Last season was historic for the Pacifica Christian cross-country program, whose girls earned a top-10 finish in their first-ever appearance at the CIF state meet.

And as far as coach Brandon Shaw is concerned, there’s even more potential success ahead for the Santa Monica private school this year.

His hunches were confirmed at the recent Brentwood Invitational, where the Seawolves snatched victories in the girls and boys races a year after placing second and ninth, respectively, in the annual event.

It was a monumental achievement for the program, which will head to Oregon in mid-October for the George Fox Invitational before participating in the annual Mt. San Antonio College Invitational in Walnut.

“Our teams have been working hard, and we just keeping moving forward,” said Shaw, a former Nike runner. “We were close to a CIF championship for the girls last year, and these victories are great to start the season. I am hopeful.”

Leading Pacifica on the girls side was Christie Caruana, who claimed the individual title by nearly a minute. The senior is primed for a standout campaign after taking 13th place overall at last year’s Division 5 state race with a time of 19 minutes, 16.8 seconds.

Caruana was the class of an invitational that also featured runners from Brentwood, Crossroads, New Roads, Windward and El Segundo-Vistamar, among other area schools.

But Caruana had help in bringing a team victory to the Seawolves, who recorded three other top-10 finishes on the girls side. Pacifica senior Caty Kaczor took fifth, junior Rodonna Flowers was sixth and junior Lily Reasner came in seventh. All four bring state experience to the squad this year.

On the boys side, senior Jake Esprabens paced Pacifica on a day when the team turned in four top-15 performances. Esprabens, who led the Seawolves to a league title in the 1,600-meter relay during the spring track and field season, finished the recent invitational in fifth place. Senior teammate Michael Mitchell crossed the finish line in 11th place, junior Dylan Mihalke followed in 12th and freshman Ben Reasner was next at No. 13.

Crossroads enters league slate

The Crossroads cross-country program got a glimpse of the future at its league opener Sept. 28 at Cheviot Hills Recreation Center in Rancho Park, where runners tested their skills in arguably the most competitive small-school conference in the region.

The Roadrunners took fourth place on the boys side behind Brentwood, North Hollywood-Campbell Hall and Calabasas-Viewpoint, hoping to make up time in the final stages of the race after utilizing a conservative strategy for most of the course.

Ethan Finkel carried Crossroads with a time of 15:17, which was good for fourth place individually. Coach David Olds’ squad also featured Malcolm Gossett (17th), Riley Olds (19th), Aristotle Hartzel (24th) and Tommy Graves (28th). The quintet’s time was 2:30 faster than the time logged by the school’s 2013 squad, which qualified for the state meet.

On the girls side, Crossroads claimed fifth place behind Chatsworth-Sierra Canyon. Roya Touran, Lucy Davis, Sadie Recht, Samantha Molina and Olivia Najafi scored points for the Roadrunners, who will be vying for a top-four finish in the league standings.

“With the intensely close competition for both the boys and the girls,” Olds said, “this could well be one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory.”

jeff@smdp.com

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