Ankhelyi places third, Vista takes six at championships

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Madeleine Ankhelyi placed third individually and Vista del Lago’s cross country team earned a sixth-place finish at Saturday’s state cross country championships at Woodward Park in Fresno.

For a team that has battled nagging injuries throughout the lineup all season, the Eagles came together one last time for a superb performance.

“We weren’t even ranked in the top-10 coming in and we ended up sixth,” Vista coach Robert Grove said. “We ran about as well as we could.”

On top of the sixth-place finish, the Eagles finished well in front of Del Oro, who kept Vista from winning a third straight section championship two weeks ago. Del Oro ended up 12th.

Making her final appearance at the state race, Ankhelyi had high expectations coming in after placing third last year. With the goal to win the race, Ankhelyi was slightly disappointed that she only managed her second straight third-place finish.

“Obviously, I’m bummed, but going in I didn’t feel the greatest so I was just happy to be on the podium again,” Ankhelyi said. “It was bittersweet. I had some breathing problems and had trouble getting enough oxygen late in the race.”

Ankhelyi said the top-two finishers, Sydney Segal of Beverly Hills (17:40) and Bethan Knights of Northwood (17:49), broke away from her about a mile-and-a-half into the race and she couldn’t go with them. She later gained some ground, but she didn’t have enough for the final 800 meters. Ankhelyi finished in 17:54.

“I really started to feel sluggish and I couldn’t catch them,” Ankhelyi said. “I wasn’t able to get enough oxygen into my body.”

 “Madeleine had a lot of expectations coming in and although she didn’t meet them, I’m very proud of what she accomplished,” Grove said. “She didn’t have her best race, but she ran tough. She still had a great season and a great high school cross country career.”

Vista’s No. 2 runner, junior Clare Carroll, placed 28th with a time of 19 minutes, while sophomore Sierra Jaeger ran 71st in 19:39. Senior Jennifer Morgan placed 73rd in 19:41 and freshman Alayna Gocke, the team’s final scorer, ran 108th in 20:15, a respectable time for a freshman competing in her first state meet.

Carroll ran despite being far from 100 percent healthy, showing her courage and toughness. Injuries kept her from training for the section race two weeks ago and on top of her injuries, she was stung by a bee before the race.

Nearly everyone on the squad battled injury during the season, including Jaeger, who had calf issues early in the season and later injured her knee. The injury kept her out of action for a few weeks, before re-aggravating the injury at the section meet.

Like Ankhelyi, for Morgan it was her fourth appearance at the state meet. Morgan wrapped up an outstanding career with a solid finish, adding to her previous finishes of 67th (19:18) as a freshman, 32nd (18:56) as a sophomore and 54th (19:28) as a junior.

Juniors Michaela Reynolds and Megan Howell rounded out Vista’s runners; finishing in 124th and 125th, respectively, with the identical time of 20:37. It was their finish that put the Eagles in sixth place, as Vista originally finished in a three-way tie for fifth. The time of the sixth runner decides the final finishing order.

Reynolds’ time was her personal-best for a 5-kilometer course and this after overcoming a upper-respiratory infection she’s battled the last few weeks. Reynolds’ and Howell’s time of 20:37 was faster than the time of the Eagles’ sixth runner a year ago, showing good development for the program.

“I was excited for the team’s sixth-place finish,” Ankhelyi said. “We’ve been riddled with injuries and to finish sixth was exciting.”

Vista senior Zach Jaeger represented the boys’ team for the second year in a row and wrapped up his high school cross county career by finishing 64th in 16:36. As a junior, Jaeger placed 56th in 16:25.

“I don’t think Zach had the race that he wanted,” Grove said. “He was a little slower than he was last year. Again, we weren’t firing on all cylinders yesterday.”