After securing a CIF Division 5 state cross country championship a year ago, the Xavier Prep boys’ cross country team was unable to defend its title Saturday, falling short of the podium finish that both coach Aron Lyons and senior David Stabile said was the team’s focus.
The Saints finished fifth overall at the meet in Fresno, taking fourth place out of teams hailing from the Southern Section. The week prior, Xavier Prep was disappointed in its third-place finish at the CIF Southern Section Division 5 finals.
Still, Lyons said that six of his seven runners set personal records for their times on the Fresno course. In reality, they couldn’t have asked for a much better day. A title defense or podium finish just wasn’t in the cards this year.
“Every year, I hope to be top two or three, so in that, a fifth place might look like a regression,” Lyons said. “What ended up happening isn’t that we overestimated our talents, but we underestimated the talents of some of the other teams.”
Xavier Prep had one of the shortest spreads between its first and fifth scoring runners at just under 45 seconds, but didn’t have enough strength toward the front to position themselves for their goal of second place.
As expected, Flintridge Prep took the state title in Division 5, placing four of its five scoring runners in the top 20 – all ahead of Xavier Prep’s top finisher. Flintridge Prep, who won the Southern Section title the week prior, finished with a team score of 43 points, more than comfortably in front of second-place Marin Academy of the North Coast Section, who had 168 points.
Desert Christian Academy of Lancaster followed in third with 176 points, followed by Woodcrest Christian with 191, as the Saints rounded up the top five teams with 220 points and a team time of 84:23, the third-fastest in school history.
Alex Rose led the team’s charge with a time of 16:28 in 27th, followed closely by Stabile at 16:35 (31st). Braulio Ramirez (17:03) took 68th, along with Gabe Rodriguez (17:11) in 75th and Ethan Gomez (17:13) in 81st to round out the scoring five. Michael Branconier (18:07, 137th) and Adrihel Ibarra (18:44, 163rd) also ran in the Saints’ state squad.
“They felt like they’d done as best as they could have,” Lyons said. “But I don’t think they felt resigned to fifth-place…The talk on the bus ride home was already turned to next year and how we’re going to improve upon that.
“I think they feel accomplished. There’s not a group of kids on our campus or here in the valley locally that could have done what they did over the past two years.”