After three top-11 finishes from 2008 to 2010, including a third place trophy in 2009, it was only fitting the Golden Valley boys cross-country team would strike gold this year.
And that’s exactly what they did, taking down the defending champions in Loyola High. The win was no surprise, though. With their top seven of their top runners returning from last year and a work ethic second to none, many expected great things from this squad heading into this fall.
They didn’t disappoint.
On Saturday, senior Juan David Garcia and junior Nolan Del Valle both earned all-state first team honors, Garcia’s finishing time of 15 minutes, 32 seconds on the 5,000-meter course at Woodward Park tying #10 all-time in Santa Clarita history while Nolan Del Valle ran to the eleventh fastest ever with a 15:35 clocking.
The Grizzlies usual #1 runner, Kristian Martinez, fought against illness to cross in 15th place in 15:41, while teammates Carlos Lopez and Brendan Tinoco finished in 39th and 52nd. The top five scorers combined for a team time of 79:05 is the second fastest in valley history, only behind last year’s state runner-up team, Saugus, who galloped to a 78:42 SCV record at Woodward Park.
Before the California State Cross Country Championships, though, the Golden Valley boys made history through the entire cross country season this fall.
In October, lead by Martinez’s new SCV record of 14:50 at Mt. San Antonio College, which topped Dave Hartman of Canyon’s 1990 record, the squad won the division two team sweepstakes title, the only squads that ran faster were Rancho Cucamonga and defending Nike Cross National champions Arcadia.
Two weeks later, Golden Valley snapped Saugus’ string of five-year consecutive Foothill League championships, Martinez, Garcia, Del Valle and Lopez sweeping the top four places. No team has been that dominant since the Canyon boys went one through three in a decade ago.
At the CIF Southern Section Prelims, they easily won their heat, Martinez, Garcia and Del Valle running 2-3-4 against a very talented field. Once again, only defending state champions Loyola bettered their performance that day.
A week later, the program made history. Golden Valley and Martinez won their first Southern Section championship, the first of any kind in school history. Martinez didn’t duplicate his record-setting day from a month later; however, his time of 14:54 was the third fastest of the day, only behind Saint John Bosco’s Danny Martinez (14:36) and Sergio Gonzales of Arcadia (14:51). Meanwhile, teammate Garcia had a huge day, breaking the historical 15-minute barrier, his time of 14:59 making him the sixth SCV runner to do so. Behind the dynamic duo, Del Valle and Lopez ran to significant personal records, Del Valle earning All-Southern Section honors in 15:19 and Lopez just missing in 12th (15:25). Brendan Tinoco rounded out the top five with a 16:01 clocking, while teammates Aaron Nguyen (16:04) and Gabe Levy (16:35) finished 49th and 86th in a tremendous field. Their team time of 76:42 is a new Santa Clarita Valley record as well.
Also in the race was Hart High of Newhall, who made their first trip to the state meet since 1994. Lead by another sensational performance by senior Sam Peckham, the Indians finished a solid seventh and should be a powerhouse next fall. However, let’s focus on this year’s finish first. Although most of Peckham’s season was a disappointment, his last two were the best of his young career. Last week, the standout ran a time of 15:16 at Mt. SAC to earn All-Southern Section first team honors, then a week later, ran 15:39 over the 5,000-meter course at Woodward Park to cross 12th in a loaded field. Teammate Austin O’Neil also enjoyed a great day as the senior improved on his 15:59 all-time best run in October. He clocked 15:47 to finish 25th, while Billy Walker, a junior, took 68th in a time of 16:26.
Mac Kaufman finished 79th in 16:30, one of the fastest marks over the Woodward Park course by a freshman in SCV history, freshman Ruben Rubira took 115th in 16:47 and Josh Sherfey, a junior for the Indians, crossed in 16:51 to finish in 122nd and Sean Scofield took 131st in 16:55. Their combined top five team time of 91:09 is one of the top 15 fastest in Santa Clarita Valley history, as well.