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.

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