one spot away as an individual qualifier after placing 11th in the Division IV field – six seconds behind Del Lago Academy sophomore Valentino Aguirre, the final individual qualifier in the division.
Metro-Mesa League individual boys champion Angel Cordero, a junior from Olympian and the top male runner at the preceding Metro Conference finals, placed 22nd in the Division I field. Otay Ranch senior Jake Shorey (second among Metro-Mesa finishers) was the top conference place-finisher at the CIF finals in 19th place.
Boys team champions included Torrey Pines (Division I), Grossmont (Division II), Sage Creek (Division III), Crawford (Division IV) and Liberty Charter (Division V).
Girls team champions included Del Norte (Division I), Scripps Ranch (Division II), Cathedral Catholic (Division III), La Jolla (Division IV) and Francis Parker (Division V).
Liberty Charter senior Micah Sanchez notched the top boys time of 15:08.6 on the day while winning the Division V race. La Costa Canyon junior Gioana Lopizzo recorded the top girls time of 17:12.7 in winning the Division III race in her gender field.
Eastlake’s Williams recorded the fifth-best time overall in the 535-deep combined girls field.
Sanchez topped the combined field of 615 boys.