Vista rallies for second-place finish at state cross country championships

By: Matt Long of the Telegraph
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Before the CIF Division III state cross country championship race on Saturday, Vista del Lago coach Robert Grove told his team they didn’t have to do anything special. Just go out and run your race, Grove instructed them.

The girls didn’t listen.

Vista turned in a spectacular performance at Woodward Park in Fresno, as the Eagles placed second with 132 points, finishing 31 behind winner Campolindo. The second-place finished equaled the school’s best that they achieved in 2011 when they finished 40 points behind winner Palos Verdes.

“It was absolutely a team performance,” Grove said. “I thought a top-five finish would have been fantastic. For a top-three, they’d have to do something special and need some luck. It was a major team effort and just an outstanding team performance.”

Section champion Sydnee Kizziar had an off day, as she was uncharacteristically the team’s seventh runner, but as all good teams do in any sport, they pick up their teammates and that’s what the Eagles did.

Freshman Anna Vogtmann had a great race, as she placed ninth overall in 19 minutes, 15.3 seconds. Her finish was the best ever for a Vista freshman, topping Madeleine Ankhelyi’s 10th-place finish in 2009. Junior Rachel Burgoyne had arguably her best race of the season, as she finished exactly two seconds behind Vogtmann in 11th-place.

Senior Annaka Barragan might have had the best race of her life, placing 38th in 19:35.7. Sophomores Maya Barragan (41st, 19:38.4) and Sophie Pelletier (58th, 19:55.2) rounded out the scorers. Junior Natasha Evans ran 71st in 20:07.4, while Kizziar posted a time of 20:28.6 and placed 92nd.

“The night before, the girls were fairly emotionally discussing their goals and what they wanted to do,” Grove said. “They really wanted a top-three finish.”

While Vogtmann was the team’s top finisher, and Grove said Burgoyne was phenomenal, running one of her better races, Annaka Barragan’s performance stood out.

“I think Annaka had the performance of the day. She saw Sydnee wasn’t feeling well and stepped up. After not having the best league or section meet, Annaka came through. That last mile she passed a lot of other girls and that was the difference.”

Annaka said she ran a slow first mile, but when she saw her teammate Kizziar, she had to do something.

“I saw she needed some help,” Annaka said. “I passed her about a mile-and-a-half in and I said to her, “Come on Syd, let’s go.’ She told me that I needed to go and to think of the girls. That gave me motivation to pick it up and help the team so we could achieve what we wanted to, which was a podium finish. Before the race, we definitely thought we could do it, but we were nervous because we felt we all had to run good to do it.”

Burgoyne added, “Top three was our goal. Over the summer it was just a thought, but it was so exciting to actually do it. I’m beyond happy with how we did. We all worked so hard and that hard paid off. We left everything we had on the course and showed what we could do. We couldn’t have done it without our coaches. They’re the best coaches and they believed in us.”

Added Kizziar, “This team is undeniably special. We all share a common goal of being the best we can be. Our second-place finish is something memorable and well-deserved. We accomplished this with the incredible coaches we have and the talent on the team. I have full trust in my teammates. If one of us isn't having a good race, the others will step up and help the team. That's how special our team is.”

On the boys’ side, Vista placed 14th overall, led by Jack Hacker’s 25th-place finish in 16:20. Ben Kizziar and Jonah Petersen finished in 91st and 92nd place, posting times of 17:00.4 and 17:02.1, respectively. Brad Waterman (126th, 17:20.7) and Brenden Jones (156th, 17:47.3) rounded out Vista’s scoring runners. Nathan Koning (169th, 18:00.5) and Ethan Karr (200th, 19:31.2) also ran.

“It’s so competitive on the boys’ side; so deep and so tough,” Grove said. “Jack had a good day, but no one had a great day. The boys ran well. They were the top team from the section and performed well. It’s hard not to look back and think they had a better year than anyone expected. I’m proud of Jack and Ben. They were fantastic leaders.”