Vikings Rise to the Challenge at Foothill League Finals

Our awesome Seniors! -Oct 31, 2022

SANTA CLARITA, CA — The Valencia Viking Cross Country team took on the rest of the Foothill League at the championship race held at College of the Canyons. With tough competition and a challenging hilly course, the Vikes were hoping to bring their best performances of the year and advance into the post season. A crisp early Fall morning brought cool temperatures and ideal racing temperatures for the fields.

Arriving before the sun was up, the Frosh/Soph boys were surprisingly full of energy and prerace jitters before settling into their warm-up and preparing for the work ahead. Freshman Alex Basin had a season best and a 3-mile PR on this tough course! He improved by 39 seconds to lead the team at 18:08. Luis Torres-Orrala was next for the Vikings at 18:31; this is a huge PR and an outstanding culminating performance of this season for Luis. Leo Hicks was next runner across the line in 18:36 with Adam Sandoval (19:18) and Lincoln Gabbard filling out the scorers for the Vikings. The scoring 5 had strong support behind with Jake Robideau running a season best on this course at 20:09, Asafbek Makhmudov PRing at 20:27, and Nate Patel at 20:55. Austin Pohlot battled injuries all year but did the rehab and work to finish in 22:09. Enrique Lopez Santos ran a season best at 22:25 with Emad Ahmed right behind in a huge PR of 22:35. Ryan Leon (23:08) and J’Wun McNutt (24:05) finished up for the Vikings. The team finished a 4th in the team standings for the day. The perseverance of this group shows the improvements possible for those willing to do the work. This crew is super dedicated and always willing to push their teammates to improve. Their progression will surely have them moving up the Foothill league standings next year.

The Frosh/Soph girls were next up to conquer the challenging course. Hannah Aina has shown so much growth with late season improvements. Building on her strong performance at Mt. SAC last weekend she led the F/S Lady Vikings at 24:01. Gracie Brooke finished the season with a huge effort and a solid PR (24:25) as she shed over a minute from her previous best time! The Lady Vikings that followed gave it all they had for the final race either nearly meeting or improving on their season bests: Sophie Tran at 25:42, Shelly Namkoong at 26:32, Melody Weber at 26:47 and Emily Stimac at 28:37. These ladies finished a close 5th on the day in the team competition.

The Varsity Boys lined up with high aspirations and tough competition. Not happy to merely secure their spot in the post season, the Vikings were looking to pick off a team or two from their fourth-place finish at League #1. Senior Tyler Chang led the Vikings with a very strong last mile running down several competitors. His 15:42 earned him 5th place on the day and first team All -League Honors. Right behind in sixth place was Ayden Buchanan finishing at 15:57. Ayden also earned first team All-League and was the top non-senior runner in the league! Grant Young continued his upward trajectory earning second team All-League with his 16:22 and 12th place finish. Freshman Emilio Oviedo continued his smart racing and consistent results with a 16:44 making him one of the top three 9th grade runners in the league! Jake Brooke really stepped up to race today and moved into the Vikings final scoring position at 17:06. The ever-consistent Davis Simonian was just behind at 17:14 with Noah Flores finishing up for the Vikes at 17:47. In the team results, the Vikings secured themselves a trip to the post-season with an improvement from Leage#1 finishing in third! They will be looking to push their season another week when they again take on the hills of Mt. SAC in CIF prelims on November 11th.

The Varsity Lady Vikings had more than the COC hills to tackle as they looked to leap-frog up the team standings and continue to their season at CIF prelims. Kami Grossman led the Lady Vikes with a strong and strategic race. She had a 20-meter lead at 2 miles and gave it all she had to hold of the charging competition. Finishing a couple of seconds back from the eventual winner she earned first team All-League at 18:59 and 3rd place, an outstanding performance! Senior Lauren Tran was next across the line for the Vikings, her 20:54 was an over 30 second improvement from her League #1 effort and put the Vikes in the running to secure a post season spot. Gianna Iezza was out to make a difference today eyeing her closest competitors in the team race. She pushed to a nearly 1-minute improvement from her last outing here finishing at 21:00! Liana Sushinski and Valentina Soto-Navarette worked together through the race and pushed each other to 21:48 and 21:56, respectively to fill the Vikings scoring positions. Maria Lopez ran a strong 22:20 to slot into the sixth position and Sam Armitage had some bad luck going down hard at the start line but getting up to run three miles bloodied and sore finishing at 24:14. The team race was as close as it could have been! The Vikings tied for fourth with Castaic through the scoring five with the Vikings pulling ahead to secure the post-season position with Maria’s performance bettering that of the Coyote’s sixth runner! This will be the Lady Vikings first trip to CIF prelims since 2018.

After Tomi Lessis busted out the national anthem at the JV football game, he was looking for an encore performance with the other JV boys hoping to finish the season on a high note. Marcus Espinosa led the Vikings belting out a 9th place with a season best on the COC course in 18:25. Cruz Lanzer was humming along to finish at 18:55 in 12th. Jacob Kunz showed his power finishing at 19:15. Damien Turner at 19:50 and Justin Yuh at 20:35 filled out the scorers with their denouement on this course, both dropping significant time. Finishing out the racing sextet was Lessis at 21:46, capping off a great season. Team scoring had the JV Vikes finishing a close fourth over the Golden Valley Grizzlies.

Final race of the day had a couple of JV Lady Vikings toeing the line. Sara Aina gritted out a strong race finishing 6th in the field with an almost 1-minute improvement from her first attempt on this tough course. Joon Kim was slowed by injuries but was motivated to finish as many races this season as she could; she finished 15th place at 25:58.

With the season over for most of the Vikings, the banquet next weekend will be a time to celebrate the accomplishments of the team. The varsity squads will return to Mt. SAC on Veterans Day, Friday, November 11th to battle it out for a spot in the CIF finals.

Vikings Attack at Mt. SAC

Varsity Boys win 1st Place!!!!!!! -Oct 23, 2022

WALNUT, CA — After a weekend off from racing, the Valencia Vikings Cross Country team tested their fitness at the famous Mt. SAC XC Invite in Walnut. Met with a cool, breezy, and partly cloudy day, the Vikings welcomed to beginning of Fall weather and just missed a late heatwave that would have upped the stakes on this challenging and hilly course.

The three-mile course begins on the Airstrip where runners need to get out to a quick start before traversing a couple of laps on the “Valley Loop” for the first mile. The course then immediately ascends the Switchbacks for arguably the toughest hill on the course. A long descent behind the recently renovated Hilmer Lodge Stadium returns the racers to the crossover for a trip up Poopout Hill, a short, but steep ascent. By the start of the third mile, racers are on the lonely, back section before being challenged by the last and longest ascent, Reservoir Hill. The peak of Reservoir Hill signals 800m remaining consisting of a steep descent, a return trip on the grass next to the Airstrip, and a final push through the Gauntlet to the last uphill kicker immediately before the finish.

Kami Grossman led out the Varsity Lady Vikes looking smooth and controlled around the Valley Loops. She raced with the front pack, held her position in the middle mile and finished strong for 5th place at 18:52. The ladies showed their strength with a solid group of three supporting Kami’s upfront performance. Lauren Tran was next across the line at 21:03; she was almost 4 and a half minutes better than her performance here last year! Frosh Liana Sushinksy must love the hills! Her more aggressive first mile kept her in contact with her teammates and she conquered the trio of hills to finish with a season best time (21:09) on a tough course. Senior Gianna Iezza showed her composure and ran a smartly paced race to be in the mix at 21:22. Maria Lopez (22:53) had a solid race running very evenly and moving up in the pack in the latter half. Sam Armitage (23:45) also improved by 4 and a half minutes from last year! Joon Kim had a tough race working through some sore shins and bike crash but toughed out a 26:45, a 47 second improvement from her 2021 performance. These ladies are consistently improving; their grit and persistence should have the league competitors on notice as they look to jump up the standings next week.

As the Lady Vikings were finishing, the Varsity Boys team stormed off the line well positioned as they hit the dirt of the opening loops. Ayden Buchanan settled in the front pack for the first mile, waiting to push the crest of the hills and roll the downs. Battling out to be the first individual, his 15:47 placed him second in the race and earned him a nine second improvement from last year. The ever-consistent Tyler Chang was next across the line finishing third and impressing with his 15:54. Grant Young ran a lifetime PR for three miles with a 16:13 and Emilio Oviedo’s performance was one of the top Frosh of the day with a 16:37. More course bests followed with Noah Flores slotting in as the last scorer (17:25) and seniors Davis Simonian (17:27) and Jake Brooke (17:37) right on his heels. The Vikings took a close victory in the race with a 2-point win over second! These boys are healthy and firing on all cylinders ready to take on all comers as the high-stakes races approach in the coming weeks.

The Freshmen Boys Vikings first attempt at the hallowed Mt. SAC course showed their work this season has tendered strong legs and robust aerobic capacity. Alex Basin led the bunch with a well-paced effort, passing over a dozen competitors in the final 2 miles finishing at 18:38. Luis Torres-Orrala (18:54) was next for the Vikes as he popped a huge race, dropping nearly a minute from his PR and breaking 19 minutes for the first time! Adam Sandoval is back after struggling with some nagging injuries these past few weeks; his solid 19:40 shows he is ready to finish out the season strong. After a fast start, Lincoln Gabbard held on to finish at 19:51. Nehemiah Pop was another huge PR for the Vikings today running 20:19 and dropping two minutes from his previous best! Jake Robideau showed his consistency with a 20:20 and Emad Ahmed rounded out the Frosh Vikings with an over 90 second PR at 22:55. This group’s continuous improvement and consistent efforts will be sure to result in some hot performances at their last race of the season next week.

A small but dedicated group of Lady Vikings lined up on the Airstrip for the sophomore girl’s race looking to show their deposits of plyometrics and intervals would pay dividends over this tough course. Hannah Aina led this group looking smooth and controlled throughout while attacking the downhills. Her 23:34 effort was over a minute off her time from last season! Gracie Brooke finished with a PR at 25:35 after a smooth and even performance. Sophie Tran (27:25) and Emily Stimac (29:24) both conquered the course for the first time and rounded out the Soph Vikings group both looking to build on their solid performances in this penultimate race.

Final race of the day for the Vikings had the JV Boys hungry to gobble up the buffet of challenges the Mt. SAC course had to offer. Marcus Espinosa pushed the first half of the race and was in the top 10 at the 2-mile mark; he finished at 18:27 a personal best on this course by 47 seconds. Cruz Lanzer also dropped nearly a minute from last year with his 19:04. Jacob Kunz was really rolling on the descents using his long stride to keep his momentum and finished at 19:11. Cole Lanzer was hot on his heels at 19:16. Damien Turner (20:29) and Justin Yuh (20:45) worked as a duo for the first two miles and pushed each other to drop over a minute from their efforts last year. This group is primed and ready to take it to the next level at the season finale at COC.

Next week at the Foothill League Finals, many of the Vikings will be looking to finish out the season with a bang. The varsity squads will be sizing up the competition and eyeing a spot in the post season and a return to the Mt. SAC venue for Southern Section CIF prelims in November.

Vikings Race Across the State at Clovis and SCV Invites

Great job Vikings! -Oct 9, 2022

FRESNO, CA — The Valencia Vikings Cross Country team split up this weekend with the varsity squads traveling up to Woodward Park in Fresno at the Clovis Invite while the Frosh/Soph and JV runners stayed local to again take on the hills at College of the Canyons in the SCV Invitational.

At the Clovis Invite, the varsity Vikings had quite the challenge with many of the top teams in the state making the trip to experience the state championship course. Waiting for them was a rolling, winding 5k over mixed terrain. The well-tended course was fast with short grass, watered dirt sections and a bit of asphalt mixed in. Rarely flat with gentle gradients for most of the hills, the team was hoping for fast times and looking to prep for competitive races as the end of the season is around the corner. With late morning start times and a forecast of 90+ for the day, the heat played a role for many of the competitors.

After previewing the course the day before, the large fields, electric environment, and fast morning races had the Varsity girls more than a little nervous before their turn. With a gentle rolling start, it is easy to get sucked out to an overly quick first mile and find yourself in trouble nearing the finish. We witnessed more than one overly ambitious runner dizzy, seeing stars, wobbling like a newborn foal, and taking a dive before the finish even though it was in sight. Kami Grossman went out smartly, she was smooth and controlled and came through mile one in the top 20 ladies. She held her position for the rest of the race to finish 17th in 19:32; a solid result for her first time out on this hallowed racecourse. Laruen Tran moved up over 20 positions after the first mile to finish solidly mid-pack in 21:14. The slow start and strong second half running was a strategy shared by nearly all the lady Vikes. Gianna Iezza (22:30) and Liana Sushinsky (22:51) both passed dozens of runners after the first mile. Joon Kim finished out the scorers with a solid 23:33 with Valentina Soto Navarrete (23:46) and Maria Lopez (24:48) rounding out the group. No doubt, these ladies overcame their early nerves to produce a solid performance for the day.

Second act for the Vikings was the gentlemen’s race. Beginning as the heat of the day began to set in, they needed to bring some heat of their own to the start. Positioned unfavorably with a starting box well off to the side and on the inside of the first turn, a quick first 200m was needed to keep from being buried in the collapsing field as the course narrowed. Ayden Buchanan was off like a shot and out with the top 5 through the first mile in 4:51. He held on to the front pack as long as he could and led the Vikings at 16:20 and 14th in the race. The other Vikings were boxed in the pack at the first mile and discovered that XC can be a contact sport as throwing sharp elbows became a necessity to keep from getting pinched in turns. Unfortunately, after a quick first mile (5:03), Grant Young, was on the receiving end of the abuse. He tweaked his knee and went down in the second mile, losing valuable time and his position in the field. He recovered with a bum knee to finish third for the team in 17:39. Tyler Chang navigated the crowds to pass over sixty runners after the first mile to finish in a solid 16:34. Not completely recovered from a recent illness, Emilio Oviedo put himself in contention during the first half of the race but had trouble holding on to his group in his weakened state finishing in 18:02. Once healthy, this freshman will be challenging the upperclassman and tightening up the scoring group as we head to league finals. Davis Simonian (18:24), Noah Flores (18:58) and Jake Brooke (19:13) finished out the Vikings efforts. While not exactly what they were hoping for as a team, this group gained experience racing in a large tight field and will carry their lessons to the coming weeks as they look to make a run deep into the post season.

Down in the beautiful hills of Santa Clarita, the Frosh Soph Vikings were enjoying the cool dewy morning of the 7:20 start time at the SCV Invitational. Running a nearly identical, but slightly longer course from Foothill League Race #1, the Vikings could gauge their fitness and redouble their efforts on the challenging course they will be racing one more time this season at Foothill League Finals. Alex Basin led the Vikings in the first race of the day at 19:08 with Luis Torres Orrala (19:49) and Jake Robideau (20:14) showing strong support shortly behind. Asaf Makhmudov dropped time from his last effort with a 21:29 with Nehemiah Pop (22:26), Ryan Leon (24:18), and Emad Ahmed (24:31) filling out top 7. Dylan Marshall pushed through to a 36:44 after a long sickness and a stubborn cough; glad he is back and feeling up to racing. Austin Pohlot finished in the pack but was too slick for the digital timer; we have our best men looking for his results somewhere in the world wide web.

In the combined JV and Frosh/Soph girls race Sam Armitage pushed herself in the first half with a quick start. She toughed it out over the hills and finished in 24:00. Senior Sara Aina (24:08) was close behind in a much-improved result from last time out here. Both of these ladies are knocking on the door of the varsity squad as the last few races of the season approach. The younger Aina sister, Hannah, followed at 24:55 with Sophie Tran (25:54) and Gracie Brooke (26:36) all scoring for the Lady Vikings. Shelley Namkoong (28:37) and Emily Stimac (29:27) ran solidly with Melody Weber pulling a stellar performance out of her hat for a 29:34!

The JV Boys finished out the racing for the Vikings at the SCV Invite with Marcus Espinosa leading the bunch in 18:34. His improvements over the past few weeks put him in contention for the varsity squad as this senior wants no regrets as the sunset approaches for his XC career. Jacob Kunz followed with a huge improvement; he dropped a minute from his effort last time on this course finishing in 19:07! Cruz Lanzer (19:26) and Cole Lanzer (19:47) continue to show their consistency this season with Damien Turner (20:32) finishing out the scorers with the team finishing 5th for the day! Tomi Lessis dropped some time to run 21:10 with Justin Yuh (21:54) rounding out the squad.

Next week the Vikings will skip the racing to get in a solid block of training in before the infamous Mt. SAC invitational on October 22nd and Foothill League Finals the following weekend.

Vikings Tough it Out in the Brea Invite

Valentina and Sam kicking to the line. -Oct 2, 2022

BREA, CA — The Valencia Vikings Cross Country team headed down to Carbon Canyon Regional Park to compete in the Brea Invite this weekend. Greeted by overcast skies and pleasant temperatures, the challenge for the athletes was the long and varied course. Measured at 3.2 miles, the course traversed through the thick grass of the park, transitioned to dirt paths that ascended to the top of the dam at 2 miles and then a long, gradual, and twisting decent back to the thick grassy finish. Different than other events, athletes were organized into smaller fields run by team position. Varsity races were divided into runners 1 & 2 in one race, runners 3-5 in a different race, with runners 6-7 and JV in a third. Frosh/Soph races were divided into runners 1-5 in one race with runners 6+ in another. With races starting every 10 minutes and having multiple races out on the single loop course, this was not a particularly spectator friendly atmosphere, but the efficiency of the event had the Vikings off to the rest of the Fall Break weekend before noon.

Starting with Boys’ Frosh Soph 6+, Nehemiah Pop lead the Vikes with a 23:05. Conor Landress followed in 24:19 and Emad Ahmed rounded out this small but dedicated bunch in 24:59. In the Frosh Soph 1-5 race, Lincoln Gabbard, recovered from his illness last week, led in 18:55. Alex Basin followed with a tough 19:23, Luis Torres Orrala had a strong finish at 20:30, with Jake Robideau (21:00) and Adam Sandoval (21:08) rounding out the group. The team finished 9th out of a field of 22 teams.

The Frosh Soph Lady Vikings only brought 5 girls out to Brea. Valentina Soto Navarrete lead the group after a controlled first mile and earned a medal finishing 22nd at 24:00; Sam Armitage was nipping at her heals also medaling at 24th (24:04). Sophie Tran (27:17), Gracie Brooke (28:04) and Melody Weber (31:48) conquered the course and helped the Vikings finish 4th in the field.

In the Varsity Boys’ 1-2 Race Ayden Buchanan (16:14) and Tyler Chang (16:36) were the top duo of the event finishing 2nd and 7th, respectively. With times running about a minute slower on this course than others, both of these gentlemen produced strong results this week. The Vikings Varsity 3-5 crew was led by Grant Young finishing 6th at 17:14 with senior duo Davis Simonian and Jake Brooke always battling it out and finishing close at 17:45 and 17:49. Cruz Lanzer led the Vikings in the 6+ Varsity and JV race with a tough 19:17. His consistency this season has been impressive! Jacob Kunz (20:17), Tomi Lessis (22:31), Justin Yuh (22:50) and Damien Turner (23:37) completed the bunch, with the team finishing 3rd in the merged results.

Kami Grossman led the Varsity Lady Vikings with a 10th place finish at 19:41. A solid effort against a small but tough field. Gianna Iezza stepped up in the second Varsity spot and pulled a 22:12; nearly equaling her time from last week on a longer course. Liana Sushinsky also was close to equalizing her time from last week finishing 20th in the 3-5 Varsity race at 22:35. Joon Kim (24:06) and Maria Lopez (24:12) rounded out the scorers as the merge had the lady Vikings finishing 12th out of 27 teams.

Next week the squads are split with the Varsity runners headed up to tackle the state championship course at the Clovis Invitational while the JV and Frosh Soph teams will again take on the hills at College of the Canyons for the SCV Invite.

Vikings take on the Foothill League at College of the Canyons

Frosh/Soph Boys Happy it is over! -Sep 25, 2022

SANTA CLARITA, CA — The Valencia Vikings Cross Country team stayed local this week to compete against the other SCV high schools in Foothill League Race #1. Although field sizes were much smaller than those found at recent invitationals, the competition was tough as multiple teams in the league are ranked in the CIF Southern Section.

The course at College of the Canyons was familiar to many of the Vikings, but a tougher variation of what they faced in previous races on the campus. Starting on the back access road of the campus, the race began with a long gradual uphill to the hilly dirt section awaiting them along the beautiful Interstate 5. Once they hit the dirt, they had two hilly loops to take on. The first, shorter loop took them by the campus vineyard and up the “Evil Twin” hill. This ascent is a challenge as the slope steepens the further you get up the hill finishing with a screaming throng of teammates, parents, and coaches asking for more of you at the crest. After a quick descent and a sharp (and slippery) 180 degree turn the second loop again takes them along the freeway. Far from the finish and hard for spectators to access, this section can be lonely for the runners. Thankfully horns of travelers along the interstate could be heard spurring the Vikings to keep the effort on as they approached the crown jewel of the SCV cross country courses, “Killer Hill.” A steep ramp up from the bottom with a second steep section at the top “Killer Hill” can take the snap out of racers’ legs as they traverse the undulating section across the top of the ridge. Thankfully, the last mile is a descent back on the access road and down to the track for the finish. Although early racers were thankful for pleasant morning temperatures, the sun was intense, and with little shade on most of the course, the heat was a factor in the later races.

Concerned for the forecast heat, the meet organizers changed up the usual league schedule and had the Frosh/Soph races start off the day. The boys team finished fourth with Frosh Alex Basin leading the crew with a tough 18:47. This was a super result for Alex as he ran close to his times from earlier races, but on a much tougher course. A bit under the weather and not quite recovered from a cold, Lincoln Gabbard was next at 19:35. Luis Torres Orrala ran a 19:48, only 8 seconds off his season best! Jake Robideau ran a solid 20:34 and Nate Patel sprang for a PR on the toughest course of the year with a 21:31! First race of the season for Asaf Makhmudov (21:56), Austin Pholot (22:22) and Enrique Lopez Santos (23:45) had them gritting through the tough hilly course and looking forward to another try in a couple of weeks. Not to be forgotten, Nehemiah Pop busts out another PR at 22:20 with Emad Ahmed (25:06) and Ryan Leon (25:17) filling out the team. This group is really progressing as they show that consistency and solid efforts pay dividends through the season.

The Frosh Soph girls met some tough competition with some Saugus ladies taking the field out to a quick start. Pulled along in the pack was Hannah Aina who started quickly and pushed through the second half with a 25:50. Sophie Tran had a strong finish using the last descent to reel in Hannah and finish a hair behind her also in 25:50. Gracie Brooke (26:37) rebounded from a difficult race last week to slot into the third scoring position for the Vikings. Shelly Nankoong had a spectacular debut in her first cross country race ever with a 27:17 while Emily Stimac showed her love for the hilly ascents also besting her effort from last week to a 28:34. This group of 5 finished third on the day and will be looking to pick off a few more ladies and move up the team standings at League Finals.

The Varsity Boys were excited to measure their fitness against the league and size up their expectations for a post season run. With three CIF ranked teams in the field, they knew strong running in the front of the race was a sure bet. Ayden Buchanan ran a controlled first mile hanging with the first pack until a slip and fall around the U-turn after the first loop. Remaining composed, he held his position for the remainder and looked very strong breaking 16 min over the hilly terrain for a 5th place finish at 15:59. Tyler Chang also heeded the coaches’ warnings and tempered his efforts for the first half. He moved assuredly through the field in the last 1.5 miles to finish 6th at 16:08. Grant Young gained some confidence in this one after coming off an extended absence due to illness; his 16:31 was a season best and a PR over 3 miles. The senior duo of David Simonian (17:21) and Jake Brooke (17:25) filled out the scorers for the Vikings. This duo pushes each other to the limit each week; might this be a case of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer? I hope not! These two are the best! Emilio Oviedo (17:30) and Noah Flores (20:17) both struggled with illness and feeling their best this week. We are hopeful for a quick recovery for them both. Finishing 4th as a team, only 10 points away from 3rd puts the league on notice that the Vikes are not to be discounted this year.

The Varsity girls team took to the line as the temperature was rising out on the course. The heat and dust added to the challenging hilly terrain to make a pain potpourri for the Lady Vikings. Kami Grossman led the team, toughing out a 21:16. Right behind her was Lauren Tran in 21:26. Gianna Iezza (22:07), Freshman Liana Sushinski (22:33), and Sam Armitage (23:37) finished out the scorers for the Vikes, ending up 6th as a team on the day. Sara Aina (24:20) showed grit and improving fitness after struggling with injuries earlier this year and Maria Lopez (24:55) pushed through with a grumpy calf. The Lady Vikings will be looking to moving up in the standings at League finals with some better luck and strategic adjustments to pick off a team or two at finals.

Last race of the day for the Vikings had the JV boys looking to finish off both the suffering and the post-race snack buffet that had been calling their name all morning. Off a strong performance last week at the Woodbridge Invite (and at the choir concert the night before), Marcus Espinosa paced the Vikings at 18:28. Cruz Lanzer was also a consistent and steady performer ending the day at 19:13 with his twin Cole three places back at 19:42. Jacob Kunz (20:07) and Damien Turner (20:48) filled out the scorecard with the team placing second! Justin Yuh (21:01) and Tomi Lessis (21:25) rounded out the Viking squad. This group will get two more chances on this course with the SCV Invite in a couple of weeks followed by League Finals; no doubt we will see improvements across the team as they are better acquainted with the terrain.

Next week the Vikings travel out to Carbon Canyon Regional Park in the OC for a squad favorite race at the Brea Invitational.

Vikings Race into the Night at Woodbridge Invite

Go Lady Vikings! -Sep 18, 2022

IRVINE, CA — The Valencia Vikings Cross Country team battled the Friday afternoon freeway congestion to travel down to The Great Park of Irvine to compete in the 41st Annual Woodbridge Cross Country Classic. One of the largest cross-country invitationals in the state and the country, the Woodbridge invite is known for a fast course and very large and competitive fields. Pleasant afternoon temperatures and a cool sea breeze greeted the Vikings along with over 5000 of their closest competitors.

The course at The Great Part was a snaking, looping course around the soccer complex. The terrain was nearly all grass ranging from groomed and shortly cut grass to uneven and bumpy areas between the soccer pitches. The huge crowds of athletes and spectators created an electric environment that amped up the adrenaline of competitors and resulted in very fast starts for many of the team.

First race of the afternoon was the Novice boys’ race and though we only had a pair of Vikings, they both came ready to work! Nehemiah Pop and Connor Landress busted out huge PRs over their opening races. Nehemiah dropped over 2 minutes for a finish time of 22:50 and Connor PRed with a 23:11. Excellent start to the day! We will be looking for more improvement from these two as we get later in the season.

The Novice girls’ race followed shortly after and our crew of four Vikings, pushed themselves through the twists and turns of the course. Sophie Tran (25:50) led the group followed by Emily Stimac (29:29), Gracie Brooke (30:50), and Mel Weber (32:22). Once the business of the day was complete, this crew hung around to enjoy the funnel cakes, insta ready photos at the carousel and of course cheering on the Vikings racing later into the night. Great efforts both on and off the course for this group.

A pair of Vikings took to the JV Girls race with Sara Aina making her racing debut of the season. Sara got pulled out to a very quick start and the early effort made for a tough finish for her. Her perseverance pulled her through for a 22:51 finish and great starting place for the remainder of the season. Sam Armitage ran a smart, even race and fought the large field to a 22:32. Great efforts for both of these lady Vikings.

The Frosh Boys race was one of the largest of the meet with 350 finishers! Looking to avoid the traffic Emilio “Mills” Oviedo lead the bunch through much of the first half of the race and held off a charging group in the final 400 to finish 3rd at 16:15. Lincoln Gabbard ran a smart race with an even last 2 miles to finish in the top 40 with a 17:31. Alex Basin race a strong PR at 18:10 followed by Jake Robideau (19:46, PR!) and J’Wun McNutt (21:58, PR!). Ryan Leon debuted this season great opening effort at 23:23 This bunch keeps getting faster each week and will be ready to bring it to the Foothill League race next weekend!

With the sun going down and the lights on, the Junior Boys were amped to take it to the field. Cruz Lanzer raced a smart opening mile and picked off about a dozen more places as he moved up to finish at 17:34. Twin brother Cole Lanzer, finally feeling strong after a stubborn cold, broke the 18-minute barrier for the first time with a 17:59 PR. Jacob Kunz really pushed it for an evenly paced season best at 18:28, Damien Turner moved up the last two miles picking off at least 20 places for a huge PR at 18:42! Justin Yuh (19:21) took it out hard and was well placed at the first mile, his quick pace early brought some suffering in the last mile, but he toughed it out for a PR over a minute better than his time last week!

The shorthanded crew of five Varsity Boys took to the line as the intensity ratcheted up in the evening varsity races. The tight fields and large packs had racers tangled in flags and stumbling over each other at the first bend 200m into race. Well placed on the outside and out of trouble, Ayden Buchanan took to the front with a blistering start and a very fast first mile. He held on to the front pack, gritting and pushing for the reminder of the race, but tonight wasn’t what he was hoping for as he finished at 16:10 to lead the Vikings. Twenty seconds back from Ayden, Noah Flores validate his huge PR from last week to finish in a very solid 16:30. Senior Davis Simonian has found his racing legs and motivation to hurt with a smartly run 16:35 PR! Jacob Brooke went for it in the first mile and toughed out a strong 16:54; put this kid in some racing flats and who knows what he’s capable of! Senior Marcus Espinosa pulled a rabbit out of his hat tonight and surprised us all with a 17:10. This was over two minutes off his season opening time and places him in the mix for a top 7 position.

Most of the squad needs to start taking notes from the Varsity Lady Vikings. Their controlled start, pack running in the middle mile and fantastic efforts to finish strong showed that smart racing can yield outstanding results. The entire team finished with PRs! Lauren Tran (19:46) moved up almost 30 places in the middle of the race to pull a medal position and her first time breaking the 20min barrier. Senior Gianna Iezza showed her patience and smart second half racing as she constantly passed competitors through the race finishing in 20:37. Liana Sushinsky (21:01), Joon Kim (21:21) and Valentina Soto Navarrete (21:22) ran as a tight group for the first two miles before Liana pulled away to finish just ahead of the Viking pack. Don’t forget Frosh Maria Lopez! Her slow start had her almost last at the mile, but her even pacing and negative split of the last mile had her reeling in over 35 places to finish with a PR of 21:13.

The finale of the night was Kami Grossman’s solo entry into the Sweepstakes race. Packed with the best teams and individuals from across the western US, Kami was amped to be recognized with her acceptance and hoping for a breakout performance. The first mile was absolutely blistering with the leaders out at 5:10 and Kami in the top third of the race at 5:34. With little speed training in her legs this early in the season, the quick early mile took its toll and Kami was trying to hang with the pack for the last two miles. She finished in 17:54, at her season best, but not quite what she as hoping for. However, Kami looked strong and controlled; it will be exciting to see what she can do as we move into the latter half of the season and she completes in the high stakes post season races.

Up next is the Foothill League Race #1 at College of the Canyons where the Vikings will size up the rest of the league and face a tough hilly course at COC.

Vikings Light up the Night at the Rosemead Invitational

Kami’s amazing 1st place finish in the Senior Girls Division and fastest girl’s time of the night. -Sep 11, 2022

ROSEMEAD, CA — The Valencia Vikings Cross Country continued their racing campaign at the 37th annual Rosemead Invitational at Rosemead High School on Saturday night. Greeted by cooler temperatures due to late racing times and a break in the early September heat wave, the Vikings were primed to drop some time from their opening efforts of last week.

The course was just shy of 3 miles of flat, twisting terrain traversing the Rosemead High School campus and the adjacent Rosemead Park (~2.97mi per GPS). Racers were challenged by some thick grass, narrow pathways, sharp corners early in the race, and a dimly lit rubber jogging path through the park. The early pinch points encouraged racers to get out quickly and in a competitive position to avoid being caught behind the pack. Further, races were organized by school year so athletes could see how they stacked up against their similarly aged peers.

First race of the night was the Freshman girls, and their performances set the tone for the evening! Liana Sushinsky (21:05) placed sixth overall with a very strong finishing mile and a season best time with an improvement of over two minutes! Not to be left behind, Maria Lopez (21:21) hung on to her teammate and pushed herself to an almost three-minute improvement from last week. Amazing work ladies!

The Freshman boys, our largest team for the evening, showed the rest of the Vikings how it is done! They finished third as a team with a leading performance by Mills Oviedo (16:16). Oviedo showed his racing experience with a quick first mile to stay in contact with the front group and a solid back half to move up to third at the finish. Lincoln Gabbard (17:49), in his first race as a Viking, kept himself at the pointy end of the stick and finished in an impressive 15th. These two were supported by a solid scoring group with Alex Basin (18:37), Adam Sandoval (19:00!), and Luis Torres-Orrala (19:40) all with huge improvements on their times from last week. Jake Robideau (19:51) and Emad Ahmed (24:37) finished out the team, each also having a solid race and a season best. The team finished only six points from first, showing a bright future for the Vikings on the men’s side.

With the sundown, the glow sticks came out for the Soph girls and the visibility on the course was a bit tough. Valentina Soto Navarette led the bunch with a very controlled and evenly paced 21:47. Hannah Aina finished at 22:15 after a fast start and some aggressive racing while Sam Armitage (22:21) was only a few steps behind her at the finish. Emily Stimac finished her first race of the season at 27:30 and Melody Weber dropped 8 minutes from her time last week to finish at 30:10! This is a sold crew that will be the backbone of the Viking girls team this season.

A small but talented pair of Soph boys took to the line. Noah Flores had a huge break through race busting out a 16:30 for a PR and a 9th place finish! Leo Hicks, stopped for a quick dirt nap at the start, getting tripped up just after the gun and falling on his already injured wrist. He got up and powered through to finish a very evenly paced race in 18:16. Impressive work for both of these super tough young talents.

Joon Kim was the solo Viking in the junior girl’s race. Her measured first mile paid off with negative splits as she passed a vast majority of the field in the final two miles for a 21:39 good for 25th.

By the start of the Junior boys’ race, it was super dark, and the temporary lighting on the field was minimally acceptable. Ayden Buchanan wanted to get out of trouble with a clear view of the course; he shot out to a very fast start with his first mile sub-5. He was deep in the pain cave with 800m to go but surged through the finish for a lifetime best of 15:41 and a 4th place finish. Cruz Lanzer keeps getting better each week dropping a 17:32 and knocking on the door of the Viking Varsity 7. Cole Lanzer (18:34), Jacob Kunz (18:53) and Justin Yuh (20:23) filled out the scoring positions with Tomi Lessis (20:37) and Damien Turner (20:55) much improved from last weeks’ steamy sufferfest.

The Senior girls race brought so much energy to the Vikings crew that it even kept Coach James up past her 8:45pm bedtime. Kami Grossman bounced back from a couple of down weeks nursing her Achilles to take the “W” in a smooth and controlled 17:53. This is a great start for her and we will hopefully see her progress far into the post season. Gianna Iezza was the only other senior Viking racing as the Homecoming Dance thinned the ranks of the team. She toughed it out to a 21:10 and had a super finish fighting for every position as an approaching opponent startled her into a sprint finish.

Last race of the evening had a trio of Senior Viking boys (men?) determined to show the younger Vikings what true Viking suffering is all about. Tyler Chang stayed in contact with the solid front pack, slowly picking off opponents through the latter half of the race for a smartly run and evenly paced effort good for 13th place at 15:39. Jake Brooke rolled the dice with a hard first mile(5:18) while Davis Simonian doubled down only three seconds back. Their bets on a fast start paid off with personal bests for each of them with Simonian finishing at 16:41 and Brooke a few paces back at 16:49.

The Vikings have one more flat and fast race next weekend at the Woodbridge Invitational before the courses get bumpy.

Vikings Open Season at the Southern California XC Opener at CSULB

Varsity Boys after the grueling hot race! (Sep 4, 2022 4:39 PM)

LONG BEACH, CA — The Valencia Vikings Cross country team opened the official racing season at Cal State Long Beach in the Southern California XC Opener Invitational on Saturday.

The course was 3 miles of flat, looping terrain through and around the college athletic complex. Though lacking hills, the thick grass, plentiful sharp turns and humid and warm conditions presented challenges for the field.

The Viking Frosh/Soph Girls opened the racing with a strong 6th place finish by Valentina Soto Navarrete (22:19), while Maria Lopez (24:07), Hannah Aina (25:38), Gracie Brooke (26:06) and Sophie Tran (27:07) rounded out the scoring five. The Frosh/Soph Boys team was challenged by the largest field of the day as the mercury started to rise. Lead by soph Leo Hicks (30th, 18:52) much of the team got their first taste of high school cross country racing. Alex Basin (19:25), Luis Torres Orrala (20:18), Adam Sandoval (21:31), and Jake Robideau (22:02) filled out the scoring group with support by the rest of the crew: J’Wun McNutt (22:54), Nate Patel (22:59), Nehemiah Pop (25:34), Connor Landress (25:45), Emad Ahmed (28:13), and Dylan Marshall (37:51). This was a great start for this group that is full of potential! We foresee lots of growth individually and as a team as we move through the season.

The JV Girls race was the smallest field of the day, but not lacking competition. Lauren Tran took the individual win with a PR of 20:28 after stalking and passing the early leaders about half way through the race. A fantastic start of the racing season for her! Gianna Iezza and Joon Kim followed closely grouped with a 22:28 and 22:48, respectively. Melody Weber, a late add to the JV race, finished her first XC race in 37:59. These girls really came to race and left it all out on the muggy course. Great efforts ladies!

Temperatures were really starting to heat up by the start of the JV boys race and there was not a dry arm pit in the stadium! Marcus Espinosa added to the heat by taking it out hot in the first mile. A strong second half of the race had Cruz Lanzer leading the team with a 6th place at 18:33. Cole Lanzer (19:03) and Marcus (19:19) finished close behind with Jacob Kunz (20:25) and Tomi Lessis (21:25) filling out the score card. Damien Turner toughed it out for a late finish at 28:08.

The final race of the day brought a slight breeze, but not enough to cool the action on the course. The varsity boys saw a fast start with the field going out in 4:36 for the first mile. Not far behind was Ayden Buchanan (15:53) who hung on for a PR and sixth in the field to lead the Vikings. Tyler Chang (16:02) valiantly battled the heat right behind in 9th, with Freshman Mills Oviedo finishing 20th at 17:07 after a measured start and a strong second half. Grant Young (17:12) had a tough day, visibly hurting shortly after the start with Noah Flores (17:33), Davis Simonian (17:42) and Jake Brooke (17:56) rounding out the Vikings. The team finished 4th in a field of eight.

The Vikings head to the Rosemead Invitational next Saturday night looking to build upon their fantastic opener.

Friendly Reminder

Participation and uniform package ($350) fees are due by Sept 2. All parts of the uniform package have been ordered and will be arriving soon. Payments may be submitted via Venmo using the link or QR code below. Checks are also accepted and can be delivered to Coach Gavin or one of the Booster Club Board members.