SP Lands 1-2 Punch In Cross-Country

The South Pas varsity boys cross-country team took first place last week in the Rio Hondo League finals, while the girls finished a close second. The CIF finals and the state tourney are next up for both. Photos by Henk Friezer

The South Pasadena varsity cross-country teams finished first and second last Thursday in the Rio Hondo League finals at Lacy Park in San Marino.

The No. 2-ranked boys team won behind senior Sam Clark’s first-place finish — with juniors Andrew Parkinson, Andrew Villapudua and Patrick Latting finishing third, fourth and fifth, respectively, to round out the top five.

The No. 9-ranked girls came in a close second behind La Cañada, with sophomores Sydney Morrow and Mai Koyama finishing in third and seventh, and junior Lindsay Michels taking eighth.

“We’ve had that kind of results for the last five years where the girls lost to La Cañada, but they were a solid second,’’ said head coach Michael Parkinson.

“We’ve been successful for some time, so I’ve inherited a very successful program. We were thinking we can maybe be so good that we could tempo run, which is like a workout run for league finals — not go all out and get personal records or anything, but just go out for a solid run where we all run together in a pack.”

The boys team won easily, beating second-place La Cañada by 17 points, while the girls team finished eight points shy of winning the meet.

“I told my guys to go as slow as you possibly can because we want to save our energy for CIF finals and state,’’ Parkinson said.

“So if we possibly go slower and still win, that’s what we should do. It went perfectly to plan — we didn’t run super fast, but we didn’t want to. The girls, I said La Cañada has beat us two times already — maybe we beat them, but I don’t want to work super hard to beat them because league finals is not the prize — the prize is CIF, and the prize is state.”

Both teams qualified for the Division-4 CIF preliminaries and will be on the track again on Friday.

Parkinson hopes his teams can tempo run the whole thing again and still qualify for finals running as easy as possible.

Clark thinks his success comes from Parkinson’s changes to the team’s routines.

“This is about one of the first times we’ve done weight room consistently,’’ he said. “We have these whole routines doing legs and arms. We built it up so that instead of lifting to lift and weight train, we’re building it up for more of an endurance type of workout.”

Morrow, on the other hand, simply hopes to make it into state as an individual, as she watched her ranking go up over the course of the season.

“I’d like to be ranked in the top five in [Division] 4,’’ she said. “I think I’m definitely in the top 10. I’m also hoping to run at the [Foot Locker] invitational, and I’d like to qualify for the finals in that.”

The Foot Locker Cross Country Championships is a national event, and the West region event will be Dec. 7 at Mt. San Antonio College.

After the preliminary races for the boys and girls teams, they are hoping to move on to CIF finals next week and then, they hope, on to the CIF state meet the week after that.

“We want to get some hardware,’’ Parkinson said. “We want to be the best that South Pas has ever done. We have a shot at winning it — because we’ve beat the No. 1 seed twice, Foothill Technology. … We’d like to have a whole new wall [on the gym] that says, ‘State Meet Champions.’ ’’