Text by Zach Cavanagh
Photos Courtesy of Jimmy Su. Click Here for Full Gallery.
Following its historic first CIF-SS championship, the San Clemente boys cross country team had its eyes set on its first CIF State crown, and while the Tritons earned a couple more historic feats, the championship found itself in other hands.
Despite leading after the first mile and closing the gap in the third mile, San Clemente was edged out by Great Oak of Temecula, 67-80, to take runner-up silver in the CIF State Division I Championship on Saturday, Nov. 26, at Woodward Park in Fresno.
With the runner-up trophy, the Triton boys captured their first-ever piece of state hardware and just the second piece of state hardware in program history, after the San Clemente girls won the Division I state title in 2011. The San Clemente boys also secured their first-ever berth to Nationals.
The Tritons will run in the Nike Cross Nationals this Saturday, Dec. 3, in Portland, Oregon. San Clemente is one of four teams from California and 22 from across the United States that will compete in the championships.
Last Saturday, while the Tritons’ top runners weren’t at the head of the lead pack, San Clemente held a slight edge over Great Oak through the first mile, 109-111.
By the end of the second mile, senior Juan Chantaca had pushed up to sixth and senior Rory Catsimanes came up to ninth, both ahead of Great Oak’s lead runner in 11th. However, Great Oak ran in a tight pack in 11th, 12th, 14th, 16th and 17th, while the next Tritons came in at 18th, 20th and 38th. Great Oak led, 70-91, after two miles.
Over the third and final mile, Great Oak’s lead runner sprinted up to finish in ninth (15:23), just ahead of Chantaca in 10th (15:25). Catsimanes came swiftly behind to finish in 12th (15:27), and Great Oak’s second runner came in 16th to give San Clemente an early three-point lead.
Great Oak’s third runner came across in 18th, but junior Brett Ephraim stayed close in 21st (15:38) to maintain a slight two-point advantage. However, Great Oak’s final two runners sealed the title coming in back-to-back in 25th and 26th to beat out San Clemente’s fourth runner, senior Grant Sestak, by one second. Sestak finished 30th (15:44), and junior Clark Pierce rounded out the Triton scorers in 47th (16:02).
Chantaca earned All-State honors for his 10th-place run, his 10th top-10 finish in 11 races this season. Chantaca won the Orange County Championship in October and finished second in the CIF-SS Division 1 Final.
In other local results, Dana Hills sophomore Evan Noonan won the CIF State Division III individual title, as the Dolphin boys took third. The Dana Hills girls finished fourth in Division III. The JSerra girls won their second straight CIF State Division IV championship.
Noonan and the JSerra girls team will join the San Clemente boys at the Nike Cross Nationals this Saturday.
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.