boys varsity cross country team at league finals
Photos by David E. Hunzicker, Robert Benun, White's Studios and Kira Bretsky

Benun highlights hopeful girls XC squad

Samohi boys and girls cross-country teams have already started training for their upcoming season, with practices all summer long and a varsity trip to Mammoth. While both teams are expecting positive outcomes this season, the girls specifically had an exceptionally strong season last year.

After placing 11th in state last season, the Samohi girls squad has a hopeful season ahead of them. For the first time in team history, the team made it to CIF finals and then advanced to the state meet, which was a major accomplishment.

In the Bay League, and California in general, simply just getting past the league stages is tough. Coach Tania Fischer, who has been the head cross-country coach for almost 30 years now, doesn’t think people truly understand how difficult it is.

“Every time, it was almost a miracle that we made it to the next level,” Coach Fischer said.

Advancing far in CIF wasn’t the team’s only accomplishment. Earlier in the season, the team won Woodbridge, one of the biggest cross-country meets in Southern California.

Phoebe Benun, an incoming junior and the team’s top runner, placed first individually at Woodbridge. She then went on to place first individually at league finals and sixth individually at the final state meet. Benun was ranked top 15 in the entire state of California.

“In the history of Samo girls XC, she is our fastest girl ever,” Fischer said. “She is a team leader and helps the other girls believe that they can run fast.”

Having only lost one graduate, with many possible alternates, the squad will have an even stronger team next season. The girls varsity team has a younger composition than most, with the bulk of runners being incoming juniors.

The varsity team is an extremely tight knit group, building off each other, Fischer said. As last season unfolded, everyone got more confident, making improvements every single week.

“Our motto is ‘we love to have fun and run together.’ That has been the key to their success.”

Both boys and girls cross country teams will commence the fall season with the Cool Breeze Invitational on September 2.

Improvement on mind of girls golf unit

The Samohi girls golf team has high hopes for the fall season after seeing improvement last year. The girls did very well, closing the loss gap by at least 60 strokes from 2021. They also really gelled as a team, said Coach Roshni Mejia.

Unfortunately, two of the top players from last year recently graduated, meaning the team will have to re-develop.

“Our goal is to develop our team and bring in new players earlier on so we are not building from scratch every year,” said Coach Mejia.

At the moment, the top two players for the 2023 season are Junior Cash Henton and Sophomore Frances Aguilar. The team is hopeful about their upcoming season, and looking to have an improved season from the prior once again.

“Expect us to close our loss gap and perhaps even win a match this season,” Mejia said. “We are determined.”

Flanders’ farewell season at forefront of playoff push

Samohi boys water polo returns this fall with eyes set on the CIF playoffs.

Coach Matthew Flanders said last season was an “off year” for the team. The squad failed to reach the CIF playoffs, which was only the second time not going in 27 years.

Since then, the squad has had loads of improvement, with almost everyone playing club in the off season. Flanders has an extremely strong team to look out for, he said.

“All-American, All-CIF, All-League and Samohi scoring record holder Darragh Flanders returns for his last season,” Coach Flanders said. “He is joined by the powerful combo of Blase Londono, Pablo Rivera-Clark, Jackson Colby, and Joaquin Auger.”

This upcoming season, the team is hoping to place in the top three in the Bay League and make it to the CIF playoffs.

“We are looking to win as much as possible to send the class of ’24 off in style.”

Volleyball looks to avenge playoff defeat

Samohi girls volleyball ended strong last season, finishing fourth in the Bay League and advancing to CIF. However, the squad lost in the first round of playoffs after a challenging match against Chaminade High School. The hope is that another trip to the CIF playoffs will be in store for the Vikings this upcoming season.

Vikings coach Liane Sato was unavailable for this article. The Santa Monica Daily Press will follow up with the team later in the season.

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