By Keith Lair, SGVN
There are three races every high school cross country team wants to win: a league championship and then CIF-Southern Section and CIF State titles.
But there is one midseason meet that every team also has on that wish list; the Mt. SAC Invitational.
“The biggest thing for us is to win the league (title) more than winning invitationals,” Glendora High School coach Don Sumner said. “But Mt. SAC is the biggest invitational that we want to do well in.”
The high school portion of the 65th annual meet begins today and continues through Saturday on the nearly 3-mile long course. More than 23,000 athletes from about 600 schools will take part.
“I think people really sense the history and tradition of it,” meet director Doug Todd said. “You can point out all these great athletes who have run in it and the course records mean something to the schools.”
The meet got a head start on Thursday night when Dave Casper of Baldwin Park, Tim Butler of Dana Hills and Bill Duley of Agoura were inducted into the meet’s Hall of Fame in a Baldwin Park ceremony.
Smaller Schools will compete this afternoon and Division 1 and 2 programs will take to the course on Saturday.
There will be 129 races this weekend on a course that goes through a valley loop twice, goes up hills called “The Switchbacks,” “Poop Out Hill” and “Reservoir Hill” and then finishes just south of the school’s football stadium.
“It’s not me or our staff,” said Todd, a Mt. SAC cross country coach who has been the meet director for 18 years. “I think it’s the place. You’re looking over all the great teams and the great names. It reminds me that we have had the best in the sport that have run here.
“We don’t own the meet. We just operate it.”
The best teams will compete in sweepstakes races and junior varsity national championship races. Races in divisions 3 through 5 for those titles will be today starting at 4:10 p.m. Races in divisions 1 and 2 will start at 9:18 a.m. on Saturday. The meet is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. today and at 7:09 a.m. on Saturday.
“It’s preparation for CIF,” Arcadia coach James O`Brien said. “It’s a dry run for us to get ready for the CIF Finals.”
The CIF-SS preliminary and final meets will be held on the same course next month.
Fifty-two San Gabriel Valley and Whittier-area teams will be competing, of which nine schools will send at least one of its teams to one of the featured races. Six valley schools – Arcadia, Ayala, Bonita, Flintridge Prep, Glendora and South Pasadena – are entered in all four featured races. Three single-sex schools, Alverno, Damien and Mayfield – have varsity and JV national teams competing.
Saturday’s boys team sweepstakes race will match seven of the top eight ranked teams in the CIF-SS Division 1, including No. 1 Arcadia and No. 3 California, and five of the top seven ranked CIF-SS Division 2 teams, including No. 1 Loyola, No. 5 Glendora and No. 6 Ayala.
“It’s a very competitive meet,” O’Brien said. “In team sweepstakes, it’s probably more competitive than the CIF Finals.
“I am not worried about losing and our team time is not that important. It’s how we run as a team, being able to find each other in the big pack and support each other.”
But there is much more after this meet, both O’Brien and Sumner said.
“We have not planned on peaking for Mt. SAC,” Sumner said. “At Mt. SAC we’re trying to get stronger and faster at the same time. I told the boys to do their best. There is no pressure on ourselves.”