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O.C.'s Adler, Leonard edged in photo finish for title
The California cross country season ended with dramatic flair for Orange Country runners on Saturday.
Northwood’s Erika Adler and Sara Leonard of Canyon finished second and third in a three-way photo finish in the girls Division 2 race and Dana Hills’ boys and Esperanza’s girls took home second-place team honors to highlight the CIF State Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno.
Adler, a senior, capped her first and only varsity cross country season as the State runner-up with at time of 17:26, the third-best overall time at the meet.
“It’s amazing,” Adler said. “It still hasn’t really hit me. I’m so happy I got into this sport. I had a great experience with my coaches and teammates.”
After starting her high school career as a cheerleader, Adler joined the Northwood track team in March and into the cross country season she took second at the O.C. Championships, won the Pacific Coast League title and finished fourth at the CIF-SS Finals.
“She isn’t phased by talent level or pace of the race,” Northwood coach Louie Muniz said. “Maturity beyond her years in the sport. Most kids in their first year would fold under that pressure, but she didn’t.”
Adler got out fast and had the lead at the first mile, but Leonard pushed to lead the second mile.
Adler and Leonard battled through the third mile as Elizabeth Chittenden of Mira Costa came up down the stretch.
“It was a three-way photo finish,” Muniz said. “Everyone is screaming. No one knows who’s won. At the end, someone’s got to be crowned state champ.”
All three came across the finish line in quick succession with Chittenden taking the state title by five-tenths of a second over Adler. Adler beat Leonard by six-tenths of a second.
Leonard’s third place time of 17:26 helped Canyon to third place in the team scores.
Capistrano Valley finished 10th as a team.
In Division 1, Dana Hills’ boys couldn’t take down the dominant Great Oak of Temecula side but got three runners in the top 30 for a solid second place.
“We were a little bit off today,” Dana Hills coach Craig Dunn said. “We got out well but just lost a little focus. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished this season.”
Jack Landgraf and Brandon Hough paced the Dolphins in 12th and 13th place.
Valencia’s boys finished seventh in Division 1 but had the smallest gap between its runners at 15 seconds.
Dana Hills’ girls couldn’t match their CIF-SS Finals performance but still finished fifth in Division 1.
El Toro’s Hannah Tobin (17:41) landed in seventh.
In Division 3, Esperanza had two top-30 runners and took second-place on a sixth-runner tiebreak.
Laguna Hills’ girls pulled in a 10th place finish with a 23-second gap.
Brea Olinda’s boys fell off their normal pace to sixth-place in Division 3.
JSerra took a pair of third-place finishes in Division 4 and freshman Anthony Grover (15:40) and sophomore Nadia Tabrizi (18:15) each grabbed fifth place.
St. Margaret’s boys team finished 10th in Division 5.