WALNUT – Flat course or hilly course, it did not matter to the Dana Hills and San Clemente boys cross country teams.
Dana Hills and San Clemente won team championships Saturday in the CIF Southern Section Finals at Mt. San Antonio College.
San Clemente won the Division 1 title and Dana Hills won Division 3. Both teams won championships in those same divisions last season.
The threat of rain induced meet organizers to move the day’s races to Mt. SAC’s “rain course” that doesn’t include the hills of the regular course.
Dana Hills junior Evan Noonan, last season’s Orange County cross country athlete of the year, finished first in the Division 3 race at 13 minutes, 56 seconds. His teammate Jaydyn Hernandez, a senior, was second at 14:14.4, and Dana Hills’ Garrett Woodruff was fifth and Oliver Hunter ninth.
The Dolphins won by a large margin, 29 points to second-place West Ranch’s 108 points.
“What more could you ask for?” Noonan said. “We just came out here and knew exactly what we wanted to do. As far as going across the team, we executed perfectly.”
Hernandez said the flat course required a different approach when it came to pace in the early going.
“It was definitely different,” Hernandez said. “I was really anticipating a hilly course. Flat course, we knew we were prepared for it. Hilly course, we were prepared for it.”
The CIF State Championships will be held next Saturday, Nov. 28, at Woodward Park in Fresno. The top seven teams in each CIF-SS Division advance to the state meet. The top five individuals not attached to a qualifying team also advanced to the state meet.
San Clemente won the Division 1 championship with 60 points to second-place Great Oak’s 84. Trabuco Hills finished third.
Three San Clemente runners finished in the division’s top 10. Brett Ephraim was third at 14:10.7, Taj Clark was ninth (14:28.6) and Kai Olsen 10th (14:29.8).
Beckman senior Ibzan Felix finished second in the Division 1 race at 14:08.2, five seconds behind Millikan’s Jason Parra. Beckman was fifth in the team standings.
Felix wanted to compete on the usual Mt. SAC course.
“I was kind of disappointed I didn’t get to race uphill,” said Felix, who altered his strategy for the rain course. “I was going to stay with the lead pack. I kind of felt like they were slowing down the pace a little bit, so either I go for it and blow up or go for it and do good. It was a coin toss.”
“Everyone pretty much met their goals as a team,” Ephraim said. “We know with our training and everything leading up to this, we’re more than capable of doing this. We’ve been smashing our workouts and really working off the track as well, doing recovery and mental preparation.”
Ephraim said the Tritons had anticipated the course change due to the weather forecast.
“We went into the whole week preparing for either course,” he said, “not worrying about or hoping for one course or the other. Honestly, I think running this flat course may have benefited us. We talked about it yesterday (Friday), a lot of discussion about where to push on the course, where to break people and I think we executed it perfectly today.”
JSerra finished second in Division 4 behind repeating champion St. Francis. The Lions’ Saul Orozco was fifth and his teammate Bradley Arrety 10th.
Tesoro junior Griffin Kushen was third in the boys Division 2 race at 14:10.5.
Everett Capelle, a senior at St. Margaret’s, finished second in the Division 5 competition at 14:36.6.