It might not exactly be accurate to describe it as a changing of the guard, but there was a distinctly new flavor about the team championship picture at Saturday’s Avocado West League Cross Country Championship at Kit Carson Park in Escondido.
For the last five years, La Costa Canyon Coach Bill Vice’s boys and girls teams have run their way to the top of the podium at the league meet. Saturday, Vice’s troops wound up second and third as Canyon Crest, paced by the latest in a string of phenomenal performances by senior Carlie Dorostkar, nipped the Mavericks, 29-35, in the girls’ race while the deep, tightly-packed Torrey Pines boys’ scored 34 points, topping San Marcos (55) and a depleted LCC boys team, despite a fine individual showing by Maverick senior Andy Pueschel.
Vice was pragmatic when the results were in. “It’s been a long time,” he said, acknowledging his program’s run at the top of the Avo West. “I told Andy (Corman) that I was really proud of his CCA group, that’s a very good team.
“On the boys’ side, ‘what can you do?’ We had some guys out but those kind of things happen and Torrey Pines is a strong team that ran a strong race.”
With the 2019 CIF Championships slated for Saturday (Nov. 23) at Balboa Park’s Morley Field Course, here’s recap of last Saturday’s action in Escondido.
Avocado West Girls Division
Canyon Crest’s triumph, although by a narrow margin, was a result Corman had confidence his squad could pull off. “If we did what we can do, I knew that we could win,” said Corman in the aftermath. “But we still had to do it and I also knew that LCC and Torrey Pines had the capability—you can never discount either of those two.”
Of course, having a No. 1 like Dorostkar makes the proposition a bit easier. For the last two years, Dorostkar has been among the standouts in both the Avocado West League and San Diego section but, without a doubt, this fall, she has stamped it as her own and her team is looking to do the same.
After getting caught up in some early race traffic, Dorostkar veered to the outside of the pack and quickly put some distance between herself and the rest of the field. Opening up a gaping lead through the first mile and then pressing her foot to the floor, she clocked 17:28.6 for the three-plus mile course, finishing a minute and 13 seconds in front of second place teammate Elizabeth Emberger. All five of the Ravens’ scorers landed in the top 10 with Allison Rios grabbing seventh and Dorostkar’s twin sisters, freshmen Nikki and Sammi, crossing the line ninth and 10th respectively, the top first-year runners in the race.
Corman was ecstatic about the top-to-bottom work he saw from his charges. “Everybody ran the way they should,” he said straightforwardly. “We didn’t really need to have anybody make any major step-ups. The fact that everybody is doing what they can do is fantastic.” The winner’s post-race overview was typical of her humble personality.
“Winning the team title was definitely more exciting than finishing first,” she said. “We’ve never won the league before and this will definitely be a confidence booster for us leading up to CIF and State.” Her race went according to plan and she’s self-assured but not cocky about her outlook at CIF where she is the defending Division I individual champion.
“I was cautious at the start, maybe a little too cautious,” Dorostkar recalled. “I knew I had to get clear so I just went around people and took off. “I wasn’t really looking for a time today, just a fast, relaxed race—something that I felt good about.
“For next week, no predictions, I don’t have any,” she said. “Anything can happen. I’m going to give my all and I know my teammates are going to give all they have. Hopefully that will be enough to win.”
Based on her Avo West outing that should be more than enough. Looking like more of an “athlete” than strictly a runner, Dorostkar ran a smart, overpowering race and looked like she had plenty left in reserve at the finish. Her coach says it is no accident.
“It’s not one thing she’s done that’s gotten her to improve,” declared Corman. “You’re seeing someone who’s been very consistent about putting the mileage in, doing a lot of the little things right, like strength and conditioning, diet and getting sleep. She’s been improving every year. She’s still swimming, training with the boys because she’s able to keep up and becoming more and more of an athlete.
“She’s becoming kind of scary—and that’s great. She still has to perform, but she’s the top girl in the section and one of the best in the state.”
Emberger’s silver medal effort was particularly significant for CCA since she finished ahead of sophomores Kyra Compton of LCC and Annika Salz from Torrey Pines who both placed ahead of her at this affair in 2018. La Costa Canyon runners rounded out the top 10 with junior Sydney Weaber (5th) and sophomores Rebekah Niednagel (6th) and Georgia Patyna (8th).
With CCA and Torrey both in Division I, defending champion LCC figures to battle Poway and Mt. Carmel for the CIF D-II crown this Saturday.
Avocado West Boys’ Division
Pueschel’s victory in the boys’ competition was a popular one. With names like Caleb Niednagel and in previous years, the Stanford wins (Garrett & Jacob) hogging the headlines, the persistent Pueschel has more-or-less flown under the radar in his LCC career. Saturday, with the likely favorite Niednagel bedridden by illness, it was Pueschel’s time to shine and he took full advantage, capturing his first-ever major high school race.
“It feels really good,” he said after posting a 16:23.2. “I went out hard and tried to see what I could do. I could definitely feel the pressure od Sebastian Barclay and Nick Salz chasing me—I knew they weren’t going away.” He admitted that this was an unfamiliar scenario.
“Usually I’m catching people at the end and I like that, it’s a different feeling when you’re the one they’re trying to catch,” smiled Pueschel. “I looked back a couple of time which I hate doing.
“I was worried, but I felt I could hold them off. I just put my head down and tried to finish as strong as I could.