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Triumphant cross country season: girls capture Prep League title, boys shine in impressive showing

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Jason Mitchell

We may be entering the short days of fall, but the sun shone brightly on the cross country team on Saturday, Oct. 28 as the girls team earned the 2023 Prep League Champions title for the first time since 1997.

The girls found great success at the Prep League Finals, which were held at Pierce College, with six out of the seven runners achieving a personal record and five earning medals for their successes. Three runners, freshman Anya Matz, junior Catie Sabbag and junior Stella Keatley, finished with top ten rankings. Matz finished in tenth place, Sabbag in fourth and Keatley in third. These rankings were enough to land the girls team the Prep League Championship as well as qualify them for the CIF Division 5 Prelims.

When asked about the race, head coach Rick Caragher said, “I think most of the athletes would say our league finals were the highlight of the season. That’s our last race; it’s what we work towards. This is a sport where the first part of the season doesn’t matter. What matters is how we race in the championship meets and our league finals, and we raced great. Seventeen of our 25 runners ran the fastest they had ever run in their lives in that race. Another six ran the fastest they’d run all season. It was remarkable, really the best league finals I can remember.”

Senior captain Audrey Tomlin added, “We were all genuinely shocked when they announced the final rankings. That said, our team improved our mindset and trained a lot harder this year, and I am so glad that our work paid off. I don’t think I could have asked for a better final cross country season.”

The boys team also ended the season with an impressive showing at the Prep League Finals even though the team did not advance to CIF. Sophomore Marcel Zamora and freshman Caiden Kennedy both finished with personal records. Juniors Nathan Melenik and Ronen Peters also earned personal records and placed eighth and tenth, respectively, which landed them individual spots at the CIF Prelims.

Caragher noted a few key characteristics that set Menelik and Peters apart from the competition. “They all work hard, but I think with Nathan and Ronen they’re experienced enough to know what hard work does. They’re also older and stronger. They have one to two more years of strength that they’ve built up than some of their teammates,” said Caragher. “They’re ambitious. And to be ambitious in the sport, you have to take risks. And that’s hard, but that’s why Nathan ran faster than ever before. He had been training really well, but he had to take a risk, and it was scary, but then he did, and it paid off in a historic way.”

Kennedy said, “Ronen and Nathan have done all that they need to do to find success. They have been training daily since the summer. With consistent hard work and determination, they have been able to become the best runners that they could and are prepared for CIF.”

It’s safe to say that preparation paid off. In the CIF Prelims, which were held on Nov. 11 at Mt. SAC in Walnut, California, the girls team culminated their season on a high note, finishing in sixth place, a great accomplishment, but just one spot shy of qualifying for the next round. Melenik and Peters also did well, with Melenik placing tenth in his heat and Peters finishing in 24th place. While neither team made it to the next round, the Panthers now move into the offseason with memories of a great season behind them and a bright future ahead.

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Oliver Marks, Assistant Sports Editor
Grade: 10 Years on Staff: 2 Fun Fact: I love to cook! Favorite Movie: The Banshees of Inisherind
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