All of The562’s cross-country coverage for the 2021-22 school year is sponsored by Bryson. Visit BrysonFinancial.com to learn more.
Last season’s Moore League girls’ cross country championship was a memorable and historic race for a number of reasons. That race is not traditionally run at Cabrillo High School in late March, and the unusually warm temperatures led to an unexpected and emotional finish to the cross country season.
The senior-laden Millikan Rams made history with a second-consecutive league title, but it didn’t come easily. The Rams had two of their top runners collapse from exhaustion less than 100 meters from the finish, but still held on for the team title thanks to exceptional depth throughout their lineup.
Millikan girls’ cross country coach Angela Ibarra finds herself in an interesting position as she prepares her Rams to enter the 2021 season. The Rams are the two-time defending Moore League team champions and are seeking to pull off a three-peat for the first time since 1981-83, on the one hand. On the other, the Rams graduated six of their seven varsity runners from the 2019 and 2020 league championship teams.
“We are literally starting from scratch and rebuilding our varsity team,” said Ibarra. “These girls feel like they have big shoes to fill, but right now we are just going to take it one race at a time.”
The only runner from Millikan’s varsity crew last year that didn’t graduate is Grace Vasquez, and Ibarra said it’s still a work in progress figuring out who the Rams’ top runners for 2021 will be.
“We have our first race this Saturday, and we’ll have a better idea of how our season will play out after that,” she said.
Long Beach Poly finished runner-up to Millikan, 36-31, battling through some key injuries suffered prior to league finals. Poly’s top runner–2019 individual champion Camille Lindsay–was hampered by injury at the league meet, and teammate Maile Quinn was unable to compete in the race due to an injury of her own. With both of those runners healthy and back on the roster, along with a host of other top runners, it could be Poly’s time to knock Millikan off the throne and claim their first league championship since the 2017 season.
With head coach Gabrielle Bournes taking time away from the Jackrabbits while on maternity leave, boys’ head coach Cameron Ford will also lead the girls’ team this year. He’s eager to see the Jackrabbits get the league title back after Wilson and Millikan have held the top spot the past three seasons.
“After one year of losing, and the second year and the third year, they know the team’s reputation has long been on the line,” Ford stated. “The competition is still there, and we’re well aware of that, but there’s some Poly pride to get the team back from where it is. And coming out of COVID and everything, I think we’re all past our breaking point where we’re just ready to be back to the team we should be.”
Ford is again preaching strength in numbers for the Jackrabbits, looking to get more runners in across all three levels to push for spots in the lineup. Lindsay, now in her junior year, will be at the top spot. She’s been the fastest distance runner in Long Beach for the past two years, and if she stays healthy she’s the presumptive favorite for another individual title.
“Camille undoubtedly is our best runner,” Ford said. “She’s just a different breed. So having her being the person she is is going to lead the team, but the nice thing this year is we have the depth back, so that’s taken the stress off her. And the way these girls have been training, when you get all of them clicking on the same day, you’re looking at a state run.”
She’ll get support from juniors Quinn and Alexa Bryson, who was Poly’s top finisher at league finals last season, finishing third. The Jackrabbits will also get a boost with the return of senior Bella Ungar, who sat out last season but is back for her senior year and Ford says it’s important to have her back in the lineup.
Sophomore Sasha Johnson is an up-and-coming runner for Poly who has had a productive summer, and classmate Evelyn Hernandez Lujan got valuable experience as a freshman last season. Mia McKiernan is another senior who should be among the top seven for Poly.
For Wilson, the Bruins had an up and down spring season with a young squad but now they have a lot of experience with four returning All-League runners looking to take the league title this season.
“They’re excited to not be racing on the campuses,” Wilson coach CJ Brewer said. “We can return to the tradition of certain courses that have top 10 lists for our school history. They want a chance to get on those lists.”
Sophomore Natalie Seymour is the defending Moore League champion who also had a very successful track season while playing soccer at Wilson. Her goal is to break 19 minutes this year.
The unexpected twist of fate at the end of the Moore League finals cleared the way for Seymour to win at 19:42. Seymour had missed the early portion of the cross country season due to injury, and it was just the second varsity race of her life.
“That was really a crazy finish and I think it’s really memorable, but it was a great job by both of them, they helped push me the whole time,” Seymour said. “I was really excited just to get out here because this is only my second race, so I was overwhelmingly happy when I finished, it was just crazy.”
The other returning All-League runners are Natalie Maahs, Chloe Brodsky and Amber Shanks. Sophomores Maahs and Brodsky are also on the swim team so they’ve had a very busy year, and they both hope to break 19:30 this season. Brewer said he’s very excited to see what Shanks will do this year because of the potential she’s shown during training.
The other top runner is Abbey Pierson who is also a basketball player. Brewer said the sophomore has progressed very well over the summer and is looking to close the gap on the other top four runners.
At Lakewood, senior Delilah Chavez will lead the way for the Lancers as they look to push their way into CIF qualification this season. She’ll have fellow seniors Sydney Goodin and Isabel Jacobo, plus incoming freshman Bailee Carpenter in support.
For St. Anthony, head coach Michael Canas has a fun group looking to develop this season behind a talented senior leader.
“Our practices are rarely quiet. There’s a lot of joking, laughter and talking about everything,” Canas said of his team. “They even sing songs during the drills in our warmup. We’re a young team with a tremendous amount of potential, commitment and enthusiasm.”
Tatiana Fernandez is the lone senior for the Saints, and Canas thinks she can compete for a league title this season. She’ll lead the way along with returning juniors Annika Ramirez and Olivia Medina.
The Moore League cross country season gets started on Wednesday with the El Dorado meet, and The562 will have full coverage of the varsity races.