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605 LEAGUE CROSS COUNTRY CLUSTER MEET #2 – Cerritos reigns supreme again in second 605 League cross country cluster meet

October 21, 2021

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


Artesia High was the backdrop last Saturday morning for the 605 League’s second cross country cluster meet but the results were still the same as the first race, held at Cerritos High on Sept. 15. It’s still Cerritos, as a team, and then everyone else in the league as its boys and girls’ teams won the dual meet scoring event.

The Lady Dons occupied the first three spots and all seven runners finished in the top 12 while Whitney High had all six if its runners finish among the top 18. There were 23 runners with four representing Pioneer High, three from Oxford Academy, two from Artesia and one from John Glenn High.

Because the City of Cerritos still hasn’t granted permits for the schools to race at Don Knabe Park as has been the case prior to the pandemic, Cerritos head coach Jason Watanabe said he didn’t want the two cluster meets and the league finals all at Cerritos.

“Artesia said we could host it here,” he said. “We had to do all the [course] designing online and we actually didn’t get out here until yesterday. They had a homecoming game yesterday, so [the coaches] couldn’t actually run the course to make sure of the distances.”

Throughout Saturday morning, in between the two junior varsity races and between the two varsity races, coaches were still adjusting the course to meet the specifications as close as possible to that of a three-mile course. In fact, the final times had to be adjusted as the original times were slightly faster than what they should be for a three-mile course. Watanabe said to his best estimation, the distance for the junior varsity races at Artesia was 2.65 miles and coaches were finding ways to expand that to three miles, or as close as possible to that distance prior to the girls varsity race. The course at Cerritos High is exactly three miles, according to Watanabe.

“Actually, I don’t mind converting the times,” he said. “I just like the times to be official at three miles. I actually like to convert it because I want them to be accurate times versus saying, ‘they [got a personal record]’ even though I knew it was a short course. I want to make sure their times are more accurate, but obviously it’s more accurate when they run a three-mile course.”

In the girls race, the top three runners were the same as in the first cluster meet with sophomore Tatianna Chavez coming in at 19:10 followed by juniors Sydney Romero (19:58) and Sofia Padilla (20:16). Those three held their own following the two-mile mark and those times were better than the ones they ran in last month’s meet. Cerritos sophomore Robin Chang took seventh with a time of 21:20 while senior Melanie Sagun claimed ninth place at 21:40 for the 22 points the Lady Dons picked up had this not been a dual meet. However, for dual meet purposes, Cerritos gained 15 points against Artesia, Glenn, Oxford and Pioneer and 18 against Whitney.

Cerritos Sophomore Tatianna Chavez

“It’s definitely been nice having Tatianna running this year because you have a [number] one that’s way out in front,” Watanabe said. “That helps a lot, and it puts less pressure on [number] two and three. We actually had another girl up there…we would have four up there, but we have three. But now we’ve been able to develop some of the other girls and say, ‘just run your best race; there’s no pressure on you’.”

Whitney’s top finisher was junior Layla Lacorte, who came in sixth place with a time of 21:17. The next two Whitney runners who came in the top 10 were juniors Dalia Luckhardt (eighth, 21:37) and Kayla Hamakawa (10th, 22:14).

The two Artesia harriers were senior Lizbeth Ortega, who took 14th with a time of 22:53 and junior Fatima Chrishty, who finished three spots later with a time of 24:37 while the lone Glenn runner was senior Yuliana Dominguez, who had a time of 26:56.

“I think we got really lucky in the sense that we had a lot of athletes; a good core of athletes that kept training through the pandemic, and that has helped us a lot,” Watanabe said. “I think a lot of teams got hit by that pandemic. But they were definitely a little bit more competitive, like Oxford and even Whitney was closer to us. It’s just a matter of can you have athletes that are self-motivated.”

Whitney senior Lorenzo Rodriguez-Boix claimed the top spot for the boys with a time of 15:21 and it wasn’t even close. He led wire to wire, first holding a six-second advantage over Cerritos senior Michael Rafael after one mile, then expanding that margin to 24 seconds after two miles. Rafael would come in second place with a time of 15:56 followed by Cerritos seniors Bryce Hojo (16:06) and Andrew Hwang (16:26).


Whitney senior Lorenzo Rodriguez-Boix

“Lorenzo is awesome, and you see him progressing little by little,” Watanabe said. “And we have a good relationship with [Whitney], so it’s really good to see him doing well. Our top runner actually got into an accident earlier this week, so he was kind of nursing that and he didn’t want to push himself too much.”

After a pair of Oxford Academy runners took the next spots, Cerritos senior Rythwik Salhotra finished in seventh place with a time of 17:04. Two spots later came Cerritos sophomore Ben Giordano (17:15) as the Dons defeated Oxford Academy and Whitney by 19 and 20 points respectively. Giordano was a pleasant surprise for Watanabe as he was called up from the junior varsity team earlier in the week to finish in the top five for the Dons and top 10 overall.

Whitney junior Agam Makkar rounded out the top 10 with a time of 17:19 and five seconds later came Cerritos senior Gary Zong. The top Glenn runner was senior Andrew Guerra (13th, 17:48) and the top Artesia runner was senior Fernando Gonzalez (24th, 19:09). Out of a possible 42 runners, there were 34 with Cerritos, Oxford Academy and Whitney having the full complement of seven runners.

Watanabe predicted it would be more of the same the second time around as the Cerritos girls defeated Whitney by 27 points and the Cerritos boys distancing itself from Oxford Academy by 23 points in the first cluster meet.

“In the first race, [Oxford Academy] was a little farther behind us, I believe, and so I knew they were going to come on stronger,” he said. “I warn my kids all the time, no matter what happens in the first race, you already know for some reason, Oxford always starts to progress towards the [end] of the season.

The league finals will take place on Oct. 30 at Cerritos.