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Wolfpack girls cross country win third state title

The temperature hovered around 60 degrees and there was a slight mist on Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno. Not exactly the best weather for a leisurely stroll, but as it turns out, it was ideal for a footrace.

At 10 a.m. the best of the best CIF Division 2 girls cross country runners came to the starting line for the 2018 CIF California State Cross Country Championships.

About 25 minutes later it was all over, and the Claremont Wolfpack girls had snagged their third consecutive state team title, only the second D2 team ever to pull off that feat.

Maddie Coles had another remarkable race over the rolling 3.1-mile course, claiming a second place individual title at 17.44.8, just 22 seconds behind the winner, senior Kristin Fahy of La Costa Canyon at 17.22.6. Third place went to Granada’s Colleen McCandless at 17.47.8.

For Coles, it was the first time she had ever seen the course—the Pack skipped the Clovis Invitational this year to compete in the Eastern States Girls Championship. It was also the first time she had raced against most of the 203 girls in the pack.

Her plan was to get out front quickly and try to hold on. For much of the race she paced McCandless until the final few hundred meters when she made her move, building a three-second lead over the senior from Livermore. Fahy gapped the field well before the halfway point and never looked back.

“I just wanted to stay in the top group, but I got a little tired so I held back to save some energy,” Coles said. “I was neck-and-neck with this one girl. In the last 300 meters or so I kind of got into my stride and just sped off.”

The victory also means that they will be returning for a second year to Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) this Saturday in Portland, Oregon. Last year the Pack finished fourth, so there will be some pressure to pick it up a notch and get on the podium.

“We knew going into this year we were going to be very strong and it was on the girls’ minds from the very beginning, I think from the end of last season, that they wanted to go after another state title, and go back to Nike Nationals,” Coach Jose Ancona said. “They worked hard and they looked really strong. Our freshman Maddie Coles started to look better every week and before we knew it we had a CIF champion and a number-two runner up at state.”

Four days after the state meet, Coles still seemed a bit surprised by the events of the past two weeks.

“It’s definitely something exhilarating, it’s something you work for. I didn’t go into state with super high expectations because I knew there were a lot of girls, and teams, that were really fast. I kind of shocked myself,” she said.

“She basically ran like a seasoned veteran, she sat in that front pack and when it was time to make a move, with about 200 meters, she passed the girl who was in second,” Coach Ancona said.

Behind Coles for the Pack were junior Azalea Segura-Mora, 14th at 18:13.1, senior Sydney Hwang, 20th at 18:18.6, senior Kalinda Reynolds, 26th at 18:29.6 and senior Julia Marriott, 42nd at 18:44.8.

“We had a one-minute spread [between the scoring runners.] Usually our pack is very tight with a 30- or 20-second gap. But one reason for the spread being so large is due to the fact that Maddie was running so far ahead,” Coach Ancona said.

Claremont scored 82 points, narrowly edging past Granada High School at 95. Rounding out the top five were Mission Viejo, third at 135 points; Serrano, fourth at 146; and La Costa Canyon, fifth at 153. Cross country powerhouse Saugus—who have nine state titles and more podium finishes than any other D2 team—had a somewhat off year, placing sixth.

Coles’ time is the second fastest for Claremont on the Woodward Park course, right behind Hwang who ran a 17:35 at the Clovis Invite in 2016. Hwang and Segura-Mora are the only runners who have been on all three state champion teams.

“I am very excited but a bit nervous,” Hwang said about returning to Nike Cross Nationals. “Even with how good we were last year, this year is even better, but every year is special.”

For all the fanfare over the girls’ victory, one cannot underestimate the incredible season the boys team had. Following their second place last week in the CIF Southern Section finals, they capped the year with a third place trophy on Saturday.

CHS scored 101 points behind winner Newbury Park, 77 points and La Costa Canyon, 90 points. The Wolfpack moved up from the team’s fourth-place finish last year.

Senior Ryan Cowgill paced the Wolfpack with his 13th place finish at 15:33.5, followed by junior Adam Trafecanty, 19th at 15:42.2; senior Aaron Reyes, 26th at 15:47.2; senior Jacob Moran, 33rd at 15:49.4; and senior Vicente Huerta, 43rd at 15:57.1.

“We are really proud of the boys at the state meet,” Coach Ancona said. “All of our five scorers ran a personal best, which is pretty incredible. The fact that they finished third was a bit disappointing, because their eyes were looking at Nike Nationals as well. We could not have asked for a better day, but everyone else just ran really well. Almost any other year they would be state champs.”

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com