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Dana Hills wins showdown at South Coast League Finals
ORANGE- The county’s top two teams once again went head to head for supremacy of the South Coast League, with the outcome not decided until the team’s sixth runners came across the finish line.
In the end, it was top-ranked Dana Hills that produced a thrilling victory and delivered head coach Tim Butler a milestone in the process.
The Dolphins and No. 2 ranked Trabuco Hills each scored 48 points, with the Dolphins winning the league title by virtue of a better finish of the sixth place runners at the South Coast League Finals Thursday at Irvine Regional Park.
“The bottom line is that this was a total team effort,” Butler said. “I have so much respect for what Liam (Clemons) does with his kids at Trabuco Hills and Rick (Hagin) at El Toro and it makes us have to prepare even more to get an edge. Each of these teams pushes each other to do our very best, which is exciting.”
The Dolphins’ league title is the 20th under Butler, who has coached the program for 40 seasons.
Dana Hills, led by a second place finish from standout freshman Jake Ogden (14:32), had all five scoring runners finish in the top 15. The Mustangs, led by a fourth place finish from senior Naoki Omatsu (14:37), had all five scoring place in the top 17. Omatsu and Ogden were both among the race leaders throughout the race, with Ogden passing Omatsu for good near the final uphill portion of race.
Senior Zeph Alva was the Dolphins’ sixth runner to cross the finish line (19th overall), clocking a time of 15:24. Junior Evan Defraine was the Mustangs’ sixth runner (28th overall) to finish, recording a time of 15:57.
Despite the narrow defeat, Mustangs coach Liam Clemons saw some positives from his team with the season's most important meets on the horizon.
“We had some guys venture off the race plan a bit, but I was pleased, and the boys preformed pretty well,” Mustangs coach Liam Clemons said. “Dana Hills has run very well in the last month and the competition is preparing us for the postseason. I was happy about some the performances of some of our depth guys. We are moving in the right direction, which is what you look for at this time of the year.”
El Toro finished third with 49 points, followed by Tesoro (71) and San Juan Hills (146).
Chargers senior Juan Gonzalez won the individual league title. Gonzalez was amongst a tight pack of runners that stayed closely bunched throughout the first mile and a half.
Just as the runners made their way to the top the final climb of the course, Gonzalez put on a burst to take the lead from Omatsu and Ogden. He sprinted on the downhill portion and held off Ogden the rest of the way, winning in a time of 14:22.
“The whole race was really tight,” Gonzalez said. “Noaki (Omatsu) made a move with me on the hill just past the two mile mark, but then he faded a bit and I felt pretty comfortable. I was able to open the lead on the downhill and focused on trying to finish the race and not let anyone catch me.”
Tesoro senior Scott Curran closed strong in the final stages of the race and finished third in a time of 14:36.