First published in the Dec. 3 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
Sydney Morrow finished 21st in her race at Saturday’s cross-country state meet, paving the way for South Pasadena High School to take 10th place in the statewide girls’ Division 4 finale at Woodward Park in Fresno.
In the girls’ team’s first appearance at the state meet, the Tigers were among seven CIF-Southern Section teams to finish in the top 10, totaling 244 points on the 5-kilometer course. Meanwhile, the SPHS boys’ team, in its fourth state appearance, finished 22nd in the Division 4 race.
In her final cross-country race as a high schooler, Morrow completed the course in 18:54.8, finishing in a dead heat with two other girls. The senior set her course-personal record at Woodward Park as a sophomore, when she finished in 18:21 for the Clovis Invitational, and later that season she ran it again as a single-qualifier for the state meet and finished in 18:48.
Morrow’s finish comes after a heat-related setback in the CIF-SS prelims had her finishing last among the varsity squad, from which she rebounded for the finals race the next week. She again led the Tigers and finished eighth overall in the division.
“She would have liked to run faster,” head coach Mike Parkinson said of last Saturday, “but overall, she had that disaster at the prelims, recovered at CIF finals to get a medal and finished near the top 20 at state. Not bad.”
Senior Liam de Villa led the way for the boys, finishing 57th overall after winning a dead-heat finish against two others and setting a distance personal record of 16:33.8.
“I think it was his fastest race of the year,” Parkinson said, noting that all other races were a shorter 3 miles.
Rounding out the girls were freshmen Abby Errington (19:26.1) and Amelie Geoffron (19:44.4), senior Gabby Rodriguez (20:20.1), freshman Saidbh Byrne (20:24.7) and seniors Kerrigan Riley (21:00.6) and Mai Koyama (21:34), who placed 45th, 59th, 91st, 96th, 122nd and 146th, respectively. Rodriguez set a distance personal record on Saturday.
For the boys, senior Brady Nakamura (17:24.6), juniors Jason Baek (17:34.5) and Jack Ishibashi (18:09.7), senior Noah Kuhn (18:33.1) and sophomores Keeran Murray (18:35.4) and Jarvis Kikekawa-Fraser (19:59.2) rounded out the squad, placing 120th, 131st, 157th, 174th, 175th and 201st. Nakamura and Kuhn set distance personal records.
“Super, super competitive,” he said of the younger girls. “They seemed like they were veterans, so good for the girls.”
Parkinson elected to have Kikekawa-Fraser join the varsity runners on Saturday, based in part on his performance in the Rio Hondo League Finals frosh-soph race. He finished second on a squad that swept the top six spots, earning the rare distinction of the lowest possible score — 15 — in cross-country. Murray led that finish.
“My sophomore boys had a little deer-in-the-headlights look” on Saturday, Parkinson added. Kikekawa-Fraser “ran a little wide-eyed, but it was good they were out there to compete and they did fine for themselves.”
After achieving the goal this year of sending both teams to the state meet, Parkinson had eyes on taking the next step in 2022. He noted that three freshmen girls scored on Saturday and that the boys’ team had a crew of juniors and sophomore ready to pick up the reins.
In addition to his runners, Parkinson brought five alternates to the meet even if just to absorb the “electric atmosphere” in Fresno.
“I was emphasizing the whole experience of it, which is why I brought five alternates. I wanted five people to come in and see what it was like, so that next year, there’s less nerves. In that sense, it was a really valuable experience,” he said. “With one more year of good, solid experience, I think we’re going to have a really strong team next year. I fully expect we can repeat and go to state, but we want to do more than just be there. We want to be in the hunt.”
As a coda to the state meet achievement, Parkinson made good on a promise he made to the team when he took over coaching duties in 2019: If both teams made it to state, he would allow them to shave his head at the conclusion.
So, on Saturday, after both squads had cooled down from their races, he plopped into a camping chair, busted out the clippers and let everyone get in a swipe at his hair.