In the Netherlands, they call it Orange Fever or Orange Craze — the mania expressed by the nation’s national soccer team.
Closer to home, the NFL’s Denver Broncos have been identifiable for decades by their Orange Crush label.
But last Thursday, on an unseasonably chilly spring afternoon, all nicknames applied to the South Pasadena cross country team, which ran over, through and past its Rio Hondo League foes in winning championships at every contested level, exiting Pasadena’s Hahamongna Watershed Park with the girls’ and boys’ varsity and boys’ junior varsity titles.
As might be expected, the Tigers won each individual title, as seniors Lindsay Michels, Andrew Villapudua and Derek Rodriguez were first to step across the finish line at their respective levels. When viewed from a different perspective, of the first 35 runners who crossed the finish line in the three combined races, 21 of them were representing South Pasadena High School.
Michels capped an undefeated season by winning the girls’ varsity race in 18:07. Junior Sydney Morrow was second in 18:23, followed by senior Amelia Jarolim (sixth, 20:23), junior Lilian Zhu (eighth, 20:53), junior Miranda Liu (11th, 21:29), sophomore Kaile Fernandes (12th, 21:36) and junior Gabriela Rodriguez (13th, 21:50). As if another indicator of the Tigers’ domination was needed, South Pasadena’s average runner traversed the three-mile course in 19:51 — more than four minutes faster than runner-up San Marino.
“Michels had a monster nine months of training,” said coach Mike Parkinson. “And Sydney ran a 17:23 three-mile race on the track. Overall our times were a little slower, but we have to put it all in perspective.”
In the boys’ varsity race, senior Andrew Villapudua lived up to his bib number of #1, closing his own undefeated campaign in a time of 15:44. Junior Liam de Villa finished third in a time of 16:35. From there, the orange shirts continued the onslaught, courtesy of senior Patrick Latting (fourth, 16:55), junior Brady Nakamura (fifth, 17:13), senior Andrew Parkinson (eighth, 17:40), junior Philson Ho (12th, 18:17) and junior Kaden Chai (15th, 18:49).
An additional story was revealed by the Tigers’ average time, which at 16:49 was almost three minutes faster than Temple City’s, which finished second.
The race was bittersweet for Andrew Parkinson, who barely recovered from a stress fracture in time for the race and was hoping to provide a friendly challenge to Villapudua for the championship.
Parkinson singled out de Villa for what he called “an outstanding race.”
“Liam will be among our leading runners coming back,” said the coach.
The junior varsity boys’ race really wasn’t close, as senior Derek Rodriguez raced to victory in 18:41. He was followed in order by senior Riley Williams (second, 19:17), and juniors Noah Kuhn (third, 19:36), Steven Kim (fourth, 21:06), Joshua Ramirez (fifth, 21:19), Austin Borgerding (sixth, 21:35) and Jeremy Rhee (seventh, 21:58).
At the end of the day, coach Michael Parkinson said he was “grateful.”
“I appreciate that we won all of the divisions but mostly because we hade a sufficient number of runners,” Parkinson said. “We had 27 runners who came to the finals and we had no freshmen. During a typical season we have about 70 runners at the end of the season, including 20 freshmen.”
Though the quantity was reduced, Parkinson was pleased with the quality, given the circumstances.
“We still had some good individual times and there is a lot there to make us feel good about the future,” he said. “I give these young people a lot of credit for staying in shape for one full year in anticipation of the start of the cross country season. They showed a lot of perseverance.”
He then glanced towards an opponent that was wearing neither green and yellow, royal blue and white, cardinal and gold, or kelly green and white.
“This was a win over COVID,” Parkinson said, with a chuckle.