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La Jolla cross country successful at Southland

It’s partly because of this challenging layout that hundreds of schools send their runners there each October to compete in the Mount Sac Invitational, billed as the largest cross country invitational in the country. It also doesn’t hurt that, because so many runners get together in one place over the two-day meet, it often serves as an excellent barometer for where teams stand as the all-important postseason meets approach.

It was with this in mind that runners from two of La Jolla’s three high schools traveled to Walnut on Oct. 20 and 21. Many runners from those schools came home boasting positive results, while others returned to San Diego County knowing just what they need to do to improve their results over the next few weeks.

La Jolla High School’s girls placed second to Marimount in its division, scoring 87 points to Marimount’s 85, and it was the first time this season the Vikings had finished anywhere but first.

Margot Hedlin ran her personal best on the Mount Sac course, covering the 3 miles in 19 minutes, 46 seconds. Meagan Bautista also clocked a personal best, in 21:14. Nihal Kayali returned from injury and ran a time of 20:57.

“I am pleased, to a point,” said La Jolla Coach Roger Karnopp, who admitted his team’s crowded race schedule may have adversely affected some of his runners. “I think finishing second was good for them. Hopefully, some of the runners have learned that they need to be more consistent than they have been.”

The Vikings’ girls also placed second in their freshman race, led by Jenine Mejares and Rosie Jaye, and in their sophomore race, led by Samantha Trumbo and Margaret Nettleton. The junior varsity team placed third, paced by Neva Fowler Gerace and Kate Weber.

La Jolla High School’s boys team placed ninth out of 25 teams in its varsity race. Trevor Dorne led the effort by covering the course in 17:13. Jon Westman followed in 17:26, Thamine Dalichaouch finished in 18:02, Angel Mendoza came in at 18:40, and Zak Wescoe clocked a time of 18:49.

The Vikings boys placed third in their sophomore race, led by Levi Ramos.

“Our teams are very close to moving up significantly in race placements,” La Jolla boys Coach Hal Goforth said. “At Mount Sac, two of our teams could have placed much higher if the top five runners had each run only one second per mile faster. We have a few more weeks of hard training, after which I expect to see more than just one to three seconds-per-mile improvements in our times.”

The Bishop’s School turned in some positive results from its teams, most notably the girls varsity squad.

The Knights’ girls team placed third in its race, scoring 134 points and finishing behind only Valley Christian and Christian Brothers. Laura Wyatt paced the group, finishing second overall with a time of 19:16. Elizabeth Schulze also finished among the top 10, placing seventh in 20:08. Sarah Bromley followed in 22:09 (29th), and Naomi Wagner (22:10, 30th), Lindsey Holman-Kelley (24:46, 89th) and Natalie Wheeler (25:14, 100th) rounded out the Knights’ scoring runners.

Bishop’s saw its boys team place 22nd in its varsity race, with Andy Morgosh turning in the top time, 17:51, which placed him 32nd. Following Morgosh were Henry Su (18:43, 73rd), Tim Stiefler (19:09, 98th), Stephen Bardin (19:22, 113th), Andrew Kuntz (21:16, 189th) and Sasha Altshteyn (22:53, 208th).

Teams will now have two or three more weeks to prepare for their league finals meets during the week of Nov. 6. After that, they move on to the CIF-San Diego Section championship races on Nov. 18 at Morley Field in Balboa Park.

And the pinnacle of the season, for the teams that are lucky enough - and good enough - to survive, is the CIF-State Championships meet, held in Fresno’s Woodward Park on Nov. 25.