It was an eventful day at El Dorado Park on Wednesday to open the Moore League cross country season. On the boys’ side, a potentially historic five-way tie at first place among Poly teammates created some confusion in the official results, and on the girls’ side Wilson looks poised to end Poly’s 14-year streak of league titles. The next league meet will be at Signal Hill on October 10.
With the league’s defending champion and fastest runner sidelined by injury, there was some excitement at El Dorado about seeing a different runner across the finish line in first place. As it turned out, it was five runners.
Poly’s Will Frankenfeld was sitting down with a mild ankle injury, one that coach Mike Fillipow doesn’t expect to keep him from racing on Saturday in Portland. That left the door open for another Jackrabbit, or WIlson’s Caden Elsesser, or even Jordan’s Joseph Espinosa. As it turned out, there was a pack of five Jackrabbits who led the race for the last mile and a half, and they decided while approaching the finish line to not break up the pack.
As a result Daniel Bautista, Ronan McMahon-Staggs, Zane Witter, Alexander Matos, and Chris Yontz all finished together in 15:48.00. Because there are no ties in league cluster meets and because Bautista is listed first, he’s ostensibly the winner–but there’s no way to actually parse it out.
“We’ve had close finishes before but that was new,” said Poly coach Mike Fillipow. “The plan is always to get the team win first, and we’re racing in Portland Saturday so we wanted to prepare for that. They wanted to run as a pack and they finished that way.”
McMahon-Staggs said there wasn’t a master plan, it just worked out that way.
“We were talking about it before the finish, ‘Let’s just chill and finish together and look good for the cameras,’” he said.
After the Poly five it was Jordan’s Espinosa who finished next in 15:55, followed by Lakewood’s Aiden Alegria, and then Poly’s ALdo Khiev and Devin Koval. Isaac Vera of Lakewood rounded out the top 10 finishing in 16:27.
The top runners from the other teams were Isaiah Ringis (Millikan, 19th) and Juan Orozco (Cabrillo, 32nd).
In the girls’ varsity race it looks like a new day is a-Bruin. Wilson took both the individual first-place finish and the top spot as a team, topping Poly 23-32. Last year the Bruins won the El Dorado meet by a point but ended up falling to second in the league finals to Poly, but this year looks like Wilson’s to win it and break up a 14-year streak for the Jackrabbit, the longest in league history.
“You’ve got to run each race, we’re not counting any chickens before they hatch,” said longtime Wilson coach Ed Hauck. “These girls have a very dedicated attitude and they’re running aggressive right now.”
Hauck said he felt that in the past his teams had been too focused on Poly, and that focusing on Wilson this year has already yielded some more positive results.
“We try not to focus on beating a team,” he said. “We’ve been doing that too much–instead we’re focusing on the work, packing in the miles. We told them, if they all hit these times, everything will fall into place.”
The Bruins were led by Aliya Mesihovich, who ran an 18:30 to get the individual win. She was backed by teammate Ryann Mayo, who finished in 18:47. Wilson got a sixth-place finish from Hanna Burlin, an eighth-place finish from Ruby Prosser, and an 11th place finish from Rebekah Pinedo to round out their top five.
“It’s really important to me,” Mesihovich said. “I didn’t know how bad I really wanted it last year, winning today makes me really happy.”
Mesihovich said the training has had a different focus and level of intensity than it did last year, and that it’s already yielding better results.
“We just tell each other we have to want it every practice, we have to show up every day and be intense, we can’t just show up to a race and expect it to happen.”
After Mesihovich and Mayo, Millikan’s Hazel McIntosh finished third in 18:51, followed by Bella Ungar and Laura Yontz from Poly, Burlin of Wilson, Isabella Stockalper from Millikan, Wilson’s Prosser, and then Poly’s Jacky Loera and Sarah Chao. The top runners from the other schools were Maya Thomas (Lakewood, 12th) and Destini Jackson (Cabrillo, 27th).