The Samohi Lady Vikings continued a strong postseason run with a top-four finish at the CIF Southern Section preliminaries. Credit: Samohi Lady Vikings

The Samohi Lady Vikings cross-country squad has extended its run into the depths of November, successfully landing in the top four squads of the CIF Southern Section preliminaries at Mt. San Antonio College Nov. 11. The third-place finish for the team secured a spot in the CIF Southern Section finals, to be held on the same Mt. SAC course Saturday at 8:45 a.m. If the Lady Vikings land in the top seven of 16 competing squads, Samohi will clinch a second-consecutive State Championships meet appearance.

At the preliminary meet, Samohi’s team score of 77 just missed out on second place, finishing one point above Vista Murrieta’s 76 score. Saugus was the victor of the third heat of Division 1, running away from the field with a team score of 49, placing its five scoring runners in the top 20 individually.

The Lady Vikings were once again led by junior Phoebe Benun, who took fourth overall individually with a time of 18:13.9 on the 2.93-mile course. Impressive depth behind Benun also helped secure the Southern Section finals berth, as seniors Matilde Martinez and Hawene Alomayehu, junior Cleo Topp and freshman Selin Kocataskin all finished in the top 25 placers. Kocataskin earned a spot on the varsity postseason roster thanks in part to her individual victory in the Bay League Finals girls freshman competition.

Credit: Samohi Lady Vikings

Last season, the team squeaked into the State Championships field at the Southern Section finals, finishing in sixth-place with a score of 211, only 16 points away from the cutoff eighth-place finisher Vista Murrieta (227). Benun’s second-place individual finish carried the squad, followed by Topp’s 38th-place finish and then-senior Francesca Whited’s 49th-place finish. Finishing off the scoring at the finals meet were Maeko Gross and Alomayehu, who stuck together to take 73rd and 74th place, respectively.

In the 2022 State Championships, held at Woodward Park in Fresno, the team took 11th overall in a Division 1 championships dominated by Buchanan, which placed four of its runners in the top 11 overall finishers. Benun finished in the top 10 with a sixth-place performance, a blazing pace of 17:45.9 at the 5,000-meter course. Topp was again second on the team with a time of 19:44.7, followed closely by Alomayehu at 19:45.5.

Thomas Leffler has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism from Penn State University and has been in the industry since 2015. Prior to working at SMDP, he was a writer for AccuWeather and managed...