February 24, 2024

Brett Ephraim questioned whether competing at the 75th Mt. SAC Cross-Country Invitational on Saturday morning at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut would be beneficial to his end goal this season, but after coming out on top in the featured race of the two-day event, the Division 1-2 boys’ team sweepstakes, the San Clemente senior was forced to reconsider.

Ephraim clocked a personal-best 14 minutes and 50 seconds on the hilly 2.93-mile course — an improvement of 13 seconds over his time at the same meet last year.

“This is such a prestigious race with so much history so to win it, it’s pretty special,” said Ephraim, who took the lead on the way up Reservoir Hill in the last mile. “I didn’t think it would be very helpful because we have our prelims and finals here, but in retrospect I’m glad I pushed myself to do it, and it gives me confidence going into the last month of the season.”

Ephraim finished one second ahead of Riverside King’s Maximo Zavaleta, who made a strong push in the last 50 meters in an attempt to catch the winner. Owen Frank of Mira Costa was third in 14:57.

“I’ve learned from running this course before that it’s not bad to start off somewhat slow and push harder on the downhill portion where you use less energy,” Ephraim added. “I like how the race played out.”

Last fall San Clemente ended Great Oak’s seven-year winning streak in the Division 1-2 boys’ team sweepstakes by a whopping 65 points, but the Tritons’ fifth runner, Kai Olsen, had a 101-degree fever Friday and finished well back in the pack Saturday, costing San Clemente a repeat. It settled for a score of 116, second to Great Oak’s 88. Gabriel Rodriguez (fourth in 15:02) and Jack Paradise (seventh in 15:10) were the Wolfpack’s top two runners.

Trabuco Hills was third with 135 points, Mira Costa was fourth with 164 and Glendora was fifth with 168.

Jason Parra of Long Beach Millikan set a blistering pace in the Division 1-2 boys’ individual sweepstakes race, running the first mile in 4:25 and building an 18-second lead at the two-mile mark, before being caught and passed by Trey Caldwell of Concord De La Salle, who made up 20 seconds over the last mile to break the tape in 14:49 — nine seconds in front of Parra. Omar Reyes of Oceanside El Camino was third in 15:07.

Millikan High's Jason Parra starts up the switchbacks at the one-mile mark in the Mt. SAC Cross-Country Invitational.

Millikan High’s Jason Parra starts up the switchbacks at the one-mile mark in the Mt. SAC Cross-Country Invitational.

(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

“The last mile was pretty tough, but it was all my fault — I went out a little too fast,” said Parra, who nevertheless led the Rams to first in the team scoring. “I felt good all the way through until that reservoir backstretch, then I just died. Next time I’ll start a tad bit slower. I was expecting to go under 14:40.”

Parra, a senior, was second to Reyes in the same race last fall when he ran 14:54 and Reyes won in 14:49.

Mia Torrecillas of Bakersfield Highland clocked 17:39 to win the Division 1-2 girls’ individual sweepstakes, beating El Toro’s Gweneth Williams by four seconds. El Toro (108) and Redondo Union (114) were the top two teams.

Braelyn Combe of Corona Santiago was the winner of the Division 1-2 girls’ team sweepstakes race with a time of 17:33 and with 81 points the Sharks were second to Claremont (65) in the team standings.

On Friday, reigning Division 4 state champion St. Francis won the Division 3-4-5 boys’ team sweepstakes race with a score of 74, led by Luke Metcalf (15:22) and Samuel Franco (15:29), who came in fifth and seventh overall, respectively.

Los Angeles Cathedral senior Emmanuel Perez clocked a stellar 14:38 — the fastest time all weekend — to help the Phantoms get second with 129 points in the Division 3-4-5 boys’ individual sweepstakes. Perez easily bettered the 14:50 he ran to win the CIF-SS Division 4 finals on the same course last fall but did not challenge the all-time Mt. SAC mark of 14:23 by Austin Tamagno of Brea-Olinda in 2014.

In the Division 3-4-5 girls’ team sweepstakes, South Pasadena (126 points) was second to San Diego Cathedral, paced by runner-up Abigail Errington’s 17:22. West Covina’s Becky Osorio (18:38) and Canyon Country Canyon’s Cynthia Herrera (18:41) took second and third, respectively, in the Division 3-4-5 girls’ individual sweepstakes field.

The Southern Section Division 2 and 3 prelims are Nov. 10, while the Division 1, 4 and 5 prelims will be Nov. 11 at Mt. SAC. Finals in all divisions will be Nov. 18 at Mt. SAC and the state meet will be Nov. 25 at Woodward Park in Fresno.

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