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.