San Diego Section puts on a show at Mt. SAC – The San Diego Union-Tribune


The San Diego Section was hoping to show the rest of the state it belongs among those to be considered for team and individual titles come late November at the State Cross Country Championships in Fresno, based on their performance at Friday’s Mt. SAC Invitational.

Done. With an exclamation point.

Francis Parker’s Kenan Pala is now the favorite for the Division V individual crown as he roared to the second-fastest time ever clocked over the hilly 3-mile course that returned to its normal configuration after a six-year hiatus as the new Hilmer Lodge football/track stadium was built nearby.

Pala is undefeated this season, making it six straight impressive appearances.

About that record.

“If I’d known I was that close with 400 meters left, I could have gotten it,” said the Yale-bound senior via phone. “I went hard but I could have gone faster. I don’t think anyone knew I was that close. Winning was good but to win and have the team do so well was extra special.”

The fastest time on the course is 14:23.20 run by Brea-Olinda’s Austin Tamagno in 2014 and Pala’s time is the same as those recorded by the Arcadia duo of Ammar Moussa (14:24 in 2010) and Phillip Rocha (14:24.0 in 2015).

Francis Parker finished second to Cathedral Catholic in the team race, 139-148 (low score wins like golf) and since the Dons are in Division III, this makes Parker’s state team chances in Division V just that much stronger. Plus, one of the Lancer’ runners, Quinn Speaker, opted to compete in the National JV race where he placed second in a time (17:07) that would have made him the No. 5 scorer on the varsity.

“I won my race as a freshman (in 16:25) but this was much bigger,” said Pala, who plans to cut back before rebuilding toward the section and state meets in late November.

Senior Blake Levy’s sixth-place finish behind Pala in 15:24 led the Dons to the team title.

That gave Cathedral Catholic a sweep of the major sweepstakes races as a 5-6 finish by Alexandria Pena (18:30) and Lexi Arambulo (18:31) helped the girls team put all five scorers in the top 13 with a miniscule 29-second gap.

As impressive, the section also swept two of the four sweepstakes individual titles as Sage Creek’s Stormy Wallace again proved to be a big-meet runner as she won the Division III-IV-V title in 17:25 — a comfortable 27-second margin.

Wallace led virtually from wire-to-wire as she pushed Sage Creek to a second-place team finish behind Cathedral Catholic as the first Division IV finisher. That also bodes well for Sage Creek in the team race which had a 48-second gap between second and fifth.

The Bobcats are the two-time defending Division IV state champions.

This was expected to be a showdown among Cathedral Catholic and La Costa Canyon for DIII supremacy, but LCC was well back in fifth place despite a quality 10th place finish by Kyra Compton (18:40).

Another fine performance was posted by LCC junior Jacob Neidnagel, who won the lone unseeded boys Division III-IV-V race in 16:01.

Brand is a freelance writer.