LA CRESCENTA — With high winds whipping dust and dirt directly into the faces of the participants in Saturday morning’s 46th annual Staub/Barnes Cross-Country Invitational at Crescenta Valley Park, perhaps it would have been easy to assume there weren’t many favorable results.
Surprisingly though, local entrants from Burroughs, Crescenta Valley, Glendale and Hoover highs all turned in strong efforts, led by the Falcons and Indians.
Senior Matt Manalo proved the lone local victor, as the usual No. 3 runner for Crescenta Valley filled in nicely for rested top runners Gabe Collison and Nick Beatty by winning the varsity Division I race in a time of 15 minutes, 54.03 seconds.
The win came as a bit of surprise to Manalo, who posted the best time of any area runner.
“I’m not used to going out and taking the lead. I’m used to seeing Gabe and Nick ahead of me,” Manalo said. “After about the first mile, when I saw that I was in first, I knew I’d have a chance to win this.”
Manalo was neck-and-neck with Burroughs senior Ricky Mendez half a mile into the race before pulling ahead comfortably at the mile mark over Del Campo’s Edward Chance.
Eventually, Manalo built a 10-second lead over runner-up Chance, who finished in 16:06.03.
Manalo was joined in the top 10 by fellow Falcon Manav Vats (sixth, 16:28.18), as Crescenta Valley took the bronze with 79 points.
While Mendez didn’t catch Manalo, he and his teammates one-upped the Falcons by tying for first with Del Campo with 49 points in the Division I race.
Del Campo was awarded first place, though, because of the sixth-runner tie-breaker rule.
“It was really tough out there with all the dust flying in your face,” said Mendez, who finished fourth (16:23.69).
Burroughs had four additional top-20 finishers in Shane Thompson (fifth, 16:28.18), Elias Hoxsie (ninth, 16:33.26), Garrett Boulais (11th, 16:34.18) and Everth Vargas (20th, 17:06.94).
Hoover and Glendale renewed their intracity rivalry in the Division II race, as the Tornadoes looked stronger, taking second with 51 points.
Hoover junior Vladimir Climasevschii was the top local runner, taking fourth in 17:26.41.
“Honestly, I’m not looking for top-10 finishes or great times or anything like that,” Climasevschii said. “All I’m trying to do is run my best.”
Climasevschii was on three Tornadoes to place in the top 15 along with seniors Andrew Alvarado (seventh, 17:39.84) and Daniel Ramas (13th, 18:05.28).
As for the Nitros, while they didn’t field a full team, they still received worthy efforts from junior Liam Spires (sixth, 17:38.59) and sophomore Paulo Vasquez (eighth, 17:40.31).
“It’s nice to break a personal record, especially under these conditions,” said Spires, whose course-best time heading into Saturday was 17:48.
On the girls’ side, Falcons junior Megan Melnyk posted the area’s best time of 19:25.56 in taking fifth in the Division I race, which was won by Canyon Country Canyon standout Natalie Rodriguez (18:29.18).
“It’s nice to get some variety,” Melnyk said. “It’s different to run with this wind and it’s also nice to compete against teams we don’t normally see.”
Junior Haley Witzeman was Crescenta Valley’s No. 2 runner, finishing ninth (20:04.18) in the Division I event for the fourth-place Falcons (106 points). Canyon won the event with 29 points.
Hoover, Burroughs and Glendale squared off in the Division II girls’ race, where the Tornadoes flexed their muscles in earning third with 65 points, comfortably ahead of the 94 points from the fourth-place Indians and the Nitros, who did not place.
The Tornadoes packed four runners in the top 15 in Lucik Minassian (10th, 21:56.31), Megan Mirkhanian (11th, 22:05.31), Preny Rigianian (14th, 22:26.89) and Renee Sallakian (15th, 22:36.22).
“It felt like a Pacific League race because you had Glendale and Burroughs here,” Minassian said. “Maybe that was a good thing because we ran better.”
Sandwiched in between the Hoover four-pack were Indians runners Dayanna Yanez (12th, 22:19.88) and Miranda Acosta (13th, 22:24.53).
“It was hard to breathe or see sometimes with all the dust,” Yanez said. “All you could do is keep running.”
Junior Caroline Cubero (23rd, 23:26.94) was Glendale’s top runner.