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.