Vista del Lago’s girls’ cross country team has competed in the CIF State Cross Country Championships the last 10 years, twice finishing second in Division III in 2011 and 2017.
On Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno, the Eagles won the first state cross country championship in school history, outscoring Palos Verdes, 125-133, to win the title. Campolindo finished third with 167 points.
For historical purposes, the win was sweet because the Eagles finished ahead of Campolindo, who outscored the Eagles by 31 points to win the state title a year ago. In the Eagles’ first, second-place finish in 2011, Palos Verdes won the title by 40 points.
With six previous top-10 finishes at state, the Eagles finally broke through to win it this season.
“Our four, five, six, and seventh runners were the strongest we’ve ever had and that was the difference this year,” Vista coach Robert Grove said. “Our third, fourth and fifth runners all came in so close on Saturday and that’s what won us the meet. This group, all seven runners, were also the most mentally prepared for the state race in terms of having a positive attitude and a desire to achieve big things. The team chemistry is also the best we’ve had. This group is tight-knit and they care about each other and they were running for each other.”
Vista sophomore Anna Vogtmann led the way, as she placed 13th in 18 minutes, 44.4 seconds. Senior Rachel Burgoyne, running in her fourth state championship race, placed 23rd in 19:02.5. Junior Sophie Pelletier, senior Natasha Evans, and junior Maya Barragan finished within two seconds of each other to secure the title. Pelletier ran 49th in 19:34.3; Evans placed 52nd in 19:35.9, while Barragan was right behind in 53rd place in 19:36.3. Also running for the Eagles were junior Abby Carter (88th, 19:59.1) and senior Kendall O’Daniel (95th, 20:03.9).
When the team found out they had accomplished the goal they set early in the spring, it was time to celebrate.
“We were all super excited,” Evans said. “We were all yelling and laughing. We were thrilled. It’s a dream, and I’m still processing it. I’m really proud of the team. It’s amazing.”
Said Vogtmann, “It was great to win. We all worked extremely hard to get where we wanted, and none of us could have done it without each other.”
As Grove said, the team was ready to run.
“We knew who the competition was, but we didn’t let it get in our heads,” Evans said. “We focused on our race, not our opponents. Coach told us that we didn’t have to do anything crazy. He told us to run it like any other 5K and things will work out and they did.”
Vogtmann added, “Our team was very confident in our abilities to win state. We mainly focused on our minds and keeping each other positive. The schools from the south were great competitors, but I think we had a stronger team from first to seventh place runners.”
Grove was proud of his team’s performance.
“They performed like they had to and brought home the championship,” Grove said. “There’s a lot of pressure, hype, excitement, and chaos at the state meet, but they handled it well. It was an outstanding performance.”
Vista’s varsity boys also competed at the meet, placing 20th. Jonah Petersen led the team, as he finished in 71st place in 16:42. Ethan Karr managed a top-100 finish, as he placed 99th in 16:57.5. Stephen Northouse (114th, 17:05.2), James Junaidi (122nd, 17:10.2) and Jake Solak (154th, 17:32.5) also scored for the team. Brenden Jones ran 159th in 17:37.9, while Andrew Zimny rounded out the team by placing 184th in 18:06.2.
“The boys worked really hard to get to the state meet,” Grove said. “There were some solid performances in the group, and the young guys are excited to build on that for next season. We were not expected to be there at the beginning of the season, so they should be proud.”