Emma Ulfvengren and Jakob Pollack talk about winning the City cross country championships.
For Palisades High’s girls cross country team, the hardest part of Saturday morning’s City Section cross country championships wasn’t the winding three-mile course at Pierce College. It was the 40-minute wait to find out if the Dolphins had won for the third year in a row.
The delay was excruciating, but in the end it was worth it, for when results were finally posted Palisades had not only won the Division I race but had done so by a comfortable 29 points over second-place San Pedro.
“We’ve been training harder than anyone… on Saturday mornings while our friends were out doing other things we were in Santa Monica training,” said senior Emma Ulfvengren, who lives in the Alphabet Streets and took eighth overall in 19:45.18. “This makes it all worth it.”
Freshman Brittany Darrow was seventh in 19:44.39 and sophomore Kimia Samandi, who was held out of prelims the week before with a strained hip muscle, was three spots behind in 19:48.02, giving the Dolphins three top-10 placers.
“I was trying to be positive and just run as hard as I could,” said Samandi, who competed in the frosh/soph division at City finals last year. “I didn’t mind my time because of my hip but the adrenaline made it not hurt. Some of the switchbacks were tiring but I took advantage of the downhills as much as I could. Afterwards I could barely walk.”
“I would’ve liked to have broken 19 minutes but today was all about placement,” Darrow said. “I wanted to be the first freshman and I was. I doubted I’d be in the top 10 but I passed five girls in the last 200 meters.
For Coach Bob Macias, the victory was the sweetest because it was achieved without the best female distance runner in City history, Marissa Williams, now a freshman at Cal, who had been the security blanket for the Dolphins in their two previous team titles.
“Without Marissa we had to concentrate more on course strategy this year and it paid off,” Macias said. “I worked the girls really hard and I’m so proud of them.”
Kiana Billot was 23rd in 20:11.92, Shannon Lee was 26th in 20:24.42, Tatum Colby was 36th in 20:53.24 and junior Chelsea Levi was 37th in 20:54.98. “At the starting line I thought ‘You’re here for a reason,’” said Levi, who wasn’t in the varsity lineup for prelims.
The girls won’t be traveling alone to Woodward Park in Fresno for next Saturday’s state finals meet. They will be joined by the Dolphins’ varsity boys squad, which also took first place in Division I.
The boys finished with 91 points, edging Santee by five points to win their first City title since 2011.
“We knew we’d have a strong top three but what won it for us was our fourth and fifth runners,” said junior Jakob Pollack, who was fifth overall in 15:39.30 to nip freshman teammate Brent Smith (15:39.60). “Brent went out really fast and my goal was to keep him in sight and not kill myself trying to catch the leaders.”
Venice senior Paul Luevano repeated as champion in 15:01.19.
“I didn’t know he was coming up behind me and he got me by an inch,” Smith said. “I learned that you have to run your own race and every step matters. I wanted to be a little higher up but I didn’t think we’d win so it’s a big surprise.”
“After the first mile is where the race starts,” added Ben Hamer, who was eighth in 15:46.42, shaving over 20 seconds off his time of 16:07 at last year’s finals. “This is my favorite hilly course and I started off in the lead group.”
Rounding out Palisades’ scorers were Jack Hockley (16:49.83), Jake Greanias (17:12.56), Hunter Parker (17:20.99) and Jonathan Flores (18:06.08).
The frosh/soph girls also took first place with 55 points, led by 10th-graders Lulu Takei (eighth in 22:08.58) and Zoe Camporaso (ninth in 22:19.18).
“I’ve known Zoe since we were 5, she’s my best friend and I ran with her most of the way,” said Takei, who went to Canyon Elementary and Paul Revere. “This is my PR for this course.”
Ariel Pollack, Jakob’s sister and an El Medio Bluffs resident, won the junior varsity girls race in 21:03.96.
“Usually it’s hard for me because of heat and dust but I took the lead the first mile,” she said. “I was actually excited to run JV. I knew I had a good chance to win.”
— Steve Galluzzo
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