SAN MARINO — La Cañada High and South Pasadena proved they're the two cross-country programs to beat in the Rio Hondo League this season.
The squads proved that at their first league meet of the year, Sept. 23 at Lacy Park in San Marino.
Six schools competed in Rio Hondo competition, but both of La Cañada's teams placed in the top two, a feat South Pasadena was also able to accomplish.
The Spartans boys' varsity squad's 32 points was enough to push them in front of the Tigers (42), who came in second. South Pasadena wasn't to be outdone twice in one day, as their girls' team notched 31 points to claim first place. La Cañada accumulated 37 points for second.
Both varsity teams for La Cañada can attribute their success to their top three runners, as the Spartan teams had three runners in the top five of each of their respective races.
For the boys, junior Brendan Green (16 minutes, 16 seconds) and seniors Adam Skaggs (16:17) and Andrew Fisher (16:22) finished within six seconds of one another, taking second, third and fourth place, respectively.
"Our runners did what they needed to do today, all the way down to our No. 5 guy [Anton Cwik]," Boys' Coach Mike Thatcher said.
Thatcher dubbed Cwik, a senior, "MVP of the day" after he held off South Pasadena's top five, along with sixth and seventh runners to seal a Spartan victory.
"There was a point in the race where South Pasadena's top five, six and seven were nipping at [Cwik's] heels, and if he gives up that point we don't win the race," Thatcher said.
The Tigers did more than nip, they actually passed Cwik at one point, but he was able to regain the lead, realizing a first-place finish depended on it.
"I knew it was going to be close overall, but I had to do everything I could for the team," said Cwik, who finished (13th; 17:07), seven seconds behind fellow teammate and senior Erick Lankey (10th; 17:00).
Cwik chuckled when he heard Thatcher had crowned him as the day's MVP.
"There were four guys who ran better than me," Cwik said. "I was just happy I was able to contribute to the team."
The Spartans boys' varsity team jumped out to a good start in its first league meet of the 2010 season, as they're gunning for their seventh straight league championship.
"La Cañada has won league for six years in a row, and we don't want to be the team to lose it," Skaggs said.
Things didn't go as well for the Spartan girls' squad, even though three of its runners finished in the top five.
"We ran well," said senior Meghan Fuelling, who led the way, placing second (19.22). "South Pas is really tough competition, but I think we can get them next time."
Coach Andy DiConti was pleased to see his team execute its game plan even though they came in second.
"I was really happy to see them show their patience," he said. "They ran smart and started picking it up when they were supposed to after that first mile."
Anna Frederich impressed DiConti, as she was able to take fourth place (19:33), as the freshman has never raced at Lacy Park before.
Not far behind Frederich were seniors Holly Shreckengast (19:43) and Courtney Schulte (19:52) who took fifth and eighth place, respectively.
This year, the team runs as a collective unit instead of following a superstar, as they have in previous years, Shreckengast said.
"As a team, this is the strongest group I have ever been apart of," Shreckengast said. "Since the top four of us are all so close we can all run together as a unit, as opposed to having to push ourselves individually."
DiConti likes what he's seen so far, but still wants to see which runners will be able to finish closer to Fuelling, Frederich, Shreckengast and Schulte, who all ran within 30 seconds of each other. Their fifth best runner finished 18th, a 1:13 behind Schulte.
"I think what we're doing is fine; we're not going to rethink anything it's just trying to figure out that fifth position," DiConti said. "We have enough time to figure out how we're going to fill out that fifth spot."