FRESNO — Bittersweet sentiment proved a dominant theme at Saturday morning's CIF State Cross-Country Championships at Fresno's Woodward Park.
For the Flintridge Prep boys' cross-country team, even a historic day was accompanied with a little disappointment, as the Rebels were just edged out for a CIF State Division V championship by St. Joseph Notre Dame, 86-87.
"We thought we were second, but we thought it was by more than by one point," Rebels Coach Ingrid Herskind said. "We were pleased with our team time. We definitely broke our school record for team time, but losing by one is always tough."
Flintridge Prep's silver-medal performance marked the team's top finish since 2005, while the Rebels were two points away from their first championship since 2004.
Yet, the title seemed within grasp as the Rebels unofficially led, 65-75, over Notre Dame at the halfway point, with three Flintridge Prep runners within in the top 10.
However, that momentum slowed as the Pilots gained ground, led by junior Gabe Arias-Sheridan, who paced the rally by taking fifth in 15 minutes 58 seconds.
Even though Flintridge Prep's Elias Ellison (12th, 16:10), Aaron Sugimoto (13th, 16:16) and Jack Van Scoter (14th, 16:19) finished ahead of Notre Dame's subsequent runners, the Pilots' next three runners scored ahead of the Rebels' fourth scorer, while Notre Dame's fifth athlete placed nearly 20 spots ahead of Flintridge Prep's last scorer.
"We started out strong and tried to keep up the pace," Sugimoto said. "I couldn't hear what was going on, I just ran."
Flintridge Prep's last two scorers and final four runners of Alan Yoho (29th, 16:36), Tyler Fong (48th, 16:59), Eric Sasse (59th, 17:09) and Manny Perez (63rd, 17:11) helped the squad combine for a total team mark of 1 hour, 22 minutes 20 seconds and a gap of 45 seconds.
"I've been running for the last four years and this turned out well," said Ellison, who ran on the last three Rebels' state squads. "We had a lot of people step up and whatever happened, we can be proud of this result."
Even though Crescenta Valley's Gabe Collison was the lone local to compete solo, the junior still turned in a banner effort by taking 13th with a local-best time of 15:30.
"This was so much fun. It was difficult because it's Division I and there are so many great runners," said Collison, who moved up from 16th midway through the race. "I saw a couple of guys from Arcadia and just tried to pace myself, but not overwork myself."
Perhaps the most productive La Cañada girls' team of an era capped off a special season by finishing 11th in the Division III finals with 266 points.
Rio Hondo League champion Sonja Cwik paced the Spartans, who were making their first state visit since the late 90s, by taking 15th in 18:45.
"It means a lot to get here and we were excited to have qualified. This is what we've worked for all season," Cwik said. "For me, it means a lot to finish in the top 20."
Cwik was followed by scoring teammates Anna Frederich (18th, 18:49), Colleen Mispagel (25th, 18:57), Hannah Yoho (136th, 20:48) and Eloise Dimase-Nordlin (143rd, 20:57).
"I've been sick all week, but I wanted to run this last race," Frederich said. "This has been such a great year, I'm just proud to be on this team."
There was some admitted disappointment for the Flintridge Prep girls, a fifth-place finisher at the CIF Southern Section Division V finals last week, as the Rebels took 12th in Division V with 291 points, led by sophomore Lacy Coan (35th, 20:00).
"It's the last race of the season and I don't know what happened," Rebels junior Kate Evans (62nd, 20:40) said. "It's a five-month long season and we just didn't run our best."
Perhaps the Rebels' silver lining was that six of the team's seven runners are set to return next season.
"Hey, the good thing is that we've got another race," Rebels junior Sarah Yoho (104th, 21:26) said. "Almost everyone is coming back and we'll learn from this."
Prep's other scorers were Ashley Lara (54th, 20:27) and senior Grace Broyles (120th, 21:39).