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605 LEAGUE CROSS COUNTRY CLUSTER MEET #1: Underclassmen enable Cerritos to sweep in dominating fashion in league’s first cluster meet

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

In just the brief existence of the 605 League, the Cerritos High girls cross country team is showing that it is the team to beat for now. In last season’s inaugural league cluster meet, the Lady Dons edged Whitney High by seven points and went on to win the second cluster meet as well as the league finals.

This past Wednesday at Knabe Park, the Lady Dons had the top three runners and seven out of the top 11 as Cerritos picked up 19 points, easily defeating Oxford Academy (63 points) and Pioneer High (66 points). Juniors Sofia Vasquez (20:35) and Samantha Chang (20:41) and freshman Sydney Romero (21:20) paced the Lady Dons with freshman Camille Lara finishing in fifth place with a time of 21:38 and freshman Sofia Padilla claiming the eighth spot at 22:16.

“In the first week of summer, I was excited to see how strong our incoming freshmen class was,” said Cerritos head coach Jason Watanabe. “Last year’s freshmen were already a solid class, but the timing of these new freshmen was perfect since we graduated a big portion of our varsity team. The interesting thing is that I think these freshmen have a lot to learn about racing and I even have more (freshmen and sophomores) who are starting to move up. It was also great to see Sofia Padilla bounce back after a few setbacks. She has shown the talent and work and is beginning to see it in races.”

Sophomore Tara Wang rounded out the top 10 with a time of 22:31 and junior Kyli Joe was right behind her at 22:34. Whitney finished in fourth place with 85 points and freshman Ella Cantena as its top runner. She came in 12thplace with a time of 22:35 while junior Kritka Pantha finished in 15thwith a time of 23:08 and two spots later was freshman Kayla Vicencio at 23:44. 

Artesia High had two runners-junior Alexa Fernandez (16th, 23:13) and junior Marissa Hernandez (22nd, 24:45) while John Glenn High did not have a participant. Of the 28 runners who competed, five were seniors and seven were freshmen, making the next three years competitive in the league.

“I think Pioneer has been impressive so far this season,” Watanabe said. “They have progressed, and I think that they’re a team I am keeping an eye on. Oxford is another team that I was watching since track and will not count out. I think our 1-4 has been consistently solid this year, however, I want to do a bit more hill work with the underclassmen in preparation for the second cluster at La Mirada to ensure they can carry it over to a tougher course. Regardless, based off the workouts from our girls, I think that they will be able to maintain this momentum as long as we can stay healthy.”

The Cerritos boys, who finished in third place in the two cluster meets as well as the league finals last season, had three harriers finish in the top five and picked up 32 points, easily knocking off Oxford Academy by 27 points and Pioneer by 31 points. Junior Anrei Giordano took the third spot at 17:50, followed by sophomore Michael Rafael (17:50) and junior Jayson Malhi (17:53).

“Last year, one of the things I told the boys is that it might be a rough year since most of them were sophomores and inexperienced,” Watanabe said. “That experience helped them with their confidence coming into this meet and helped them learn how to approach a race better. They’ve worked together and have had to race together since their freshmen year. We still have a lot of work to do, but I was happy with how they handled themselves today.”

Sophomore Bryce Hojo finished in ninth place with a time of 18:12 and two positions later was junior Chris Amaro (18:20). Whitney took the fourth spot with 69 points and had sophomore Lorenzo Rodriguez come in second place with a time of 17:30, seven seconds being Nathan Garcia of Pioneer. Whitney senior Eric Kim came in 10thplace at 18:15 while junior Jeffrey Fernandez was 14that 18:44.

Glenn had five runners with senior Vidal Reynoso crossing the finish line at 19:43 and freshman Javier Reynoso at 20:29. The lone Artesia runner was senior Aiden Acance (24:07). Just like the girls, the boys are also going through a youth movement with two seniors finishing in the top 10 and a total of 12 of the 33 runners who competed.

“The league should definitely be getting tougher over the next few years,” Watanabe said. “Pioneer, Oxford and Whitney have new coaches and so it was a little tougher gauging how teams would perform and what strategies they would employ. However, I think it adds a lot of excitement. Oxford especially has made great improvements and have a new and energized boys coach. With us having no seniors on our varsity team as well, it will be exciting moving forward.”

The second cluster meet will be on Oct. 2 and the league finals will be back at Knabe Park on Oct. 30.