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SUBURBAN LEAGUE CROSS COUNTRY: Norwalk girls continue to shine while Cerritos boys overcome adversity

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

 

The Norwalk High girls cross country team, headlined by seniors Misty Diaz and Ruby Galindo, has taken the first step in what it hopes to be a third straight Suburban League championship. The Lady Lancers had five runners finish in the top 12 and the team picked up 31 points in last Thursday’s first league cluster at Knabe Park to finish in first place out of five teams.

Diaz came in first place with a time of 19:03 while Galindo finished in second, 23 seconds later. Sophomore Natalie Juarez (fifth, 21:06) and juniors Elizabeth Gallardo (11th, 21:54) and Viviana Rios (12th, 21:57) rounded out the rest of the top five for a program seeking its 15th league title. The Lady Lancers are also two-time defending California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III finalists.

“Norwalk has been strong the past few years, especially having Misty and Ruby up front,” said Cerritos High head coach Jason Watanabe. “It gives them a huge lead early on which is difficult to make up. It’s been nice that the league has grown in competition and that it’s more than just a few teams vying for the title every year.”

La Mirada High, which had dominated the league up until the past two years, came in second place with 47 points with junior Mia Gutierrez as the top runner, coming in third place with a time of 20:52. Cerritos claimed third place and picked up 58 points and had junior Jaide Lin place sixth with a time of 21:10. Coming in eighth and ninth places respectively for the Lady Dons were freshman Sofia Vasquez (21:31) and senior Laura Sato (21:34). Rounding out the final two Cerritos harriers who contributed to the 58 points were junior Lauren Park (16th, 22:45) and senior Marie Chu (19th, 23:08).

“This year we don’t have a frontrunner in the program and [we] depend more on our pack,” Watanabe said. “Unfortunately, our depth took a little bit of a hit the past few weeks with illness and injuries, but still, I think that we will be fine moving forward. I like the group of girls we have this year and we are starting to see our new athletes move up. I’m sure in one of the final two [league] meets, we could have an athlete move into the top five. But if they don’t, I’m confident we can still be in the mix.”

Artesia High and John Glenn High did not have any runners participate and a total of 34 runners from five schools ran in the varsity race. It would be slightly different for the boys as Cerritos racked up 31 team points and had five runners finish in the top 10, led by sophomore Cole Sawires-Yager, who was tied for first place with La Mirada junior Christian Santiago, but officially came in second, and senior Mario Amaro (third, 17:43). Like the Lady Dons team, the Cerritos boys are going through injuries as senior Bill Chuang, who won last year’s second cluster at Knabe Park, did not run.

“I was very proud of our boys,” Watanabe said. “We have a few injuries among our varsity group and they managed to run well despite those injuries. Cole has been able to step up as the top runner and we have a nice pack of seniors behind him. Every week they finish in a different order, so it’s nice to have a little competition amongst them.”

Senior Jaineel Patel finished in seventh with a time of 18:08 while ninth and 10th placers were locked down by seniors Fred Inada (18:13) and Vraj Patel (18:20).

Norwalk finished in fourth place with 72 team points with Joseph Franco coming in sixth place at 18:05. The top Artesia runner was junior Daniel Alonzo (20th 18:52) and the top Glenn runner was freshman Michael Costello (17th, 18:40). Both of those schools picked up over 160 team points and finished in the last two spots.

The start of the race was delayed by roughly an hour due to some paperwork issues with the approvals of permits to use the course. The coaches thought those issues had been resolved but when they weren’t, and to avoid further delays, they reverted to an “adjusted course”. The length of that course was 3.2 miles while the original course, which the girls ran, was five kilometers.