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PHOTO COURTESY OF KIM LINDHOLM
The JSerra girls cross county team celebrates after winning the Division 4 state title for the third consecutive season.

JSerra girls seize third state cross country title

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
:

Girls cross country finals.

FRESNO – The season-long journey of JSerra wasn't always perfect or without challenges. But once again, that journey came to an end with the Lions celebrating another CIF state title.

JSerra placed five scoring runners in the top 30 to win its third consecutive Division 4 state title at the CIF State Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Woodward Park.

The Lions are the first county program in the 26-year history of the state championships to win three consecutive state titles.

"The girls came together, worked as a unit, and played their roles," Lions coach Marty Dugard said. "It's humbling because of the sacrifice that the girls go through. These girls have bought into this tradition of excellence that we have tried to build."


Boys cross country: CIF State Championships (results)

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Girls cross country: CIF State Championships (results)


Sophomore Brooke Kunzelman was the Lions' top runner, finishing 10th overall in a time of 18:50, and expressed togetherness as the driving force behind JSerra's winning effort.

"We supported each other and pushed through this as a team," Kunzelman said. "We just tried to pass as many jerseys as we could."

Fellow sophomore Ashley Geisler was 14th overall and highlighted her team's ability to block out the competition and focus on doing the necessary things to win.

"We have such a strong bond and we don't let other team get in our heads," Geisler said.

The Lions' 3-4-5 runners finished within 11 seconds of each other, helping JSerra (89 points) outdistance Arcata (110) and Mayfield of Pasadena (151). That group also helped the Lions make up for not having the usual production of junior Hannah Hunsaker. Hunsaker, who missed the CIF-SS finals with a foot injury and had a walking boot on her right foot throughout the week, re-injured her foot during the race.

Crean Lutheran, competing at the state meet for the first time in school history was seventh overall with 229 points.

Northwood junior Bethan Knights closed out her stellar CIF season with a second-place finish in Division 3 behind Beverly Hills senior Sydney Segal (17:40). Knights' 17:49 was the fastest individual time of all county runners in all five divisions.

"I felt that I ran well for the first mile and a half, but she (Sydney) was really strong, ran a really great race, and I couldn't catch her," Knights said. "Every week of the season, I pushed myself beyond what I thought I could do and by the end of the season, I really started to believe in myself. I am happy with second place."

Laguna Hills senior Alana Jones was fourth in 18:06, leading the Hawks (186) to a fourth-place team finish.

"I wanted to do well on the hills, which has been something that has been difficult for me," Jones said. "As a team, we have worked our way up and to be here is an amazing honor."

Northwood (222) was fifth, with Santa Margarita (371) coming in 17th.

Despite suffering from a respiratory infection, Newport Harbor senior Paige Tennison was among the race leaders throughout the Division 2 final and ultimately finished fourth in 17:52.

"I wasn't feeling my best going into the race, but I went into it telling myself that being sick wasn't going to stop me," Tennison said. "I tried to go out running as though I wasn't sick, but toward the middle, I started losing my breath. It's been an exciting season and I'm thankful for all that I have accomplished."

Tesoro (155) had four scoring runners place in the top 45 and finished fourth. The Titans (1:34:31) produced the fastest overall team time among county schools in all five divisions.

"We knew who our competition was and I told them to give them everything they had," Titans coach Pattie Fasola said. "In our last three races, all seven of our runners have really brought it together and I was really pleased with how the girls competed today."

Canyon (176) had four runners score in the top 50 and finished seventh.

Saugus (98) had all five girls score in the top 40 to win its CIF-record seventh consecutive state title.

Marina senior Kylie Nishisaka was the county's top runner in the Division 1 final, crossing the finish line seventh in 17:50.

"This was my last time being here and my main goal was to go out there and have fun," Nishisaka said.

Despite being injured throughout most of the season, Edison senior Haley Seward capped a strong CIF run effort with a 13th place finish in a time of 18:06.

"This is only my fourth race of the season and I just wanted to come in here and do my best," Seward said. "I'm excited and happy with my effort."

Making its first team appearance at the CIF state meet, Capistrano Valley (232) placed three girls in the top 40 and finished seventh in Division 1.

"Our goal at the start of the season was to get here," Cougars coach Ken Sayles said. "The message to the girls was to keep doing what you have been doing all year and embrace the opportunity of being here. We didn't have our best race of the season, but I am very happy to finish seventh."

San Clemente (238) was eighth, while Marina (240) was ninth.

Contact the writer: jeichelberger@ocregister.com


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