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CHS cross country teams step it up, win state

Claremont High School cross country coach Bill Reeves has been telling his team all season not to peak too early. But boy, when they did, the results were spectacular as both the boys and girls teams won the Division Two State Meet on Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno.  

Coming just one week after the girls team won the CIF Southern Section Division Two title, the dual win was the crowning achievement of a charmed season.

Senior Owen Bishop won the boys race at 15:15, setting a personal record and slaying some dragons in the process. Bishop has been in a bit of a duel with Ayala’s Steven Khan, finishing second to the Bulldog runner in both the Palomares League finals and the CIF Southern Section meet.

With about 800 meters to go on Saturday, he was determined not to be second again. In a tight pack with four other runners including Kahn, Bishop felt good and decided to make a move.

“Coming into the final stretch I was right next to him [Khan] and I was thinking ‘I’m not going to be second again,’” Bishop said during practice Tuesday afternoon.

Bishop broke away with 400 meters left, but still had some doubts about being able to hold on.

“Once you are in the lead, it is pretty sketchy because you can’t see if anyone is making a move on you. So I was coming in with 100 [meters] to go, and I was definitely looking over my shoulder. I know I’m not supposed to, but I just could not believe I was going to win,” he said.

Bishop has been competitive for years, but had never won before, saving his biggest performance for the race that meant the most.

“With a mile to go I thought he could win so with 400 [meters] to go I yelled, ‘Do your own kick.’ He is known for having speed at the end of races, so he kicked, and he won.” said Coach Reeves.

It’s a good thing that Bishop was so determined because Claremont only narrowly defeated second-place Loyola 97-107, with West Ranch taking third at 140. Khan came in fourth with a time of 15:22; the next Claremont runner into the gate was Ryan Renken at 15:31 for ninth place.

The girls ran a solid team race, finishing in a tight pack that guaranteed no other team would be able to compete. Of the top 12 teams, Claremont had the smallest gap, just 59 seconds, between the slowest and the fastest runners.

“We had seven girls in front of Saugus’ fourth girl, and that is what did it,” Coach Reeves said.

Annie Boos was the first Claremont runner to cross the finish line in 14th place, with Sydney Hwang right on her heels followed by Azalea Segura-Mora. The girls’ combined score of 104 was a solid 43 points ahead of second-place Saugus and 51 points ahead of third-place Canyon.

Claremont’s double victory came as a spoiler for the Saugus Centurions, who were poised to win a record-breaking 10 state meets.

“Spectacular,” was how Coach Reeves described his team’s performance.

“Going into the state meet, I thought if we were healthy we would have a chance to compete and win,” said Coach Reeves. “Today I thought that if we didn’t win I would have been disappointed but the fact that we won both, I am a bit shocked.”

“Division Two is so competitive, you never expect to win both sides,” added Assistant Coach Jose Ancona.

Bishop, Renken, Ryan Cowgill and Jonah Evans all got personal records for the Woodward Park course. Additionally, Segura-Mora knocked a minute off of her best time and Hwang also charted a PR.

In the end, it was a big team effort that led Claremont to victory following a somewhat disappointing result last year when the Pack got dual fourth places, just missing a podium appearance by one spot.

“This has been about 13 or 14 years in the making,” Coach Ancona said. “Every year, we got a little bit better and when Coach Reeves came along he tweaked it just enough.”

That team effort was also apparent in Bishop’s summary of his big day: “I wanted to do it for the team, and first place is the fewest points I can score for the team.”

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com