By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
As she started up the final hill with a quarter of a mile to go in last Saturday’s City Section Division I girls cross country final, Palisades High sophomore Miranda Schriver was right where she wanted to be—one step ahead of Granada Hills freshman Sofia Abrego, who had beaten her by 14 seconds at the Mt. SAC Invitational in October.
The runners disappeared from view to complete the loop towards the finish and when they came back into the line of sight Abrego had pulled away to emerge victorious in a wire-to-wire duel that saw the defending City champion and her young challenger exchange the lead multiple times on the twisting three-mile course at Pierce College.
Abrego was first into the chute in 17:33.81, Schriver was second in 17:40.39, teammate Sarah Bentley was third in 18:11.18 and Brittany Darrow was seventh in 18:49.58, giving the Dolphins three top 10 finishers in an expanded field of 101 runners. When the team scores were tabulated, Palisades had 46 points—three more than Granada Hills—but celebrated nonetheless after earning its seventh consecutive trip to the state meet this Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno.
“Sofia was ahead most of the way and I told myself I’d catch her on that last part but she totally took it,” said Schriver, who won last year’s individual title in 18:18.30 to become the fifth Palisades girl in six years to take first place, joining 2012-14 winner Marissa Williams and 2016 champion Lila Copeland. “I felt good on the uphills but she got me on the downhills. I improved my time by 20 or 30 seconds so I’m happy when I get a PR on any course but I’m more happy about the team—I didn’t want to go to state alone. I’m glad we’ll all get to go together.”
It was an equally satisfying race for Bentley, who was sick at last year’s finals but ran anyway and helped the Dolphins secure second, 15 points behind the Highlanders.
“I didn’t want to go out too fast and die at the end,” said Bentley, a junior and two-time City 3200-meter champion in track. “I was focused on keeping my place. I’ll try to improve on my time for state.”
Bentley enjoys the workouts up Bienveneda, through Will Rogers and in Temescal Gateway Park and believes having league meets at Pierce this season helped prepare her team for Saturday.
“You can never take anything for granted but we knew if we put forth our best effort we’d have a good chance,” she said. “It wasn’t super hot today like usual, which is nice. For me, it’s about running even splits and taking advantage of the downhills.”
Darrow, a senior who won the City 800 meters in the spring, got jostled in the initial 50-yard sprint to the switchbacks, forcing her to abandon her pre-race strategy.
“I wanted to start off conservative and sort of ease my way into it but that was a mistake,” said Darrow, who shattered her previous-best at Pierce by 27 seconds. “I almost tripped in the beginning so I was like ‘screw my race plan.’ I was right with Granada’s third girl so I told myself to stay with her and beat her at the end. We started the season so far behind Granada Hills and they killed us at Woodbridge so even though we didn’t win I’m satisfied because we kept the [state] streak going. We were seeded third and got second, so how could I be upset?”
Jessica Bierschenk (19:42.97) was 16th, fellow senior Holland Mueller (19:47.46) was 18th, junior Elisa Kim (20:02.37) was 22nd and senior Skylar Smith was 26th in 20:42.79 for the Dolphins, who were second in 2012 and won four straight from 2013-16.
In the Division I boys race, Palisades senior Brent Smith ran into the record books, finishing third for the second straight year (both in an identical time of 15:40) to become only the second male in City finals history to place in the top 10 four times, matching the feat of San Pedro’s David Rosales from 2007-10.
“This was a very strategical race, it was physical and at first I didn’t do as good as I thought,” he said. “Distractions hit me like a truck my senior year. I’ve raced here since 7th grade, I know every turn, every hill. I failed a lot, but I succeeded a good amount also.”
Palisades was fourth with 85 points. Granada Hills won with 53 and El Camino Real and Marshall tied for second with 64. Palisades sophomore Mason Cadden was 11th in 15:57 and freshman Alec Schmitt (16:15.16) was 17th.
Jose Sevilla (16:35.87) won the frosh/soph boys race, Tierney Smith (20:09.64) won the frosh/soph girls and Cassandra Hernandez was No. 2 in the JV girls race.