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KEN STEINHARDT, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Esperanza girls cross country team members celebrate a first-place finish in Division 3 at the CIF-SS Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College.

Esperanza girls, Brea's Tamagno lead O.C. title winners at CIF-SS Finals

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

WALNUT – Nerves were at a breaking point.

The members of Esperanza’s girls cross country team looked at the scoreboard quite impatiently as they waited for the official results to be posted.

When they finally got confirmation of their victory, the Aztecs erupted in excited screams and joyful tears.

Esperanza had edged Palos Verdes, 72-77, to claim the Division 3 championship Saturday morning at the CIF-SS Finals at Mt. San Antonio College.

Shannon Mac Kellar, Sapna Dholakia and Summer Shea delivered top-10 finishes. Dominique Oden and Robin Bremer filled out the scoring quintet for the Aztecs, who won their first title in 19 years.

Aztecs coach Rich Medellin was delighted to see his team enjoy sectional glory after several runner-up outcomes.

“We’ve had nine second-place finishes in the Southern Section,” he said. “I feel like I’m constantly the bridesmaid.”

Saturday's top 5 finishers and qualifiers for CIF State Meet 

There were six first-place finishes overall for the county’s teams and individual runners. Also taking home a team title was Brea Olinda’s boys, who won Division 3 for the third year in a row.

The four individual champions were Canyon’s Dylan Scarscone (Division 2), Brea Olinda’s Austin Tamagno (Division 3), JSerra’s Andrew Burkhardt (Division 4) on the boys side, and Tesoro's Amanda Gehrich (Division 2) in the girls races.

Tamagno was a repeat champion.

Great Oak’s boys defeated Dana Hills, 47-70, in a matchup of the two highest ranked teams in Division 1.

Medellin was concerned going into his team’s race after seeing Mac Kellar, the team’s No. 1 runner, be sick to her stomach five minutes before the runners went to the starting line.

“I knew when she got in the car this morning that she was really nervous,” Medellin said. “She’s not ever like that. It kind of scared me.”

Medellin relaxed once he saw Mac Kellar attack the 3-mile course.

“She is a very strong individual,” he said. “We hit on all cylinders. It’s exciting.”

Palos Verdes beat the Aztecs, 94-102, in the Mt. SAC Invitational, which uses the same course, in October.

Brea Olinda earned a convincing three-peat in the Division 3 boys race, defeating Paso Robles, 63-81.

Tamagno, a senior, defended his individual title with a time of 14:50. Jon Tobin joined his brother and team captain, Joe, in the scoring five to solidify Brea’s bottom half.

“I’m really excited that we pulled off the three-peat,” Tamagno said. “The guys really stepped up. They knew what was on the line. We went out and executed and won the race.”

Gehrich, the reigning Orange County champion, ran a 17:24 to add a Division 2 crown to her impressive resume.

Canyon’s boys dominated the front of the Division 2 race on Mt. SAC’s course, which features three hills. The first, Switchbacks, marks the halfway point. At the bottom of Switchbacks, Canyon senior Chance Lamberth was in the lead, but it was Scarscone who overtook the field on the back stretch.

A lot of changes happened around Scarscone this year. Joe Wiley became the team’s new coach, and the Comanches lost All-County member Wesley Walsh to graduation.

“People leaving the team, it just happens naturally,” Scarscone said. “There was some loss when they were gone, but to be able to fill their shoes is awesome. Where we are now, going to state, it’s beyond me right now. It still hasn’t set in.”

Behind freshman Emma Dickerson’s seventh-place finish, Sage Hill placed third in the Division 5 girls race. It is the best finish in the program’s history.

The county will send 12 teams and seven individuals to the CIF State Meet next weekend in Fresno.


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