Newport Harbor's Tennison sets county pace at CIF prelims
WALNUT - The last time Newport Harbor senior Paige Tennison competed on the famed hills of the Mt. Sac course, her performance left her feeling that she could do better.
With a final chance to prepare for the opportunity to win a CIF-SS Division 2 individual title, Tennison took full advantage.
Tennison won her individual heat and had the county’s best individual time of the meet at the CIF-SS Divisional Preliminaries Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College.
The Sunset League champion placed second in her race at last month’s Mt. Sac Invitational, but was eager to have a better showing. Focusing on improving her efforts over the challenging course ascents, she crossed the finish line in a time of 17:25. That time was the fastest among all runners in Division 2.
It was also the second fastest individual time of the meet among all runners in all five divisions, trailing only Simi Valley star Sarah Baxter’s meet best time of 16:41.
“I felt better about this race compared to the last time I raced here,” Tennison said. “This week was about qualifying and moving on to next week.”
Tennison stated that her primary focus next week is lowering her Mt. Sac all-time best time.
“I want to beat my time of 17:15 from last year,” she said. “I just have to push myself to run to the potential that I know I have and tell myself that I can run on hills.”
Tesoro advanced into the Division 2 finals, winning its’ heat and having the second fastest overall team time in the division. The Titans were led by freshman Amanda Gehrich who bounced back after a fall at league finals to finish second in a time of 17:45.
“I tried not to think about what happened at league and focused on this race,” Gehrich said. “I knew what to expect on the course and wanted to run a good time. I just need to relax and mentally prepare myself for next week.”
Canyon, Foothill, and Woodbridge also advanced to the finals in Division 2.
In Division 1, Capistrano Valley had the county’s fastest overall team time (92:53) and won its heat with five runners in the top 20. The Cougars were led by sophomore Grace Schafer (18:01), who crossed the finish line first.
“As a team, we focused on running with a finals mindset to help push us,” Schafer said. “Everyone gave a solid effort and I was proud of the girls.”
Defending CIF-SS Division 1 champion San Clemente (44 points) won its heat, placing five runners in the top 17.
Dana Hills (64 points) was second behind the Tritons.
Marina, Trabuco Hills, and Edison also advanced into the Division 1 finals. The Vikings were led by senior Kylie Nishisaka (17:41) who had the fastest individual time of all county runners in the division.
Laguna Hills was the lone county team in Division 3 to win an individual heat. Led by senior Alana Jones (18:26), the Hawks had five runners in the top 20 and won its heat with 58 points.
Northwood was second in the same heat with 63 points. Timberwolves junior Bethan Knights was the individual heat winner in a time of 17:50.
“I didn’t want to be tired for next week, but I wanted to run a solid race and win,” Knights said. “I want to improve on the final 800 meters of the race.”
The county will be well-represented in the Division 3 finals, as Mater Dei, Santa Margarita, Corona del Mar, Esperanza, Yorba Linda, and Bolsa Grande all qualified.
JSerra began its’ quest to win a third straight CIF-SS Division 4 title by winning their heat. The Lions (who were without senior Caitlin Nilssen and junior Kyle Fracassi) were led by sophomore Ashley Geisler (18:25) who placed second.
“We’re deep, hungry and the girls want it more than I’ve ever seen them want it,” Lions coach Marty Dugard said. “If they push to be the very best, everything will fall into place for us.”
Crean Lutheran sophomore Lauren Maurer was the individual heat winner in a time of 18:23. The Saints (132 points) placed fifth as a team and advanced to next week’s finals.
Laguna Beach (104) was fourth in its’ heat and will also compete in the Division 4 finals.
Calvary Chapel junior Emily Scott (19:30) advanced as an individual.
Sage Hill (157) qualified for the Division 5 finals by finishing fifth in its’ heat.