PaliHi Cross Country Teams Headed to State Finals (Video)

By Sue Pascoe

The cross-country program at Palisades High School notched a major achievement on November 18 as the boys and girls teams both qualified for the state finals in Fresno this Saturday.

In a surprise, the Pali boys team finished a close second to El Camino Real, 65-68, in the City Section finals at Pierce College. The second-ranked girls team also placed second, to top-ranked Granada Hills, 53-68.

The top two teams in city qualify for state.

PaliHi freshman Miranda Shriver won the girls title (running 18:18.30 on the 2.92-mile course) and senior Ben Hamer finished second among the boys (15.24:36) behind defending champion Justin Hazell (15:14.75) of El Camino.

“It’s nice to go to the state with two teams,” said Pali Head Coach Bob Macias.



Boys Cross County

“We’re in guys!” Macias told the boys after tabulations were finished. “I’m so proud of you guys–we’re state bound!”

The Dophins exceeded expectations, missing first place by only three points and finishing well ahead of Granada Hills (75 points). According to November rankings sent out by the City Section, the Palisades boys team was ranked fifth behind Granada Hills (first) and El Camino (second).

City Section officials wrote about Pali: “Ran to win at Western League, so times not fast, but good top two and nice young depth has Dolphins hoping for another trip to Fresno.” The rankings also had El Camino’s Hazell as the favorite to win.

“We almost came up and won it today,” Macias told the News. “We ran our hearts out.”

PaliHi boys cross country team with city plaque—also headed to states.

The boys team had been struggling this season. Three of the team’s returning runners–Hamer, Brent Smith and Finn Cawley–had to deal with injuries. In Hamer’s case, he partially tore his Achilles in preseason and has been rehabilitating it ever since by cross training, largely biking and swimming.

“This is not my favorite course, I’m not so good on hills,” said Hamer, a New Zealander who will graduate in December. Last year he ran a 15:43.46 and finished eighth.

Hamer didn’t compete until mid-October at Bell Gardens, where he finished second out of 226 runners with a 4:57 pace. Now he’s looking forward to running at State with his team.

“Our freshmen did ridiculously well, and Alex (Stewart) will be up there as well,” Hamer said, noting that the Dolphins hope to finish in the top quarter in Fresno, where the competition is intense.

Smith, a junior, played a key role for the Dolphins by finishing third (15:40.31). “It was tough, a real challenge, but I did it for my coaches and my team,” he said. “I’m excited by how well I could push it. It was a good race overall, a good team race. We pulled through.”

Pali had two freshmen in the race–Mason Cadden (15th) and Lucas Shriver (18th)–plus senior Finn Cawley (30th) and sophomore Stewart (36th).

Girls Cross Country

Miranda Shriver, a graduate of the outstanding running program at Paul Revere Middle School, showed she’s the real deal. “I really like this course,” she said. “It’s a good combination of uphill and downhill, and it gives a good chance to get past certain opponents.”

“I’m really excited for state,” Shriver continued, noting that it hasn’t been easy getting up for early-morning practice on Saturdays the past few months. “I’ve been working really hard.”

The Pali girls team had won the last four City Section Division I cross-country titles, but Coach Macias admitted, “I was nervous on the girls’ side. Not on ability, but on illness/asthma.” The Pierce course is extremely dusty, especially after such a long dry summer and fall.

“I am proud of their effort,” he said.

Palisades High School girls cross country, a second-ranked team in the city, also placed second in the finals to top-ranked Granada Hills, 53-68.

Assistant Coach Gwendolyn Twist said, “We were battling some sickness today, and Granada was definitely out for us. They had a great race. But, I’m proud of how the girls battled through. We plan to get everyone healthy for Fresno.”

Senior Kimia Samandi (19:18.95) was the second fastest Dolphin, finishing 14th. “This was much harder than the prelims because we didn’t run against Granada or San Pedro,” she said. “There were a lot of nerves today.”

Samandi struggled as she neared the finish line. “I went so hard up the [final] hill because I knew this was the last time I’d run this course, and then after that everything was blurry,” she said.

Other runners for Pali included sophomore Elisa Kim (16), junior Brittany Darrow (17), junior Jessica Bierschenk (20), junior Skyler Smith (36) and sophomore Sarah Bentley (41).

Losing only Samandi next year, the Pali girls should be poised to regain the city championship.

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