Varsity Final: Saugus' Tate eyes storybook ending in the last race of his Foothill League career
Tate, a recent Utah Valley University signee, has had a remarkable career when it comes to this meet, winning two frosh/soph crowns and setting the 3,200-meter frosh/soph championship record as a sophomore in 2014, and finishing second to former teammate and CIF Southern Section Master's Champion Brian Zabilski as a junior last year. He'll toe the line as the fourth fastest high schooler in SCV history (9:04.60).
Scott Schweitzer's 1971 championship record - the oldest Foothill League record of any kind - could be in danger, as Tate is entered in just the eight-lap event Thursday evening. Tate showed brilliance, maturity and strength throughout his 9:04 run at the Azusa Pacific University Distance Meet of Champions, closing the last lap in an impressive 62 seconds to take second place behind Madera South's Equardo Herrera. It's that performance, combined with his experience and success, that makes him a legitimate threat should he chase Schweitzer's 45-year-old record.
Zabilski just missed the championship record, running 9:12.82 to win his second consecutive 3,200-meter crown with Schweitzer in attendance, last year. With Zabilski now making noise at Columbia University in New York, Tate will get more shot to rewrite history before he heads to Utah.
Top 10 Foothill League 3,200m Varsity Boys Entries
All-Time Foothill League 3,200m Varsity Boys List
Bay will also try to defend his 1,600-meter crown beforehand, plus he's never run a successful 1,600/3,200 double before, which makes us question whether or not he can beat a fresh Tate on tired legs come Thursday night. Last year, Bay won the 1,600-meter finals in 4:27.03, but was a DNF in the 3,200-meter finals two hours later. This year's four-lap event should be more difficult with eight guys entered with a personal best of 4:30 or better; however, Bay is much, much stronger and experienced, so the battle up front could be an exciting one if Bay is on.
The race for the third and final spot on the podium and to CIF might be the highlight of this year's finals, with not one, not two, but six guys capable of taking that spot. Leading the way is Saugus' Jacob Crosson and, boy, do we like his chances. The senior, who will join Bay on George Serrano's squad at COC in the fall, has been absolute money all year when it comes to championships, earning All-Foothill League first team honors and qualifying as an individual in cross country. He's ranked No. 3, having run 9:37.57 at APU in March, and will be tough to beat.
No one is unbeatable, though, which is where Valencia sophomore sensation Britain Reynolds (9:39.54) comes in. There's a lot of question marks when it comes to Reynolds, as he's entered in the 1,600-meter prelims Tuesday and he hasn't run well over 800 and 3,200 meters in weeks.
The Vikings runner enters this final with a personal best of 9:39.54, No. 4 on the all-time sophomore list in SCV. His recent performances over eight laps have been rough, though, as Saugus swept him at their dual meet on Apr. 21 and he ran 10:15 against Canyon on Apr. 13 (Reynolds did run a 4:38/2:05/10:15 triple Cowboys though).
The West Ranch duo of Preston Pope and Timothy Sterkel can't be counted out heading into this 3,200-meter final. Pope and Sterkel, just sophomores for the Wildcats, have both had strong cross country and track season look ready for big performances here.
Pope, who attended Hart at this time last year, surprised many with a big cross country season last fall. The standout set the Central Park sophomore record, running 15:28 for No. 5 in course history (only Tate, Zabilski, Tucker Welker, and Bay have run faster), then, ran a huge 15:39 for 5,000 meters at Woodward Park for No. 3 sophomore in SCV history behind Dave Hartman (15:25 in 1988) and Brett Strahan (15:37 in 1992)
The duo has yet to run a fresh 3,200-meter race, as both have clocked quick 1,600-meter performances over the season (Sterkel at 4:20 and Pope at 4:22). The two are likely running that event come finals, as both are favorites to make the podium/CIF).
In cross country, Welker was a two-time All-CIF Southern Section and all-state runner, clocking 15:15 at Mt. SAC and 15:27 at Woodward Park. Those marks rank No. 17 and No. 13 in valley history. Welker has been under the radar all season long, but it be foolish to count out Welker Thursday, as he has the cross country credentials and experience to really contend up front.
Vierra, a future UC Santa Barbara attendee, has probably put in the most miles in his career out of everyone in this final, with maybe the exception of Tate. Vierra, known for his hard work and grit, is a week removed from a 9:53 performance at the Burbank Backwards Meet. It was the senior's first time under the 10-minute barrier, and he hopes to build upon that race and dip under 9:50 Thursday.
Former Centurions runner Chris Ochoa came had incredible performances when it counted it most at both the 2014 and 2015 finals, running personal bests of 9:52 for fourth place as junior and 9:41 for fifth as a senior. Vierra reminds us an Ochoa, and has the ability to run 9:40 in the right race. The runner, who has been an absolutely incredible role model to his teammates, could be enjoy a breakthrough at Thursday's finals.
Boys Frosh/Soph Final: The Greatest Frosh/Soph Final in Championship History!
This final includes five guys with a personal best under 10 minutes, 10 guys under 10:10, and 14 under 10:20. Did we mention this is a FROSH/SOPH FINAL. To show you how amazing those numbers are, keep in mind only four have broken the 10-minute barrier in championship history, and No. 15 on that list is 10:11.43 (Saugus' Alex Ruther in 2009). Ten years ago, this race would have been better than a Foothill League varsity 3,200-meter championship. This is by far the greatest frosh/soph distance final in championship history, boy or girl.
Now for the good stuff: Who's entered?
It's hard finding a place to start, as a dozen runners deserve recognition. Let's start with the five sub-10-minute studs:
The Vikings runner heads into the 2016 frosh/soph 3,200-meter final ranked No. 1 among entries - and No. 6 overall - at 9:52.70. Only Saugus'
Tate and Crosson, Golden Valley's Bay, Valencia's Reynolds, and West Ranch's Ryan Painter have run faster this track season.
Saugus' Juan Enciso showed brilliance in last Thursday's Foothill League dual meet against rival Canyon, finishing second to teammate Tate in
2:00 in the varsity boys 800-meter showdown against Canyon's Jordan Henry and closing in 60 seconds to win the 3,200-meter event. Enciso,
a former Canyon runner, will attempt to win the 800/1,600/3,200/4x4 quadruple, a feat only Saugus' Merissa Kado had accomplished in
history (Kado won all four junior varsity girls finals in 2009). Enciso's attempt at the quadruple will begin tomorrow at 7:10 p.m.
Canyon's Patrick King was MIA at last week's dual meet against rival Saugus, due to a nagging injury, but that doesn't mean the sophomore
should be counted out. The Cowboy enter the 2016 finals as one of five frosh/soph runners with a personal best under 10 minutes.
The former Vikings runner has been one of the most consistent frosh/soph runners all season long, winning more frosh/soph races at dual
meets than any other runner in the Foothill League. I'm pretty sure Stepan went undefeated through the frosh/soph dual meet season (I can't
find the Golden Valley or Hart dual results, but I know he was undefeated against Canyon, Hart, and West Ranch).
Golden Valley's Alexis Romero is the only freshman that has broken 10 minutes this spring, having run 9:58.32. The Grizzly recently ran an
impressive 2:04.99 800-meter performance to finish fourth behind teammates Bay, Jaime Calderon and Jacob Acosta, and six seconds ahead
of Valencia's superstar in sophomore Reynolds. Coach Evans is also one of the best ever, so the freshman sensation can't be counted out.
The next five frosh/soph guys have personal bests under 10:10 and could contend for podium spots, and possibly the championship win:
6. Kobe Serrano (Saugus, Freshman) 10:01.63
Saugus' Kobe Serrano has had a solid freshman campaign, breaking
Timothy Sterkel's College of the Canyons Summer Series freshman
course record in the fall and running an impressive 10:01.63 at the
SCV All-Comers in February. Although he hasn't quite showed that
same fitness over eight laps since, he's run 4:38 over 1,600 meters
and has the ability and speed to repeat his older brother's gold
medal performance in 2013. He's the dark-horse in my opinion.
7. Andrew Mawhorter (Canyon, Freshman) 10:02.37
With an outright Foothill League crown for the Canyon Cowboys on
the line last Thursday, Mawhorter did all he could to prevent
Saugus from winning. His efforts saw him close the 3,200-meter
event in 63 seconds to take fourth place behind Enciso, Tate and
Crosson. Another well-timed kick could reward the No. 3 freshman
in the Foothill League with a medal.
8. Ethan Danforth (Canyon, Freshman) 10:05.00
Canyon freshman Ethan Danforth was absolutely stunning in the
fall, clocking 16:00.58 to shatter Timothy Sterkel's freshman course
record at Central Park by 29 seconds. Danforth, the younger
brother of former standout Kyla, ran 10:05.00 early in the season
and, although ranked just eighth, could pull off the upset win here.
9. Tanay Suryavanshi (Valencia, Sophomore) 10:06.34
Valencia coach Kevin Berns has done an impressive job with the
boys distance program this school year, and Tanay Suryavanshi is
just one of many Vikings he's produced this season. Suryavanshi,
a sophomore at Valencia, enters this year's final ranked No. 9 at
Top 10 Foothill League 3,200m Frosh/Soph Boys Entries
All-Time Foothill League 3,200m Frosh/Soph Boys List
Saugus' Werth is a dangerous contender should this final turn tactical tomorrow night. Werth, just a sophomore, has personal bests of
10:09.81 over eight laps, and has also clocked 4:41 for 1,600 meters. Running a smart race could be the difference between a medal and a
10th place finish for Werth or any other runner in this final.
With Hart's best cross country runner calling it quits after the fall, Brandon Martinez enters this week's championships as the Indians best
distance runner. Martinez, a sophomore, had a personal best of 10:11.70, which ranks No. 11 heading into the final.
TJ Von Busch, who made an appearance on Saugus' varsity team in cross country last fall doesn't have he speed like an Enciso or Serrano or
Mawhorter, but he makes up for it with mental toughness. The sophomore ranks No. 12 with a personal best of 10:12.42.
Saugus' Albert Serrano comes from a rich family when it comes to distance running success. His father, John, ran 42:04 up the famed Beast
in 2003 (Albert beat his dad's time, clocking 42:02 over the winter), his uncle, George, is a decorated coach at both College of the Canyons,
his Aunt, Rosie, was the first female to break 50 minutes up the Beast in 2003 (49:59), his older cousin, Jordan, was on Saugus' state
championship win in 2013, and his younger cousin, Kobe, is the sixth fastest in this field. Albert, ranked No. 13 with a personal best of
10:18.12, is another kicker in this race and has the talent to contend.
Hart sophomore Andrew Larochelle rounds out the 14 guys with a personal best under the 10:20 barrier at this year's finals. The Indian
heads into tomorrow with an all-time best of 10:19.30.