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By Zach Cavanagh
It took 32 years, but San Clemente finally has sent a boys cross country team back to the CIF State Championships.
The San Clemente boys relied on their characteristic pack running style to finish fifth in the CIF-SS Division 1 Final, securing one of the seven team-qualifying positions on Saturday, Nov. 20, at Mt. San Antonio College.
The San Clemente boys now move on to the CIF State Championships on Saturday, Nov. 27, at Woodward Park in Fresno.
The Tritons were projected as the No. 5 team in CIF-SS Division 1 after the end of the regular season, and the rankings held to form as the top six schools finished in rankings order.
Newbury Park, considered by most to be the best cross country team in the nation and perhaps the best cross country team of all time, was ranked No. 1 and obliterated the field to take the Division 1 title. Newbury Park posted a perfect score of 15, with its five scoring runners taking the top five positions and its sixth runner finishing in sixth.
Newbury Park’s top four runners finished within 0.3 seconds of each other, with first place at 14:52.6. The previous Division 1 record for team score was 43, and no team had ever posted a perfect 15 in any CIF-SS Division Final. This was the third straight CIF-SS title for Newbury Park, which won its previous two titles in Division 2.
However, Newbury Park was never going to be of concern for San Clemente. The Tritons had their own goal and completed it, as they have all season.
San Clemente placed its five scoring runners in the top 70, including a cluster of three at 30th, 31st and 33rd. The Tritons finished with a score of 184 to stay ahead of Vista Murrieta at 194 and Redondo Union at 214. Redondo Union was the only team not to compete to rankings form and jumped from No. 9 to a seventh-place finish.
Junior Juan Chantaca and senior Hayden Beauchemin finished together to lead San Clemente in 30th and 31st with times of 15:34.9 and 15:35.0, respectively, on the 2.93-mile course. Sophomore Brett Ephraim finished right behind the top pair in 33rd with a time of 15:36.8.
Junior Rory Catsimanes finished in 49th at 15:57.9, and junior Grant Sestak finished 70th at 16:15.0.
On the girls side, San Clemente could not break back through to the state meet.
The Triton girls finished 14th out of the 16 competing teams in Division 1, with a team score of 282.
San Clemente placed three runners in the top 53. Sophomore Lyza Yetter paced the Tritons in 36th with a time of 19:03.4. Yetter finished 40 seconds behind the last individual state qualifier. Senior Jessika Ephraim finished in 48th at 19:20.1, and junior Abby Howard finished in 53rd at 19:28.6.
Sophomore Bailey Sapp finished in 79th at 19:54.6, and junior Kennedy Banks rounded out the scoring five in 81st at 19:55.6.
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at email@example.com.