Area runners make their finals push at CIF-SS Prelims


RIVERSIDE – When a team blows away its league competition at every opportunity, it can be hard to judge where it stands against stronger competition.

Both sides of the Sunny Hills cross country program and Western’s top two girls, Montserrat Celis and Wendi Leos, showed Saturday that they belong with the championship competition.

Sunny Hills, Celis and Leos highlighted the county’s 14 boys teams, three boys individuals, 20 girls teams and six girls individuals to qualify for the CIF-Southern Section Finals in the Divisions 2, 3 and 5 preliminaries at the Riverside City Cross Country Course.

Sunny Hills dominated the Freeway League this season and proved its mettle placing seventh in both its boys and girls heats in Division 2.

“It’s overwhelming,” Sunny Hills coach Dan Scott said. “On both boys and girls, both teams are so dominant. I sat down and doped down the races (in simulations.) That last part of the race, we had to really dig deep. This course gets to you in that last mile with all the dust.”

Many had their complaints previously about the Riverside course, which hosts the CIF-SS Finals next week at somewhere other than Mt. SAC for the first time since 1980, but many others also complimented the attempts to water the course to limit dust.

Both sides of Woodbridge, Mission Viejo, Canyon and Tesoro qualified out of Division 2 along with the El Modena, Newport Harbor and San Juan Hills boys and the Northwood and Capistrano Valley girls. Individually, San Juan Hills’ Katie Hansen and Newport Harbor’s Mia Matsunami qualified out of Division 2.

“I’m not super satisfied with my race itself,” Matsunami said, “but all that matters is that I qualified for CIF. This was one of my goals going into the season. To see it be accomplished is pretty cool.”

Celis and Leos each finished well ahead of their Empire League competition this season to qualify as individuals for the prelims. Western’s duo moved forward again as they each claimed third place in their respective Division 3 heats.

Division 3 boasted the largest contingent of county girls qualifiers as El Dorado’s Lucina Vincent and Sonora’s Caroline Stetina qualified along with Corona del Mar, Laguna Hills, Yorba Linda, Bolsa Grande, Brea Olinda, Ocean View, Pacifica, Esperanza, Santa Margarita, and La Quinta teams.

Ocean View’s boys continued their outstanding season by taking first place in their Division 3 heat.

“I can’t lie. I was not expecting that,” Ocean View coach Daniel Hurtado said.

Brea Olinda, Corona del Mar and Servite teams also qualified in Division 3, and Jacob Smith of Pacifica advanced as an individual. In Division 5, St. Margaret’s and Samueli Academy qualified both their boys and girls teams, and Sage Hill added its girls team.

Gabriel Reiser of Brethren Christian and Ben White of Whittier Christian qualified.

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